Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sermon for Jan 15, 2012; 1 Samuel 3:1-20

Rev. George Miller
1 Samuel 3:1-20
“The Lord Calls”
Jan 15, 2012

The other day, I came across a scripture that caught my eye-1 Corinthians 1:18-25. It’s a letter that Paul wrote to a church which was figuring out who they were.

In this passage, Paul focuses on the theme of foolishness. Verse 18: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Further, in verse 20, Paul states “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

A little further down, in verses 22-25, Paul writes “For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called…God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

I find it interesting how Paul ties the call of God to what the world would see as foolish.

Foolishness and call, stumbling blocks and strength: the unexpected ways in which God brings hope to the world.

If we were to think about it, our faith does indeed sound foolish, if we were to truly step back and objectively look at it.

I mean, a crucified man rising from the dead. The Son of God born to a poor family only to die on a cross.

The belief that through a piece of bread and a sip of juice we can participate in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The notion that ordinary water can be a means through which our lives are changed forever.

Truthfully, a bit odd; don’tcha think?

Yet, this is what we believe, what we profess, this is who we are:

Water dippin’, bread eatin’, grape juice drinkin’ Christians who proclaim that God raised Christ from the grave and our sins are forgiven.

I remember watching a TV show that said northerners are ashamed of the crazy members of their family and hide them away while Southerners call them eccentric and proudly put them on the front porch for all to see.

Well Sandra, as a newly baptized Christian, welcome to the porch with the rest of the family.

Now, you all should be wondering why I just went on and on about 1 Corinthians when the sermon is about 1 Samuel.

It’s because I liked the way Corinthians used the words call and foolishness; it’s also because I felt it tied into today’s story nicely.

It’s the story of how God once again does the unexpected by shirking the ways of the world, this time calling a young, inexperienced person to help do something new.

Personally, I’m a sucker for Call stories. Like Moses and the burning bush. Jonah being told to “Go!” Mary being visited by the angel.

That’s how I experienced my call to be a pastor. I was simply a 17-year old kid running around a high-school track, listening to Prince on the headphones when I turned the corner and felt the voice of God say “I want you to be a minister.”

As many of you know, I said “No way” and continued to run, literally and metaphorically, for 12 more years before I finally said “Yes, Lord.”

Because my call was so visceral and unexpected, I thought that’s what everyone who went into ministry experienced.

Imagine my surprise when I attended seminary and heard other people’s stories, and more often theirs involved a sense of progression and gentle nudges.

The son of a pastor who simply followed the same educational path his dad did.

The woman who enjoyed studying the Bible from a historical, critical perspective who took one class, then another until she found herself enrolled in seminary.

The young adult who worked at summer camp and enjoyed doing youth ministry.

I even did some research on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., looking for some kind of account of how he became a pastor.

I found nothing, except the fact that he sung in his father’s church, was skeptical of Christianity, denied the resurrection and was greatly influenced by Mahatma Ghandi.

At some point, King decided to attend theological school and become a pastor. No big “A-has”, no voice from the sky.

These natural, smooth transitions of people like MLK and my peers shocked me because they lacked burning bushes, falling off of horses and voices late in the night.

But they had calls, nevertheless, and there is no denying that God used King’s ministry to change the world and rattle the skies.

God calls. God calls each and every one of us; I believe that deeply. The story we have in 1 Samuel is just one kind of call story that appears in the Bible.

And it’s a beautifully told story with images of darkness and light, use of the senses and repetition; all to show us how a young boy, born to a barren woman, would help bring redemption to a wounded world.

But following the words of Paul’s letter, if we step back and took a look, if we step back and allow our ears to truly hear, we notice the foolishness in which the story hangs.

We all know the wisdom of the world, don’t we? That the wise are preferred over the uneducated. The elder is preferred over the least experienced. Those with established authority are the ones we are to listen to.

But what does this story do? What does it show us? The foolishness of God. That God finds strength in that which we would call weak. That hope for the world comes in the most unexpected ways.

Here in this story we see how God chooses to call someone who had yet to know the Lord over someone who had devoted their whole life to ministry.

Here in this story we see how God calls someone who needed direction and prodding over someone who was more experienced and able to discern the call.

Here in this story we see how God calls the son of a simple woman over the many children of a prestigious priest.

Here in this story we experience the Still Speaking God who does not care who you are or where you are on life’s journey; if there is a purpose, you will be called.

God calls. God calls each and every one of us, I believe that deeply. Even if we don’t realize it, even if we don’t recognize it, God calls every one of us to do something which no one else can do the way we can do it.

And we are each called in unique ways, to serve in different capacities at different points of our lives, and I believe we are not called once, but many, many times.

Sometimes we are called to work behind the scenes, sometimes in front. Some are called to be like Eli: to teach, to coach, to shape.

Some are called to do the difficult things others do not want to do that bring about change, just like Martin Luther King.

In each call is a challenge; in each call there is joy.

Today, we witnessed as Sandra accepted her call, a call to be baptized into this wonderful, foolish, front-porch sitting, still speaking family of God.

Hopefully this will not be the last call that she hears and she accepts.

But for now, let me leave you with a story:

A local congregation has been looking for a new pastor. Their Search Committee had been meeting twice a week for over two years.

As you can image, the congregation has been frustrated and began making demands that the committee finds someone to be their pastor, now!

To appease the people, the Search Committee held a special meeting just this Wednesday and shared with them the news.

They had six candidates who all claimed to have received a call from God; the committee was able to whittle the six down to one.

There was Noah, but he’s up there in age and prone to taking on unrealistic building projects.

Joseph who thinks big but is a bit of a braggart. He claimed to interpret dreams but alas, had a lengthy prison record.

Oh! There was Miriam; but she a woman. Mary, but she’s pregnant, and, ah…unmarried at the moment.

There was a guy named Jonah who said he refused God’s calling to ministry until a giant fish swallowed him and spit him up onto shore.

They hung up on him.

But there’s this Judas fella. His references are solid. He’s conservative, knows how to handle money, and has good connections.

The search committee said they saw strong possibilities in him and invited him to preach next Sunday!

Just goes to show you, there is no rhyme and reason to God’s call, and what the world sees as wise, God may see as foolishness.

May our prayers be with them…

In conclusion, my prayer for all of us is that we too find ways to hear God’s call, to find ways to respond, to grow and to help other people answer theirs.

That by answering our calls, we can assist in overcoming adversity, and to believe, deep in our souls, that the ways of mercy, kindness, humility and compassion will prevail.

To follow Christ, to give our hearts and to love.

And actually, what is so foolish about that?

If you agree, let me hear you say “Amen” and “amen.”

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