“Speak, for Your Servant is Listening”

1 Samuel 3 & John 1:43-51

14 January 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

  

Prayer.

 

The news wasn’t good.

His brothers had been caught red handed.

His father failed to react;

To do anything about his scoundrel sons. (1 Samuel 2:12)

Instead the father,

An elderly priest,

Turned and looked the other way.

 

The boys had been caught red handed stealing from the offering plate.

No, not money.

 

 

They had been stealing the remains of animal sacrifices from the Temple

Which were designated for the poor.

Instead of waiting at the end of the line,

Like any good parish pastor at a dish-to-pass dinner knows to do,

These contemptuous brothers (1 Samuel 2:17)

Budged in first,

Took the choice cuts for themselves,

Then turned over the leftovers and scraps for those in need.

 

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The Lord calls his own to righteousness and justice.

When the crooked brothers blasphemed the Lord by their behavior

The Lord took notice.

Eli chose not to.

 

Their evil behavior didn’t end by stealing the choice cuts of lamb.

Elkanah, or Eli as he had come to be known,

Had also tried to confront the boys, Hophni and Phinehas,

About their evil dealings in the local brothels. (1 Samuel 2:23)

But they would not listen.

A man from God even came to Eli

To warn him that the Lord honors who honors him,

And despises those who hold him in contempt. (1 Samuel 2:30)

But Eli, and his terrible, good-for-nothing sons, would not be moved.

 

If the nearly blind, elderly priest

Would not respond to the Lord’s directive from an outsider

Perhaps the Lord had another card to play.

 

 

There was a third son,

A mere boy,

Meaning he was younger than the age of maturity,

Younger than 13.

It was time for the Lord to call Samuel.

 

The call of Samuel,

Which we have just heard proclaimed,

Is recognized as a monumental text

That has catapulted the imagination of many

And launched them into the process of discernment.

 

 

“Since God called the young child Samuel,

When is God going to call me?”  

 

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

 

Too often,

When we hear the word “call,”

Or the Lord “calling” someone,

We assume the call is to the single role of ordained ministry.

In Samuel’s case, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Lord called Samuel to righteousness and justice,

But also to a ministry of prophecy and judgment.

The Lord had a message to send to Eli

Through his newly called child prophet, Samuel.

 

Daddy and his boys were going to pay,

And pay mightily,

For the iniquity,

The blasphemy,

Eli’s house had committed.

They would be punished.

They would pay with their lives.

 

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Justice and righteousness matter to God;

Both values to which all of God’s people are called.

 

Samuel was faithful to his call

And he did just what the Lord requested of him.

He informed his father, Eli, of the bad news,

Who took the Lord’s judgment to heart.

“It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”  (1 Samuel 3:18)

Finally, Eli had listened to the Lord.

The Lord fulfilled his promise.

Eli and his two sons would die.

 

Samuel, however would be spared.

 

 

He would become a life-long, trustworthy prophet of the Lord. (1 Samuel 3:20)

He would mature into the role as God’s last Judge (leader) in Israel,

The one who the Lord rallied to defeat the Philistines,

The one who God directed to anoint kings, Saul and David.

Samuel’s exciting life as God’s prophet can be read in the

Biblical books of Judges, and 1st & 2nd Samuel,

Which I highly recommend.

 

Are we living out our call to act with righteousness, upholding justice?

Samuel’s childhood call narrative teaches us something about our relationship with God.

Indeed, the Lord often guides one to diverse roles,

Changing over the course of life,

Spanning from childhood to old age.

The Lord sometimes calls one to difficult tasks

Or set seemingly impossible goals.

Sometimes the call is easy, and sometimes it’s not.

It begs the question,

 

 

What does God’s call look like to you,

At this time,

At this place in your life?

 

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

 

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Both this Sunday and next Sunday

We are experiencing powerful call narratives from the Gospel;

Today from John and next week from Mark.

Jesus is launching his ministry by calling his first disciples.

 

John was doing his job.

You know John, don’t you?

The one who had amassed quite the following;

The one who had been baptizing the crowds in the Jordan River;

The one who had baptized Jesus in Jordan’s icy current.

 

 

He had been standing on the street corner with two of his followers,

Andrew and Simon (who would also be known as Peter),

Both from the seaside Galilean village of Bethsaida.

 

John, Andrew, and Peter

Were standing on a street corner in the lower Jordan valley,

In the region of Judah,

Someplace within a day’s walk

From where John was preaching and baptizing;

Quite possibly in the City of Jericho.

 

Jesus is seen walking by when John exclaims,

“Look, here is the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35)

Testimony results in action.

Andrew and Peter immediately followed Jesus.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus inquires.

“Rabbi,” they respond, “where are you staying?”

“Come and see,” Jesus replies.

 

 

Come and see.

And the first two disciples were called. (John 1:37-39)

 

Bethsaida, the town where Andrew and Peter grew up,

Was a small village,

Kind of like West Walworth / East Rochester,

And like in every small town,

Tongues tend to wag.

Everybody knew everybody else business.

Everyone was related.

Children grew up together.

 

While Jesus’ first two disciples were from Bethsaida,

Jesus had grown up in the nearby village of Nazareth,

Less than 30 miles to the west.

If Jesus intended to expand the number of his disciples,

Perhaps he should search in the network of those who he just called.

Thus, it makes sense,

Jesus, Andrew and Peter

Travel to Andrew and Peter’s hometown, Bethsaida.

 

It is here where our proclaimed Gospel picks up the narrative.

 

 

Jesus finds Philip, quite possibly a friend or relative of Andrew or Peter.

“Find” is a very important word,

Especially in the context of the Gospel of John;

It serves as a launch pad for deeper reflection as the story unfolds.

 

The easy way out would be to suggest

Andrew and Peter had simply briefed Jesus about Philip,

“Primed the pump,” as it is often said,

And convinced him

On the road between the lower Jordan valley in the south

And Bethsaida in the north

That Philip was a really good chap

And would serve as an excellent choice for our Lord’s third called disciple.

 

Yet, when we look at the Gospel of John in total,

Take in the completeness of it all

From a thirty-thousand feet perspective,

We see this longing desire for our God to know us

Through his Son, Jesus Christ;

To know his disciples,

To know those who are being called to make up his body.

 

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Finding and knowing are characteristics of God, played in spades.

God finds and knows disciples even before each are called.

 

As Nathanael comes towards Jesus, he said,

“Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

“Where did you get to know me?”  Nathanael asked, apparently mystified.

“I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you,” Jesus replied.

Nathanael immediately comes to recognition,

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” (John 1:47-49)

 

John witnessed to Andrew and Peter.

“Come and see”  was our Lord’s invitation.

In turn, it was Andrew and Peter who led Jesus to

Their hometown friends, Philip and Nathanael.

Jesus found them and knew them, too.

 

It is the Divine nature of Jesus that finds disciples.

It is his love, which seeks to know each and every one of us.

It is his call, that every baptized disciple receives,

To come and follow him.

 

 

Jesus is the one making disciples.

It is the roll of Christ’s disciples to support him to make even more.

 

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

 

Have you testified like John,

Pointed to Jesus, saying “Look, here is the lamb of God!”?

Have you introduced friends and neighbors to Jesus?

Who in your network haven’t yet heard the whisper of God?

Who are your acquaintances

Who haven’t yet been introduced to Christ?

 

“God so loves the world,” Jesus teaches.

The whole world is called to Jordan’s baptismal waters,

To become a member of Christ’s body;

To be claimed by God,

Adopted by God.

 

As members of Christ’s body,

All of us are called to live a life of righteousness before God.

Follow God’s commands.

Act according to God’s instructions.

Let us be like Samuel.

 

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

 

As members of Christ’s body,

Let us dedicate ourselves to introducing others to Jesus,

To take an active roll in disciple making.

Witness what you have seen.

Testify to what you know.

Introduce others to Jesus

And let God do the rest.

 

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What does God’s call look like to you,

At this time,

At this place in your life?

 

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

 

Some of us are called to the ordained ministry.

Some are called to prophecy.

Some are called to teach.

The apostle Paul even reports that some are called to speak in tongues.

 

Know this to be true:

God calls all of us to righteous living.

Jesus calls all of us to bring him new disciples.

Amen.