Your Servant is Listening
Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 14, 2024

Have you ever thought you heard someone calling your name, but no one heard it but you?  Did you think it was God calling out to you?  Or did you just think you were losing your mind?!

In our first scripture reading this morning, the boy Samuel certainly didn’t recognize the voice of God, and thought it was Eli calling him. 

Let’s step back a moment and consider the history before the call comes to Samuel from God.  Samuel’s story begins before he is born when his barren mother declares before God that if he grant her a male child, she would dedicate the child to the service of the Lord for the rest of the child’s life.

So Samuel’s fate, you see, was promised to God prior to his birth.  After weaning her male child, as promised, Hannah takes the boy to the temple over which the priest Eli presided, and places him in service to Eli.

It is here that we see God calls Samuel into service for the Lord.

Eli, having two sons that are less than favorable in God’s sight due to their misbehavior, to put it mildly, causes God to pursue Samuel for his work.

We might wonder why Samuel did not know the call of God’s voice, and it even took Eli a while to understand that it was God calling the boy. 

Samuel, we are told, did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not been revealed to him.

Yet, it is at this particular time in Samuel’s life that God calls to the young boy, and if you look at the scripture, you will note that he calls him with exclamation. 

There’s something else going on here also as we are told that it was rare in those days for the call of God.  This is an interesting fact that is interjected into the story.

Was God’s call rare because people had stopped listening for it?   We don’t know.

Once Eli recognizes that it may be the Lord calling to Samuel, he gives the boy instruction to respond to the call by saying “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Thankfully, we are told that the lamp for Eli had not yet left him, so even though he may have not done all that God had desired, especially in disciplining his boys, God was still a part of Eli’s life, and he played an important part in this story in being able to recognize it was God calling for the boy.  Sometimes we need direction, encouragement in knowing when God might be calling us.

For Samuel, God comes to him when he is alone in “his place.”  In his room in the quiet of the day, and it is Eli who points out to Samuel that it is the Lord.

Now let’s fast forward to the Gospel of John.  Here, we find Jesus gathering his disciples, calling his disciples to follow him.  Jesus finds Philip who then finds Nathanael.

While Philip is very excited to see that Jesus is the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote about, Nathanael is not as enthused, it seems.  However, Philip is persistent and tells him, to “Come and see.”

As Nathanael is approaching Jesus, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael, still not convinced, asked Jesus, “Where did you get to know me?”

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

I wonder, was Nathanael listening for God’s voice as he sat under the fig tree, there in “his place?”

Just as God was watching Samuel, his behavior, his dedication to service, so was Jesus watching Nathanael.  God had seen Samuel in “his place,” and Jesus had seen Nathanael in “his place.”

Do you have “a place” where you find God? 

This came up in our Generations of Faith class last Sunday, and there were many answers.  Some responded that they find God in nature, in their sunroom, in this church, and in other holy spaces known as thin places by the Celtics.  Surely God can see us and call to us anywhere, however, it sometimes requires that we are still, that we are in a quiet place so that we are able to listen and hear the voice of God speak to us.

Both God and Jesus recognize the gifts of Samuel and Nathanael to do the work that is required to carry out God’s mission in life, and they still recognize the gifts that have been provided to you today.

A little later in the service, we will install the new Elders for Session, Class of 2026, who have been called to offer their gifts for the good of God’s mission in this church, in this community, and in this world.

If there is one thing that I would ask these new Elders to consider, is that they are called for God’s work.  Working for God’s mission is our purpose in life, above all else.  God has called David Carter, Jennifer Shepherd and Sue Miller at this particular time to bring their gifts for the good of all. 

As a congregation, we can pray for them that the Lord bless them with wisdom and discernment and imagination during their term on Session for the next three years.  And the congregation can pray for all of Session to lead with wisdom and discernment and imagination for the good of this church in seeking the answer of the call made by God for us to continue the work of Jesus, to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this place and in this community.

Jesus still speaks to us….are we listening?

Jesus says, “Follow me.”  Are we listening as servants to that call? 

Whether we are on Session or wanting to offer our gifts to others, we might pray,

“Lord, who is my mission?” 

“Who needs to encounter your love today?”

“Bring them into my path today.  Amen.”

This was the prayer of a gentlemen who lived in Detroit who spent eight hours a day walking around the city to see who he might be able to help.

Jesus calls people by simply walking around and engaging them, as he did his disciples and others he met along his path.  We can do the same.

Jesus continues to call his disciples today, he’s continually on the move leading his people into the world to spread God’s love, grace, mercy and justice.

When Jesus gathered his disciples, when he called to them and said, “Follow me,” he created a movement that was committed to reduplication and expansion. 

Jesus calls Philip, and Philip immediately calls Nathanael, and shares his convictions about Jesus.  Philip shares his story about Jesus to Nathanael in a way that is comfortable to him, and we can do the same.  We don’t have to prepare a special speech about who Jesus is, we can just tell people in our own words and in our own way who Jesus is, and what he has done for us in our lives. 

Like Philip, when we offer the invitation for someone to, “come and see,” Jesus will do the rest.

Psalm 34:8 reminds us, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”

Jesus tells Nathanael he will see greater things, now that he has believed.  We too, can see greater things when we go out into the world with the power of the Holy Spirit.    Our ultimate purpose in life is to follow Jesus, be empowered by the Spirit and engage the world with Jesus’ invitation.  What greater things has God called us to do?

In 2024, let us listen for God’s call, let us say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” so that we can see what greater things God might be calling us to do today.

In your bulletin is a form for you to complete, and place in the offering tray after worship.  If you need more time to consider, you can take it home, and bring it back next Sunday.  If God has put something on your heart, and you believe it is a call you might be able to participate in, Session would be interested in knowing this before our Session Retreat on January 27th.

Maybe God is using you like he did Eli and Philip to have us recognize that it is God calling, and Jesus saying follow me.

If you are being called to serve on one of our Session Committees:  Administration, Finance and Property, Faith and Nurture, Worship or Mission, Evangelism and Media, we would really like to know your willingness to serve.

We can still dare to dream what work God might be calling us to do in our day.  Jesus will indeed continue to do “greater things” through us than we have seen in our midst.  Might we seek to embody the principle one of my commentaries referenced:  “The Gospel comes to us on its way to someone else.”  Let me say that again, “The Gospel comes to us on its way to someone else.”  The Gospel didn’t stop with Jesus, and it doesn’t stop with us.  It is ours to pass on, and it is ours to share.

Might we eagerly say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening!”


*Cover Art by Unsplash, used with subscription