I Samuel 3:1-10

John 1:43-51

Listen, And Respond To, God

January 14 2018

            Our passages for today from 1 Samuel and from John share a common theme – the call of God.   Samuel, Phillip, Nathanael (and Andrew and Peter in the passage immediately before the John 1:43-51 passage) all hear and respond to the call of God and their lives are changed. 

That’s what the call of God does, It may change you.   It may challenge you.  It may lead you to do things you never thought you would do. But in spite of all the changes, all the challenges, and all the new things you may be led to do, it is important for you to listen to and respond to the call of God.

I remember one time when I was in the second grade in school and it was my turn to present a devotional for my class. The fact that we had devotionals in public schools shows you how long ago it was.  This particular time I chose to talk about the call of Samuel.  I had a picture I had brought from home carefully folded in my back pocket.  When it came time for the devotional, I stood at the front of the class, carefully unfolded my picture, which of course by this time had become creased, and began talking about the call of Samuel as I held the picture up for all to see.  I talked about how Samuel listened to God and concluded by saying “I want to listen to God, too.”

             Most of us remember hearing this story of the call of Samuel in Sunday School as a child.  Sometimes we are tempted to see this call of Samuel as a cute story and nothing more. Cute,  wide-eyed, innocent little Samuel, awakened by a voice he did not understand, confused as Eli said he did not call,  finally instructed by old, blind Eli how to respond to God, and then hearing God’s call and obeying. A cute little story of childlike faith and innocence. Like a puppy. Something that is cute but poses no threat to us whatsoever.

            And maybe we are tempted to see Jesus’ encounter with Phillip and Nathanael as something that happened years ago but that has nothing to do with us at all.

            But is that all there is in our passages for today? Just a cute story about a cute boy or a story about two men a long time ago that have nothing to say to us or nothing that can challenge us or change our lives?

            I don’t think so.

            Actually, we are dealing with something here that is more powerful than we can ever imagine and more relevant than the headlines in our morning paper. We are dealing with something that is more forceful than any force we can ever imagine.  We are dealing with something here that can grab us and shake us out of our complacency, something that may be a direct threat to how we want to live our lives, and something that is powerful enough to change our lives forever. 

            We are dealing with the call of God.

            What did it mean to Samuel that he was called by God? It changed his life completely. It put him in dangerous situations. It never let him be complacent or smug, for he never knew what God was going call him to do next.

            Think about it. Here is this boy, whose very birth had been something of a miracle, living with Eli in the temple.  He was somewhat of an errand-boy for Eli, and his life was probably very comfortable, but suddenly everything changes. God calls and turns everything upside down. No longer is he the servant and Eli the master.  He is now the one with a hard word for Eli. Eli the priest would be replaced by Samuel the boy who was called by God. Samuel’s life was changed forever when he listened to and responded to God.

            What about for Phillip and Nathanael?  What did it mean to them that they were called by God?  Like Samuel in our Old Testament lesson, it changed their lives forever.  Like so many others who are called by God, they could never again be smug or complacent, for they never knew what God was going to call them to do next.  We don’t know a lot about Phillip or Nathanael before they answered Jesus’ call to follow Him, but they probably lived very normal lives in Bethsaida in northern Galilee, maybe they had businesses and families, but they probably lived very normal lives before Jesus called them to follow. Nathanael was probably a religious man, for Jesus said in verse 47 that he was “a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false”.  But beyond that, we don’t know much about them and must assume that they were ordinary Jews living ordinary lives, until they heard God’s call to follow Christ and their lives were changed forever. They left everything – families, friends, businesses, whatever – and followed Jesus. Their lives were changed forever when they listened to and responded to God.

            Indeed, these stories go much deeper than the cute little boy many of us remember in the story of Samuel and the two men – Phillip and Nathanael – from a place long ago and far away.  Samuel’s life was never the same again and neither were the lives of Phillip and Nathanael because of the voice of God they heard and responded to. Their lives were changed forever because they listened and responded to God.

            But God did not stop calling people to follow Him with the call of Samuel, Phillip, Nathanael and so many others we read about in the Bible. God continued to call people to follow, and the lives of those who heard and responded to God and their communities and the world were changed forever because they listened to and responded to God. People like Martin Luther,   John Calvin, and John Knox who heard God’s call and led the Reformation that began the Protestant churches. People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who bravely stood up to Hitler and the Nazi regime. People like Mother Teresa of Calcutta who gave her life to working with the poor and Dorothy Day who led a movement that got churches more involved in feeding the hungry and working with the poor.  People like Martin Luther King, Jr. who led the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout history people have listened to and responded to the call of God and their lives and the world around them have been changed.  

            But the call of God does not stop there either. The call of God is not just for folks you can read about in the Bible or history books or people that you can go online and research on sites like Wikipedia on the internet.  God is still active. God is still at work. God is still calling people to listen to and respond to Him here and now. In our world, in our community, and in our Church God is active and calling. Here and now God is calling those who will listen to and respond to Him and let Him change their lives, let Him lead them into doing things – sometimes new things – for Him.  Here and now God is calling and making a difference in our Church, our community, and our world through those who listen and respond to Him.    

            What that means is that here and now God is calling each of us.  Each of us have to listen intently for God’s call in our lives.  Each of us have to listen for what God is calling us to do and each of us have to respond to God and what God is calling us to do for Him in the Church, the community, and the world.  

            To break this down to it’s most basic level, what that means is that here and now God is calling you. You have to listen intently for God’s call in your life.  You have to listen for what God is calling you to do and you have to respond to God and what God is calling you to do for Him in the Church, the community, and the world.  

Listen to and respond to God’s call. You have gifts that God has given you  and is calling on you to use. There are needs here at Edgewood where God may be calling on you to use your gifts and abilities to make a difference. We can always use and will always welcome new ideas and new ways to reach out to others with God’s love.   If  you enjoy singing maybe God is calling you to be a part of the choir, and we would love to have you!  Do you enjoy and seem to have a knack for decorating? God may be calling on you to serve on the decorating committee.  Ladies – do you enjoy getting together with other ladies for learning and fellowship?  If so, there’s a spot in the Women’s Circles just for you.

God may be calling on you to evaluate how you respond to the  needs in the Church with your time, your abilities and your financial commitment.  And don’t forget your commitment to attendance for worship, Sunday School, and fellowship times

Listen to and respond to God’s call.  

There are needs in the community where God may be calling on you to use your gifts and abilities to make a difference. Edgewood supports CUOC which supplies food and financial assistance to those in need.  There is always a need for food and money. There is also a great need for volunteers to work with the food  distribution.  Edgewood is also responsible for providing volunteers to work the Thrift Shop at CUOC the first Saturday of every month.  Maybe God is calling you to help with this.  Listen to and respond to the call of God. Maybe God is calling you to get involved in this outreach of the Church, or to find other  ways to get involved with God’s mission in our community.  Listen to and respond to the call of God. 

One of the problems that I believe we have in our world today is that we don’t always listen to God’s call and respond to it.  There are so many things making claims on our time and our lives that we sometimes don’t listen to, hear, or respond to God because we are so busy listening to, hearing, and responding to everything else, while the Church, the community, and the world desperately needs us to listen to and respond to God’s call on our lives.

Listen to and respond to God’s call.  As it did Samuel, Phillip, Nathanael, and all others who have listened to and responded to God, God’s call will change your life. It may challenge you.  It may lead you to do things you never thought you would do. But in spite of all the changes, all the challenges, and all the new things you may be led to do, God’s call to you will make a difference though you for His glory in this Church, this community, and the world.

Listen to and respond to God. Amen.