Sermon for Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 18, 2015, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10
Sermon Theme: “Listen to What God Says When He Calls You”
(Sources: Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 25, Part 1, Series B; Anderson’s Preaching Workbook, Cycle B; Emphasis Online Commentaries; Emphasis Online Examples; original ideas; Online blog: A Pop Culture Addict’s Guide to Life; Zionministry.com; Israel-a-history-of.com; Online Wikipedia.)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Amelia Bedelia is a popular culture character, appearing in at least 36 books by Peggy Parish since 1963. She is a maid who wears a blue bonnet, who means well, but, because she is so naïve, she takes things too literally; and this gets her in trouble.
Here are a few Amelia Bedelia-isms: To make a “date cake,” she cuts up a calendar into the dough. “Dusting the furniture” to her means pouring buckets of dust on everything. In her mind, “drawing the drapes” means taking out a notepad and sketching pictures of them.
Her antics remind both young and old alike how much trouble miscommunications cause. In our sermon text for today, young Samuel is no Amelia Bedelia, but he also misinterprets a message. From this Old Testament story, we learn that it is important to understand God correctly when He speaks to us, and that we realize God may call when we least expect it.
Where will He call to us? In the case of Moses, God called from a burning bush. In Samuel’s case, God speaks from His house. How will the Lord call to us? In the case of Abraham, God called in a vision. In Samuel’s case, God spoke to him in His person. What will the Lord call us to do? He called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. In Samuel’s case, God calls Samuel to speak for Him.
The story of Samuel comes at a very difficult time in Israel’s history. The Word of God was very rare in Samuel’s day; it was not heard because this was an age of spiritual impurity and darkness. Since most of God’s priests were corrupt and impure, how could the people be any better?
It was both a time when few were speaking God’s Word, — certainly Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, weren’t preaching it. Not only were the people then not hearing it, Hophni and Phinehas obviously weren’t hearing it either, nor were other religious leaders.
It was also a time of a scarcity of spiritual visions. Spiritual visions were the customary means by which the prophets received messages from on high. There were not many visions in those days, our text says.
For some of us, this is a very timely text, as we are studying the story of Samuel in my Teen boys’ class; for all of us, this is a very important text.
Folks are often confused about what and who Samuel was in the first place. Was he a Priest? A Prophet? A Judge? Yes, to all three. To be a priest in Israel, you had to be a Levite, that is, of the clan of Levi. Because Samuel’s mother dedicated her young son to God and brought him to the Tabernacle to study under Eli, people are confused about his pedigree to become a priest. Actually, Samuel was both a Levite and an Ephraimite ( ).
Only Levites had the right to wear an Ephod ( ), and Scripture tells us that Samuel wore the Ephod the minute he became a priest. Samuel became both a priest and a prophet, which was not an uncommon thing. Furthermore, the Ephraimites, a clan Samuel also belonged to, were great warriors, Joshua, for example, was an Ehraimite, and they also could be Judges.
You see, Samuel is living not only during an ungodly time, but also during a confusing and pivotal time in Israel’s history. Not only was Samuel a priest by virtue of being a Levite and by interning under Eli, but also Samuel was the last of the Hebrew Judges and the first of the major Prophets, and thus a transitional figure from Prophet/Judges who first ruled Israel to the first King.
Samuel is a young man in today’s sermon text, but when he becomes an old man, the Israelites are begging for a King, so that they can be like other nations. Old Samuel is strongly opposed to having a monarchy since he believes God only is our King. But when the people keep demanding a King, God tells Samuel to go ahead and choose a King, not because it’s a good thing, but to let the people learn a lesson the hard way. Then the era of the Kings begins.
That takes us beyond the scope of today’s text. Our text is simple and straightforward. Samuel is sleeping one night in the “Shrine” at Shiloh, the “Shrine” being, no doubt, a Tent or Tabernacle (this is before the Temple was built in Jerusalem). Young Samuel, studying for the Priesthood, is sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant, which represents the very presence of God Himself.
Samuel is awakened by a voice calling his name. He thinks it’s Eli, so he goes and asks Eli what he wants. Eli says that he didn’t call him. This happens two more times and Eli eventually realizes that it must be God who is calling, so he recommends to Samuel that he respond by asking God to speak. God answers and this is the first of many times God speaks to Samuel.
Not everybody is as young as Samuel when God calls them to serve. I was near the end of a long career as a teacher when God called me into the public ministry. Yet, I was young when God called me to be a teacher, and, as a Christian, my secular vocation was also a call from God.
No doubt God has called you, too, in some cases, into more than one vocation, and even into retirement (your retirement, with its blessing of free time, may be a call to serve in the church more diligently). There is no doubt that the Lord has called you and will continue to call you, as a believing Christian. That’s a given. The questions to be answered are: Where will the Lord call you? How will the Lord call to you? What will the Lord call you to do?
Moses was alone shepherding his flock at desolate Mount Sinai when God called him. In today’s Gospel text, Nathanael had been under the fig tree when he came to hear the Lord’s voice. So not everybody got the Lord’s call in the Lord’s House as Samuel did, though that’s a very likely place, considering that we hear so much of God’s Word here in His House, the church.
How will the Lord call you? However He pleases! Hopefully not from a burning bush, — that would be pretty scary! In many cases, it might even be in ways you are still not fully aware of, — such as bringing a deaf child into our church, or placing you into a community of moon-believers in Syria as He did Abraham.
And what will the Lord call you to do? Well, — whatever He wants! He called Joshua, not to preach, but to lead the soldiers into battle. He called quite a few men from our church (some have passed away) into the battles of World War II, to destroy the Satanic forces of Nazism. He called you to sit with your friends during coffee and donut time here at the church, to laugh and to celebrate with them, to share grandchildren stories with them, and to listen when they’re down and cry with them. If He had not called all of you to work in this church in so many wonderful ways, we would have shut this brick Tabernacle down a long time ago!
He called Abraham at age 75, to move to the other side of his world, and at age 99, to father new nations. Moses, a murderer and a fugitive, He called to lead His people out of Egypt, — so your shady past won’t keep Him from calling you.
Now here’s the bottom line: There is one thing He has called all of us to do, in addition to the many other things He has called us to do and we are doing. The Apostle Peter describes that one thing like this: “You are God’s chosen people, the King’s priests, the nation He makes holy, His own treasure, so that you may tell others about the marvelous deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
So, speak, O Lord, Thy servant heareth! Go, tell it on the mountain! Over the hills and everywhere! Forth in your name, O Lord, I go! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.