January 12, 2009

Looking Ahead to January 18, 2008 -- 2nd Sunday After Epiphany, Year B

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Gospel: John 1:43-51
  • Psalm 139 (VU p.861)
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: 1 Samuel 3:1-20
The Hymns this week are:
  • 410 This Day God Gives Me
  • 299 Teach Me God to Wonder
  • 509 I, the Lord of Sea and Sky
  • 567 Will You Come and Follow Me
The Sermon Title is You Want ME to Say WHAT?

Early Thoughts: It can be hard enough to hear God's call. But sometimes that little voice seems to make really outrageous requests. What do we do then?

I love the story of Samuel's call. There is the almost comic picture of young Samuel running back and forth waking up Eli (as a parent may I suggest that Eli was being exceptionally patient at this disruptions). Then there is the light bulb moment when old Eli clues in. Then the soft voice of a child saying "speak, your servant is listening". As the story continues Samuel becomes the last great judge of Israel. He anoints 2 kings (Saul and David) and watches over the transition to a monarchical society (while warning what will happen as a result of that change). And it all starts with a young child hearing a voice in the night.

Normally we read this story and stop at verse 10. It is used as a story about the difficulty of recognizing when God is calling. But it gets even more interesting if we read the next 10 verses. Read the first message that Samuel is given. He is told that he has to tell Eli (his mentor, his caretaker, his surrogate parent) that Eli's house is doomed. Sometimes we hear the call and really wish we hadn't heard so clearly.

So what do we do when the message seems unpleasant? What do we do when we feel called to do and/or say things that we know will bring sorrow or worse?

The first thing to do is to check out with someone. Denominations have processes so that someone who feels called to ministry is examined, talked to, worked with. This is to test the sense of call. It is also to weed out the disasters in waiting. When we feel called to do things that might cause upset it is good to have trusted friends/mentors/counselors with whom we can talk about the call, to test out what we think we are to do.

The next thing to do is to determine how best to do it. It is one thing to see yourself as a prophet. It is simply mean-spirited to share your message in a way that seeks to hurt others or is not seeking to find a way forward.

Church people the world over are faced with the Samuel choice these days. Many of us feel the need --the compulsion even-- to challenge common wisdom, to name that the current situation is untenable. What we have to do is determine how to share that prophetic voice. And believe me there are days when we can only ask "I am going to say WHAT now?" (and maybe wonder if our resume is up to date-just in case it doesn't go well)

1 comment:

  1. Were you reading my mind or what? After reading these texts... there are many things that come to mind that I need to speak to in the sermon this week... but all of them are the sorts of things that make you want to look at God and say... you want me to say WHAT?????

    Great insight... now the question on the table... is can I do it???