This coming Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church I'm beginning a series of sermons featuring stories from the Old Testament, which speak in different ways, about hearing and responding to the call of God. I always find it interesting to see not only how such a call comes to individuals and communities, but how that call is received!
Jonah, heard the “Word of the Lord” and immediately headed in the opposite direction. Isaiah addresses not an individual, but the whole people of Israel with a message that tells them to “Get up and get back in the game again!” The future of the whole nation becomes dependent on their response to his words.
Samuel, who will be the topic this week, needs the help of an older, wiser person, to help him discern what is going on. Though the voice speaking to Samuel is clear, Samuel is not at first at all sure where the voice is coming from. It is only after three consecutive mid-night visits to the priest Eli that Samuel eventually says “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” (You can find that story in 1 Samuel 3:1-20.)
When the Lord does speak to Samuel, the message he is to offer to Eli is not an easy one to share as it concerns judgment on Eli and his household for their unfaithfulness. No wonder Jonah and Isaiah were not exactly enthralled at the prospect of being carriers of God's message! The overall picture from these characters is that not only is the call of God difficult to hear, but responding to it and putting into practice what God calls you to do is never an easy task.
As you follow the stories through you become aware, that though the challenge is hard, those who respond to the call discover that God is the one who equips them and enables them to fulfill the call. It is significant that Samuel describes himself as a “servant” who is listening for God's call. A servant acts upon the authority of their master, rather than from any position of personal power or influence.
To be servants in God's Kingdom is the task of every would be disciple of Jesus Christ. We don't need to hear a voice in the night or encounter a talking bush to discover that. Simply reading one of the gospel accounts calls to consider that when Jesus says “Follow Me,” He is offering an open invitation for all of us to respond to His call.
Doing so means acknowledging that there needs to be some rearranging in our hearts. There is a need to think through our priorities. To consider what in life truly has value and worth. To be a servant of the King means embracing the values of the Kingdom... which, when it comes to the Kingdom of God, is always going to be a challenge.
Yet never one we face alone. To all those who will commit their life to Him, Jesus also promises the help, guidance, and life-giving love of His Holy Spirit. For some music, a song by the late Larry Norman that responds to God's call declaring “I am a servant.” I particular like the line in this song that says “To live is a privilege, to love is such an art.”
May 2018 be a year in which we respond to the call of God's love in artful ways that both challenge us and enrich us!
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.