There are inter-connected themes and threads throughout scripture in different stories. These are not always the easiest to recognize or to piece together.
I want to talk this morning about Samuel, his calling, and this ‘call story’ but I want to start from the beginning. His story parallels a story that comes later in our scriptures, which is the story of Mary (the mother of Jesus).
Samuel’s mother was Hannah, who was one of many wives. Hannah, unlike the other wives, had been unable to have a child. She spent time in the temple praying and praying that God would give her a child. She prayed so intensely that the priest Eli thought she was drunk and almost removed her from the temple.
Hannah would have her wish granted, her prayer heard. She gave birth to a son, who she named Samuel. Hannah, similar to Anne (mother of Mary), would give him to the Temple into the service of God and under the care of the priest Eli.
Eli had a couple sons, who were significantly older in age than Samuel. These sons were, well, trouble makers. These sons were not pleasing to the Lord. These sons dismissed their expectation to serve as priests and the Lord.
Samuel as a little boy, perhaps approximately seven or eight years old, was sleeping one evening when he is awoken by a voice calling his name. Samuel thinks it is the priest (Eli) calling for him, so he jumps out of bed and responds “here I am, you called me?”.
Eli responds “No. I did not call you. Go back to bed.”
A voice calls again “Samuel”.
Samuel: “Here I am, you called me.”
Eli: “No. I did not call you. Go back to bed”.
Again, a voice calls “Samuel”.
Samuel: “Here I am, you called me”.
Eli: “No. I did not call you, but you know what… maybe you are hearing the Lord.”
Note the scripture says that visions, experiences of God, and divine mysteries were not common at this time.
Samuel returned to bed. When he hears his name called again, but this time he responds “here I am, Lord, your servant is listening”.
Samuel is told that he will be a prophet (a mouth piece for God) and receives the first message he needs to deliver. The message is for Eli, his mentor, an aging man whose life had been and was still in service to the Lord. However, Eli was being warned due to his lack of discipline and concern for his children’s unpleasing behavior to the Lord.
You are a seven years old child and you must tell your mentor that the wrath of God is coming for him and his family.
That is NOT something that I would want to deal with in my 30s, let alone as a young child.
Samuel continues to have conversations with God. Samuel continues to grow into the role of a prophet gaining respect with the Lord, Eli the priest, and the people as a whole.
This ‘call story’ of Samuel is a prime proto-type.
The role of a prophet, or one who speaks prophetically, is to speak for God serving as a mouth piece. The messages delivered by a prophet are often not words you want to hear. It is not sunshine and roses, warm and fuzzes, or unicorns. However, it is the task of speaking truth into the world including needed changes to come.
If I took a poll of our world today, many people would say we also are living in a time when visions of the Lord are rare. I believe many people would also say we live in a time when we need prophetic voices to tell us the “way of God” or to be a voice calling for us to “prepare the way” as we heard it in Advent.
BUT, what if I said that similar to Samuel, we all have the vocation to be prophetic?
We received it in our baptismal waters, which I spoke about last week. It is included in our promises to seek justice, to act with mercy, to love, and to serve.
ALSO, there are still prophets (speaking truth into the world) today, for there have been, there are, and there will continue to be people speaking prophetically.
In fact, tomorrow (01-15-2018) is a celebration of a man who has been described as a prophet. The man is Martin Luther King Jr. (the face of the American Civil Rights Movement).
Note: In addition to being named after his father, he was named after Martin Luther (founder of Lutheranism).
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in a world, a place, a time that was filled with injustice. He spoke a message of truth that was not necessarily well received. Yet, he had that calling (vocation) to do so.
In the Lutheran tradition, we hold vocation as one of the highest teachings in our Christian faith. Our vocations, however, speak to more than one profession, relationship, or role in our lives for we all answer the call of multiple vocations.
We all have a Christian vocation rooted in our baptismal waters.
We all have a vocation to speak truth into darkness bringing forth God’s light.
We all have a vocation in our relationships as mothers/fathers, sons/daughters, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, and friends.
Therefore, we may have more vocations than we can count. BUT the theme that should thread through all of them is to act with love, mercy, and compassion while seeking justice. As Micah (a prophet) would add “to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
My hope is that during this week, this season of Epiphany (“ah ha” moments), we take the time to question our vocations, to explore what it means in our daily lives inside the church, our families, and our communities. Ultimately, this was Christ’s invitation to Andrew, Peter, and Philip to join in his mission, his vocation, to love and serve people. It is an invitation extended to Nathaniel, who has an epiphany of his own about who Christ is and Christ’s mission/vocation.
May we have that same epiphany in the week to come and beyond. Amen.
Focused Scripture was 1 Samuel
Originally Preached on January 14, 2018 at Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, IN)