Jan15MonThe Boy Samuel January 15, 2024 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
Here’s a familiar scenario you might encounter every other day.:
The phone rings
…the display shows “unknown caller”
or some very strange number that starts with a “v”
…do you pick up?
Chances are, no.
There are just too many scammers around,
and if it’s really important they’ll leave a message, right?
How do we know if the call is important
when we don’t know who the caller is?
Well it’s a risk for sure.
It depends what frame of mind we’re in.
If we’re bored and have a lot of patience,
maybe we’re willing to pick up the phone and see who it is.
If not, we just let it ring,
and eventually the noise will stop and we can get back
to what we were doing.
In today’s first reading we get a story I really liked as a kid,
about a young boy who got a call from an unknown caller.
The boy’s name was Samuel,
and he grew up in the temple of the Lord under the care of the elderly priest Eli.
Samuel had a special calling from God
and his story teaches us important things
about hearing and responding to God’s voice,
And we can reflect on our own willingness to listen when
God speaks to us,
no matter the message.
First off, we hear that the word of the Lord was rare in those days.— Gods’ presence and voice were not easily detectable for the people of Israel.
But even in the midst of this spiritual barrenness,
God chose to speak to a young boy..
Even today sometimes we may find these are difficult times to be a Christian!!
We may feel like God is distant or silent in our lives,
but this story reminds us that God is always present and wanting to speak to us.
3 times in the middle of the night the boy hears the call:
3 times he thinks the unknown caller is his priestly supervisor Eli.
Meanwhile Eli is getting fed up and wants to get back to sleep,
But finally Eli clues in and suggests Samuel the next time answer:
“speak Lord, for your servant is listening!”
The story of Samuel teaches us some key elements of hearing Gods voice.
First, we must have a willingness to listen.
When God first called Samuel, he thought it was Eli calling him. But when Eli told Samuel to go back to sleep, Samuel did not ignore the voice.
He went back, ready to listen.
Some of us may have trouble tuning out distractions in order to listen to God.
But we must have a heart that is willing and attentive to hear from God.
Second, we must be open to God’s unexpected ways of communicating. Notice how God called Samuel three times before Eli finally realized it was God speaking to him.
God may not always speak to us in the ways we expect,
and we must be open to hearing His voice through various means, including circumstances, other people, and through His Word.
Many Christians might consider that the religious professionals,
like pastors and deacons
Are special channels for God’s messages,
and that’s why we have them, they need to be listening out for God.
But Luther reminds us in the priesthood of all believers:
that we all are called to listen for God, not just those ordained.
You might think: well I don’t have time or the gifts to listen for God?
But the Pastor has time to listen to God.
Well let me be honest.
Pastors don’t always have lots of time or energy to be listening out for God. Sometimes life gets so hectic, so many emails, so many meetings, that I’m not spending much time listening to God.
At the end of the day whether you’re a clergy or layperson,
it’s a question of making time for God and making it a priority.
I sometimes call it “making time for “it is good with God””.
Imagine sitting across the table from God,
Just carving out a few minutes to imagine God just like another friend you want to talk with.
Naturally, even when you’re talking to a human friend,
it all depends on your frame of mind:
whether you’re angry, sad, stressed, tired or lonely.
But just like with a good friend whom you can talk to in whatever mood you’re in, the same applies to God.
God will be there waiting for you to show up,
just like a good friend at the coffee shop waits for you even if you’re late.
How does God call or talk to us?
In my experience God doesn’t talk in paragraphs (not to say he can’t),
so if you’re listening for a full sentence or two from God,
you’re probably out of luck.
For me, I’ve interpreted God calling me or talking to me…
often with a feeling, a simple word, or a brief phrase, like:
It’s enough, or:
It's been sometimes a gut feeling or the proverbial
Tap on the shoulder or a
Sudden awakening or
Some people are of course more sensitive,
Or attentive to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God than others.
Some people have experienced God’s call through their weaknesses.
In a specific illness or having gone through an ordeal they have felt especially close to God and felt God communicating with them.
As Leonard Cohen sang:
“There’s a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
In our weak moments, we can sometimes most clearly hear God.
Sometimes people get frustrated because they’re listening to God’s call in a wrong way.
Maybe they have certain expectations that just don’t match reality.
They want a booming voice but a whisper is what they’ll get.
They want a request fulfilled,
but then they are disappointed when they don’t get what they wanted.
One way I’ve been trying to be more attentive to God’s communicating with me is by listening more to my gut feelings.
Perhaps you’ve been attentive to your gut feeling
At certain points in your lives
esp. when making a big decision, like a purchase of a new car,
a big move or deciding to get a major treatment.
Maybe God was calling you and communicating through those gut feelings!
Maybe we can try out listening for God a bit right now.
The first step is staying silent.
We can’t hear God if we’re busy or talking or doing stuff.
We usually need to be quiet.
The second step is have an open posture.
Opening your heart and mind to the possibility that you might encounter God, and that that feeling, premonition, or word might just be coming from on high.
An open posture is willing to consider that that word or tap on the shoulder
might be God calling.
So I invite you into this simple exercise of finding an open posture of listening for God.
Find a comfortable sitting position.
Do a little body scan to see if there’s any tension anywhere.
Plant your feet on the floor and centre your body.
Be aware of how your chair or your pew is supporting you.
Soften your gaze or close your eyes.
Now concentrate on your breath, taking a few relaxed breaths in and out.
As you continue to breathe, tie in your breath to the words:
Speak God your servant is listening (2x)
Speak God your servant is listening
When you’re ready, stretch our toes
and wiggle your fingers and open your eyes.
Now this was a just a brief taste of how you could practice being open to listening for God’s voice (with the words “Speak God, your servant is listening”)
If you make room for a few minutes of an opening listening, silent posture
this can improve your chances of recognizing God when he talks.
Practice makes better, just like the first time you sing a hymn it might be difficult, but if you keep on singing it, it gets easier.
Of course many resources and people like spiritual directors can help,
talk to me if you want to learn more.
May we be like Samuel,
a faithful servant who listened and obeyed God’s voice.
And may we all strive to hear and respond to the voice of God in our lives, for His glory and the benefit of our soul. Amen.
Source: Workingpreacher.org, Commentary on Samuel 3, by Jason Byassee