Scriptures: 1 Samuel 3:1- 20
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Samuel…Harvard Old Testament scholar Paul Hanson once noted, Samuel is, “a person of pivotal significance.” Samuel holds the somewhat dubious position of bridge between the time of the Judges and the time of the Prophets. He was, in effect, the last Judge and also the first Prophet. Given to the Temple in his childhood in fulfillment of his mother’s heart-wrenching prayer, Samuel eventually becames trained as a priest under Eli.
Today’s passage, from Samuel’s childhood in the Temple, sets the stage for his rise in eminence as God’s chosen mouthpiece even as Israel herself enters into a new chapter of existence. What can contemporary readers glean from today’s passage?
First, in this story Samuel is still a boy – a priest in training. This means, being “dedicated to the service of God by his grateful mother, [he] is already a part of the faithful, worshiping community when his special call comes in the nighttime.”
Second, “he does not [yet] recognize God’s voice when it comes,” mistaking it for Eli, his mentor-teacher, calling him in the night.
Third, “God is sufficiently patient to call several times; even then it takes the special discernment of Eli, for [Samuel] to recognize whose voice it is.”
I wonder, do you recognize in this story anything of your own story? In my own life, I can mirror Samuel’s example pretty closely. First: I was raised in the church, so I have been comfortable and familiarity with it all my life. Second: I often times haven’t recognized God’s voice when it comes. Third: thankfully, with God’s persistence and many mentors along the way, I am beginning to learn to hear God’s many ways of speaking: in Creation, in the life of family members, friends, students and teachers, colleagues in ministry, mentors from all walks of life, in this local worshiping community and the connectional church of which we are a part. I have even begun to recognize God’s voice in other faiths than my own.
For Christians, it really doesn’t matter which denomination you begin in. The key to being a part of God’s family as expressed in the Christian church is through Baptism. Baptism means membership in the body of Christ, universal, and the local expression of that is a faith community that meets together regularly for worship, fellowship, discipleship, and service. Baptism is a process of letting go of our past – some call it dying to self, and being born into newness of life together in the family of God.
As with Samuel, it sometimes takes many tries before we hear God’s call and give ourselves over to that calling, a “holy submission,” if you will. for God loves us and truly wants us to be a part of the heavenly community embodied on earth. For Christians, Jesus is the very example of that embodiment, teaching us with his life how to live our own. God calls to us in many different ways, often several different times, but as with Samuel, God is just as patient with us.
For us, the good news is this: God is calling still! Over and over God calls us. Like Eli and Samuel, sometimes it takes our mentors to recognize that calling and instruct us how to listen and how to respond. When we in turn tune our ears to hear, God’s voice becomes ever more clear to us. When we are able to hear clearly and genuinely respond, we enter into the mystery of holy submission, and God’s Spirit is free to anoint us for God’s reconciling work on earth. Come, Lord Jesus, for we would hear your voice, become your people, and joyfully go – becoming your hands and feet in the world. Amen? May it be so.
 John Rollefson, “Pastoral Perspective, 1 Samuel 3:1-20” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0
Question for Reflection
How do you live out being the hands and feet of Christ in the world?