June 3, 2018 – YOU MUST BE KIDDING – 1 Samuel 3:1-20
June 3,18 1 Samuel 3:1-20
YOU MUST BE KIDDING
There he was sitting in the bullpen with the rest of the guys watching his new team playing. He had just been called up from the minors because someone went on the disabled list. He had the call. It was his first time in the majors and he sat with other quality pitchers watching the starting pitcher getting into one jam after the other, and each time the pitcher seemed to get out of the jam. Finally, a good inning happened, and it looked like the ship was righted. But then came the third inning when the starting pitcher couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn and began to walk men and gave up a hit. Enough is enough. This new pitcher just called up heard his name called. “Who me?” he might have asked. The game was tied. This was a crucial time. He took his warm-ups listening to the bullpen coach explain about the next batter and the next batter in case he was going in to relieve the starter. He threw harder in that session with his nerves shattering. He could hear the crowd moan with each pitch the starter threw, and he knew it was not good. Then it happened. The manger headed out slowly to the mound, talked to the starting pitcher a second or two with his team gathered around him and pointed to the bullpen. The bullpen coach looked at the young lefty and said, “Ok kid, it’s your turn. Go get them.” The kid took a deep breath perhaps ‘thinking this is my moment, please Lord, help me not screw it up.” Game tied. Bases loaded. No one out. YIKES! A nightmare situation for any pitcher, but for a rookie? Scary! He took a deep breath as the door under the stands opened, and like a bull rushing out to the center of a bull ring looking for a matador, he gathered himself and ran to the mound heart pounding so loud he thought the world could hear it. When he got there, met by the manager, he might have heard him say, “Take the ball and give it all you’ve got. This is why we called you up. Go get them.”
For some of you who watched the Cubs-Giants game that night, you realize the situation is true, but maybe the conversations weren’t quite like that. However, that rookie pitcher took that ball and he got out of that inning without giving up a run, and the next one, and the next one as well, as the Cub’s scored some runs in the bottom half of their inning and this rookie ended up getting his first win.
Can you imagine the feeling he must have had when his minor league manager called him into his office to tell him he was being called to the big leagues? With his stomach churning because he was called to the office, he heard those words every minor league player waits to hear. “You’ve been called up and you’re going to the big leagues. Enjoy it while it lasts.” And he packed his bags and was sent on his way by his fellow teammates that are still waiting for that call. And then to be asked to go into a crucial situation, in a critical ball game, realizing the manager, the team, the fans, were counting on him. It could be either thumbs up or thumbs down. Either cheers or boos. His performance would dictate which.
There was another time when a young boy lived in the temple under the guidance of the priest Eli. This young boy was a promised child to a woman who pleaded to God to give her a child. She could not seem to get pregnant and was getting older. Hannah went to the temple often to pray and seek God’s help in this situation. “Please Lord, give me a child, a son, and when he is old enough I will dedicate him to you and your service.” God heard that prayer. God answered that prayer. And one day when Samuel was old enough, his mother packed his things and brought him to serve in the temple under Eli the priest of Israel.
It is there that we pick up his story. 1 Samuel 3:1-20 is the call of Samuel. It goes like this:
“The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. One night, Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So, he went and lay down. Again, the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lay down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So, Eli told Samuel, “Go lie down and if he calls you say, “Speak your servant is listening.” So, Samuel went and laid down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other time. “Samuel, Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
I love that story of Samuel’s call because it reminds me somewhat of my own call into ministry way back then as God stood before me and pointed to me and said, “Richard, I want you.” A Scary moment in time.
While looking at his calling one could ask what made Samuel so special? After all he was just a teenager. Well, all you got to do is remember how his mother Hannah had pleaded for a son and was granted her prayer. And how she promised God that if he would answer her prayer she would dedicate him to the Lord’s mission. So, this is that fulfillment. Samuel is working along side of the priest Eli whose sons had fallen from grace in the eyes of the Lord. They were not suited for ministry. So, the call came to Samuel and his responsive could have been, “You must be kidding!”
Called by God. WOW! We think that is awesome. We might think that only certain people are called by God, but you know that is not correct. I mean look at the disciples. They were called by Jesus to follow him. Fishermen, tax collectors, the run of the mill fellows that were uneducated, and certainly not Bible scholars, yet, called to follow God. How about Abraham? He was a shepherd. How about Noah? Just an ordinary guy who just happened to be faithful to his God. How about Moses? He was set aside by God when he was born, raised long enough by his mom so she could teach him the basics of his heritage, ending up being raised by the Egyptian princess, and later called to lead God’s people out of bondage. Their reactions? “You must be kidding!”
You see, God looks for what you can be, not for what you are. That’s what the invitation to follow him is all about. He calls all sinners to follow him. In the book of Revelation there is that Scripture that says that God knocks on the door to every heart waiting for it to open in order that he might come in and take up residence. He doesn’t break the door down. He doesn’t keep yelling ‘open up.’ No! he gently knocks waiting for someone to open the door that he can come in and take control of a life surrendered to him. You see, he will do the changing. He will do the transformation. He will do the rebuilding. It might hurt sometimes, but when your life is in the hand of the Master, he does it as gently as he can. He will take those whom he calls and mold them, shape then into those vessels that he wants then to be. Not all are called to be preachers. He calls moms, dads, workers in factories, homemakers, secretaries, teachers, custodians, cooks, and a whole host of other people in various professions. Not all are called to be preachers or teachers. Not all are called to be missionaries. But we are all called to follow Christ. It’s as simple as that. We are called to share our stories of faith. We are called to share the love of Christ by words and by our deeds. As Methodists, as Christians we are called to follow our founder’s way of life as we find it in our mission statement. “Do all the good you can, in all the places you can, by all the means you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can, and love God with all your heart, mind and soul.”
God’s call to all who have ears to hear.
Think of it. God sent his son to die in order to transform the world and offer hope of a better tomorrow. At Pentecost he sent the Holy Spirit to live in all those who believe in his Son in order to transform each person, and to give each person a story of faith as they learn how to follow Jesus the son, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
From the beginning of time God has called many to follow. In the Book of Exodus, he called the Hebrew people and said, “you will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Then in the New testament, Peter writes to the new Christians, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
You might look at me and think, “You must be kidding! Me called?” And my answer is…yes, you, you, you are called by God. “But you don’t know my background.” I say, I don’t need to, for it isn’t me who is doing the calling, ITS GOD!!!
Samuel was not that old when he began that service to the Lord. And if you remember it is recorded very plainly so that you and I would know that he wasn’t born into the priesthood, two things, first, in those days the word of the Lord was rare. Second and most important, SAMUEL DID NOT KNOW THE LORD AT THAT TIME.
God calls the ordinary and makes them extraordinary. If you don’t think so think of David the shepherd boy who God called while he was a teenager, who struck down the giant and later became King of Israel and led God’s people to it’s golden years. Think of Peter or any of the disciples who were just ordinary men until God touched them with his Spirit. Think of Paul who was a persecutor of Christians until the day he met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus and was called to proclaim God’s message of hope and forgiveness to the Gentiles. Read the faith chapter in the book of Hebrews and you see one regular person after another called by God to be his witnesses. Each one’s motto could have been… “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Isn’t that what we see in the last chapter of Matthew’s gospel? We, as Christians, we who have been called, set aside by God, to do what? To go into all the world telling others about Jesus’ love and forgiveness, offering hope and offering new life now and forever more. Christians aren’t a secret society hiding the good news of redemption and eternal life. We are God called, God formed, God transformed witnesses of the good news of joy.
This morning, this holy communion morning, this set aside morning, God calls us to his table of grace. He calls us to come just as we are, in order for him to work in our lives to transform us into his vessels that he can use in Williamsville, Sherman, Springfield, and far beyond the borders of this state and this country.
You are called to be his witnesses. And I’m not kidding! It’s not what you have that makes you a servant of God. It’s what he is willing to do to those who are willing to say like Samuel, “Speak. Lord, for your servant is listening.”