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Archive for the ‘1 Samuel’ Category

1 Samuel 16:1-13

This is the one

1. Way In

I’m a pacifist but I’m at war with the TV at my house

I used to have a bumper sticker on another car that said “Kill Your Television.”

I like the idea of that sticker,

but I wasn’t ever completely comfortable

driving around with a sticker on my car

saying I wanted to “kill” something

even if it was just a TV

TV makes me crazy

So I don’t watch it

pauly does, though

and we monitor what he sees

and that could be a full-time job

we talk about shows that “help you learn”

and the ones that “suck out your brain”

besides that, I don’t watch anything

the last shows I watched with any regularity:

M*A*S*H

SNL: J. Belushi, D. Aykroyd, B. Murray days

I also watched some Twilight Zone reruns in those days, too

Had to give YSO a shout on that one

I remember when my oldest son was born

my father said I would soon learn the “babysitting” qualities of TV

and be parking my son in front of it

“Humph,” I thought to myself, “You’ll never catch me parking my kid in front of the TV just so I can do something I want to do.”

I hate to admit it, but you CAN catch me doing just that sometimes with Paul

just like you could have caught me doing that with Miller or Jack

So, I’m at war

I don’t like what’s on TV:

I don’t like TV news

don’t like the talking heads (usually screaming heads)

I resent that TV is found blaring in …

hospital waiting areas

airports

restaurants

I don’t like the violence

or the sarcastic kids interacting with ‘doofus’ parents

I don’t like the barrage of commercials that try to sell my son everything under the sun

And I have some good news

I ordered a new sticker

a TV with the international “NO” symbol, a red line through it

below it does say, “Kill Your Television”

but I’ll cut that part off

I want that sticker because I want to stand up for putting TV down

I hate what TV does to our culture

violence, sensationalism

the most insidious things are the images of what counts as:

beautiful, smart

sets the standard for what’s attractive and desirable

seems like the scripted, rehearsed, and polished dialogue on TV …

set the tone for how we should interact

opinions that must always be heard – shouted over the tops of others

scare tactics instead of news

always noise, no space for silence or introspection

after all quiet TV doesn’t sell ads

TV encourages too much importance on appearance

ideals of beauty

good teeth, fashionable clothes,hair is “just so”

figure is just right: buff and scuploted

Bridge

TV – too much emphasis on appearance

unlike God, as we hear in today’s’ reading from 1 Samuel

God does not look on outward appearance, the Lord looks upon the heart.” (16:7)

2. Tell the Story

Saul’s kingship had not worked out. We can talk about why some other time, but today let us go with the story from here.

in 15:28 Samuel told Saul, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.”

God to Samuel: “Fill your horn with oil and set out for Bethlehem to see a man named Jesse.”

The horn of oil was for anointing the new king

horn of an ox or other animal hollowed out to carry the special oil for anointing

Bethlehem the same referred to in Micah’s prophecy …

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from old…

The way God has always specialized in calling people from unlikely places to be set aside for His work

and ordinary little village like Bethelehm

not a great city like Jerusalem

As we have said before … God calling ordinary people (like you and me) to be about doing extraordinary things in His name

God said, “I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

God had already chosen a leader for the people

Now, Saul has been rejected by God, but he is not yet dethroned

So God and Samuel plan a secret mission

“Go to Bethlehem and pretend you are going to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Invite Jesse to the ceremony, and I will show you which one of his sons to anoint.”

Remember, God told Samuel, “I will (God will) show you which one of Jesse’s sons is the one.”

But Samuel couldn’t help but get in on the choosing

As Jesse’s sons go by him, maybe finding their seats or places in the temple, Samuel gets busy

Jesse’s first son, Eliab, came.

Sam., “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed. Look how tall and good-looking he is…definitely king material.”

God, “Do not look at this appearance or his height. I have rejected this one …

Remember, people look at outward appearance, but I look at the heart.”

Sam., “Oh yeah, God, I forgot about that.”

But is seems that Samuel keeps right on doing the same thing as the other sons come by

Abinadab – “Not as tall as Eliab, but still a good looking boy.”

But God says, “no not that one”

Shammah – “Not a bad looking boy, check out that good-looking suit he’s wearing.”

God, “Nope, not that one.”

In all, Jesse sent 7 of his sons to pass before Samuel

Sam., “Now Jesse, the Lord didn’t pick any of these. Are these all the sons you have? Are you sure this is it, because God’s just not grooving on any of these boys.”

Are there any more?

Jesse, “Well there’s my baby boy. He’s out watching the sheep – you wouldn’t want that one, would you?

Sam., “Go and get him. Don’t worry, we’ll hold everything until you get back.”

Jesse brought this one:

He was ruddy, ynImod>a;
(ah-dah-mo-nee) the same word used to describe Easu at birth, red.

He had beautiful eyes, and was handsome

Dramatic ending

God said to Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

Sam. took the horn of oil and anointed him

In the presence of his brothers

They werren’t bad boys, just not the ones

First time we know the name of this little brother, the shepherd

And the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David
from that day forward

3. So What?

Bridge

A new leader has been anointed

from an unlikely village – out in the country

Bethlehem ( ~x,l’ƒtyBe house of bread) not the holy city of Jerusalem

a village we will hear from again…

this new leader is an unlikely boy

not one of the handsome, older, ones

that maybe look more like “king material”

the little brother, a shepherd

God has found this one

not by outward appearance

but by his heart

God is not fooled by our outward appearance

God is pleased that we worship him regularly,

that we come to church

but God is not fooled when we look good, when we look well, when we look busy – even in His name

God looks on our heart

and what does God see?

what does God see in your heart? … and mine?

The Bible says that God does not look at the outward appearance

God doesn’t care if we look chiseled and buff

but for those of you who are – that’s fine, too

God doesn’t care if we smell fresh as a daisy or an Irish Spring

God doesn’t care if we wear the latest from Paris or New York

in fact, he probably prefers that we don’t

It’s like what I was saying before about TV

there you only see a person’s outward appearance

you can’t really know somebody you see on TV

you don’t even know if they’re real

can’t talk to them more to get to know them better

what you see is what you get

I think about the character Arthur Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird

the kids in town called him “Boo”

scary to them

must have driven him crazy running up to his door

and sneaking around outside his house all the time to get a look at him

But in the end it was Boo Radley who saved Scout and Jem’s life

and was willing to take the heat for killing the man who was out to get the kids

on the last page of the book, Atticus is reading Scout a story

it’s about somebody else, but Scout is half-asleep by this time and she tells her father what she heard in the story…

“they chased him and never could catch him, ’cause they didn’t know what he looked like, an’ when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things …Atticus he was real nice…”

“Most people are Scout, when you finally see them.”

God doesn’t judge us outwardly, but cares about what’s in our hearts

God didn’t care how all of Jesse’s other sons looked

not interested in the tallest one

or the strongest one

God wanted the one with the best heart to be the leader of the people

Jesse paraded all his other sons before Samuel

as far as he was concerned, after he brought the 7 of them out, he was finished

but God wanted to know, “Are all of them here?”

God knew there was another son out in the fields tending sheep

that’s the one God wanted

But Jesse had already made up his mind that God couldn’t possible want little David

Jesse didn’t think that one was good enough

too young, just a shepherd

but a shepherd is just the leader God wanted

It’s the same way with us

God wants our heart and soul

God wants out hands and feet, too

because we are God’s hands a feet

to do ministry –

hands to give and hold

feet to go and do

to share our life

to serve the poor, stand up for the ones who can’t

that’s what makes us beautiful to God

Conclusion

so let us not think we know best what God is looking for

we need not worry whether we’re

good-looking enough

or even smart enough

we don’t let that stop us from stepping out

maybe we have an idea for ministry

we need not worry whether it’s clever enough

ashamed to trot it out because it may not be good enough

don’t let that keep us from trying it out

God only cares about the heart of it

As long as we keep on trotting out the things we think God wants…

because they’re the pretty ones, the clever ones

God will keep on asking, “Are there any more? Are they all here?”

Then God will say, “Yes.” This is the one

walking through the congregation

This is the one who can make a difference

This is the one who will befriend the friendless

This is the one who will share their food with the poor

This is the one whose heart aches for peace and justice

This is the one who will teach the children

This is the one who will help raise up the church

This is the one …

“For the Lord does not see as mortals see, they look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

So let it be with us. Amen.

Bonus: Check out The Avett Brothers singing Spanish Pipedream, also known as “Blow Up Your TV” by John Prine



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Welcome and Call to Worship

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

We gather to remember the night that Jesus shared his last supper with his disciples.  What shall we give to the Lord for his goodness to us?

We will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.

 

Prelude                     I to the Hills Will Lift My Eyes  (Martin)

                                    David Broerman and Dana Geuy

Opening Prayer  (in unison)

Gracious and merciful God, in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper you give us a memorial of the passion of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Grant that the ones who receive these sacred mysteries may grow into him in all things until we come to your eternal joy through Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior.  Amen  

Scripture Readings 

Exodus 12:1-4, 11, 14         “This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.”

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.  Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household.  If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.  This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD.  This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

 

1 Corinthians 11:23-26       “Eat this bread and drink the cup.”

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

John 13:1-17, 31-35                “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”

 13:1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.”  For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”  After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.  Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.  If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

Anthem                     The Sound of Running Water

                                                Presented by the combined choirs:

                                                            + First Presbyterian Church of Sidney, OH

                                                                Dana Geuy, Director of Music

                                                            + Westminster Presbyterian Church of Piqua, OH

                                                                David Broerman, Director of Music

 The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

 Invitation

This is not the table of the church, but of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been prepared for those who love him

and want to love him more.

So come, you who feel that you have much faith,

and the ones who feel you are struggling;

The ones who have come to this table often,

and those who have been away for a while.

The ones who have tried to follow,

and the ones who feel you have lost your way.

Come, not because I invite you,

for it is our Lord Jesus who calls, saying

“I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,

and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…

anyone who comes to me, I will never drive away.”

Prayer

Words of Institution

Communion by Intinction

Prayer

 

Extinguishing the Candles

“Listen prayerfully to the reading of the scriptures for the passion of our Lord, and may the extinguishing of the lights be a reminder of his suffering, even when our hope for the resurrection may seem like a dim memory.”

 

The Shadow of Betrayal; Matthew 26:20-25

When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”  And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”  Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”  He replied, “You have said so.”

 

 

The Shadow of Agony; Luke 22:40-44

When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”  Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

 

The Shadow of Loneliness; Matthew 26:40-45

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

 

The Shadow of Desertion; Matthew 26:47-50, 55, 56

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.  But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

 

The Shadow of Accusation; Matthew 26:59-67

Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'” The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him…

 

 

The Shadow of Mockery; Mark 15:12-20

Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!”  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him.

After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

 

 

The Shadow of Death; Luke 23:33-46

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying,” If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Only the Christ candle remains lit

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Then slowly and deliberately extinguish the Christ candle

(while Joe is draping the large cross in black)

Blessing and Benediction

Keep us safe Lord, while we are awake, and guard us as we sleep, so that we can keep watch with Christ.

Now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding

keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God

and of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord;

And may the blessing of God Almighty,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

remain with you always.  Amen.

Depart in Silence

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Usually I preach from an outline, this week I used a written manuscript.

1 Samuel 3: 1-10; John 1: 43-51


 

            Sleeping in church is an age-old tradition, one which I have been known to keep.  Now, I’m not going to call any names, but I know of some others who keep that tradition, too, from time to time.

            Sometimes you can get away with it.  But those other times… The worst is when you snore.  Forget about keeping it a secret then.  Hopefully, your spouse or somebody sitting nearby will hear you grunt a little and punch you before you really start sawing logs.  But if you’re like me, a snore is pretty hard to hide.

            What about the head jerk?  You know when you nod off and wake yourself up?  Then you jerk your head back up real quick, as if it was the most natural move in the world to make.  Believe me; it’s hard to hide a head jerk.

            Sometimes, other parts of your body jerk when you go to sleep.  Kazy says that when I fall asleep, I usually do a full body jerk or two.  I found that’s not just when I’m in bed, either.  Once in seminary, I was sitting in Dr. Kathleeen O’Connor’s Old Testament survey class.  I took as many classes as I could from Dr. O’Connor, her classes were like a dance.  It seemed like she was always inviting her students to join her in the dance as she moved through her lecture with grace and poise.  Her perspective was astounding and precise, and she has an excellent academic reputation among Bible scholars.

            For all of those reasons, I always wanted to sit on the front row.  I didn’t want to miss anything Dr. O’Connor said.  And for all those reasons, I felt like such a jerk one day when I showed up to her class after having stayed up most of the night before working on a project for another class.  I felt like a jerk because I was sitting right up front, front and center, right under her nose, and I was getting so sleepy that I could barely hold my head up.  Anybody with any sense would have moved to the back of the room to sleep, but not me.  I was in my usual spot on the front row, at the very center of the room.

            I was sitting right under Dr. O’Connor’s nose when I fell asleep and woke myself up with a jerk.  This was not a head jerk, but a full-body jerk, and when I jerked my arms, I pushed my big old study Bible right off of my desk onto the floor at Dr. O’Connor’s feet.

            Wham!  It sounded like a gunshot.  And she never even ;lost stride, she just went right on talking about the Babylonian exile or whatever she was on that day while I reached under my desk to get my Bible off of the floor, trying to act like I had it all under control.

            I managed to stay awake for the rest of class.  Knocking my Bible on the floor and humiliating myself in front of a favorite professor was kind of like falling asleep at the wheel.  The adrenalin or whatever it is kicked in and I managed to stay awake for the rest of class, but I was so embarrassed that I called Dr. O’Connor later to apologize for sleeping in her class.

            The boy, Samuel, as Jean read for us just now was supposed to be sleeping in church.  Hannah, his mother, had brought him to the temple just as she promised.  She made a promise with God before Samuel was born that if she was able to have a child, she would see that he served God.  God was good to God’s word, and Hannah was good to hers, she brought the boy Samuel to Eli, the High Priest.

            They were living in a time when “the word of God was rare…visions were not widespread.”  Israel was not currently at war with anybody, but war was often nearby.  Just ahead in chapter four we read that the Philistines were getting ready for war against Israel.

            They had lived in the Land of Promise for long enough to establish a way of life for themselves that must have seemed unimaginable when they were slaves in Egypt or wandering in the wilderness.

            They said that the word of God was rare and there were hardly any visions, but that surely didn’t mean that God wasn’t still paying attention.   And on this particular night, that rare word of God came to young Samuel while he was sleeping in the temple near the Ark of the Covenant.  “Samuel.  Samuel,” he heard the voice.

            It must have been Eli calling; there wasn’t anybody else in the building.  He ran to Eli and said “Here I am.”

            “I didn’t say anything, go back to bed,” said Eli.

            Samuel went back to bed.  Soon, the voice came again.  “Samuel!”

            Again he got out of bed, and went to Eli.  And you notice it doesn’t say that he ran this time.  I wonder if he was thinking Eli was playing some kind of joke in him.  He went to Eli again and said, “Here I am, you called me.”

            It was the middle of the night, Eli was tired too.  “No, son, go back to bed.  I’m not calling you.”

            Samuel goes back to his bed, probably a pallet on the floor, like Eli says.  Now Samuel must be around 12 or 13, stilled called a boy in the scriptures, but we know he’s old enough to be receiving religious training in the Temple.  Do you know any 12 or 13 year olds?  They can be hard to figure out, can’t they?  By this time Samuel is either angry about being woken up by whoever is playing a joke in him, or scared about this mysterious voice in the church in the middle of the night – which can be kind of a spooky place anyway.

            He had just gotten back to sleep when he was awakened for THE THIRD TIME.  Again he went to Eli, again not running.  “Here I am, you called me,” he said.  I bet his polite responses were getting a little forced by now.

            By this time, Eli had figured it out.  It was God – YHWH Elohim who was calling.  Eli told the boy what to do if he heard the voice again.  Can you imagine going back to his pallet after being told to answer next time because it was God – I AM, who was calling?

            The scriptures say this time that Samuel went to lie down in his place.  This time, notice that it doesn’t say he went to sleep.  Would you?  Could you sleep if there was a chance that God was about to speak to you?  Then the voice came again, “Samuel.  Samuel!”

            Just like Eli told him, Samuel responded.  “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

            And that’s where our reading for today ends, but the narrative continues with, “then the Lord said to Samuel.”  We know that after that Samuel grew in the Lord.  The scriptures say that the Lord was with Samuel and never let his words fall to the ground.

            So the first lesson for us out of today’s reading: even though we are tempted to get up and run when we hear God’s call, the best thing to do is to listen to the plan first.  We want to seem responsive and we have learned that that means to get busy.  But that busy-ness is about like stumbling around the house half asleep.  Before we can really follow God’s call we need to listen to what God has to say.

            Now let’s go to the gospel reading where Jesus is calling his first disciples.  The first ones came from John the Baptizer, remember how we said that his ministry was always pointing away from himself and to Jesus?  That’s what happened this day, because Jesus’ first disciples were formerly with John.  But when Jesus came along, John said, “Look, there he is, the Lamb of God.”  That’s the one John had been preparing them for and when Jesus came along they went with him.

            They say with raising children, one thing you have to give them is wings to fly on their own someday.  This is what John’s followers were meant to do.  When Jesus came along, they would go with  him.  So they went with Jesus, Andrew and one other.  And the first thing Andrew did was to evangelize and go get his brother Simon, who Jesus called Cephas or Peter. (which means Rock)

            In Galilee, Jesus found Philip who followed Jesus and went to tell his friend Nathanael who wasn’t such an easy sell.  Nate wasn’t so sure about this Nazarene, he figured he was just some hick, some redneck like all those others, “Yeah, like anything good can come out of Nazareth,” he says.

            “Well, just come and see,” Philip says.  And Nathanael came to see what the deal was with this hick from Nazareth.  Nathanael responded to Philips invitation to follow the call of Christ, and both of their lives changed.

            This is where a preacher is reminded of a story Will Willimon tells[1].  Rev. Willimon is the Dean of the Chapel at Duke, and he got a call from an irate parent one day.  It was the father of one of his students who called to say that he held Rev. Willimon personally responsible for his daughter’s ridiculous decision to put off graduate school to “throw it all away” to go do mission work for a year in Haiti with the Presbyterian church.

            The father saw this as an absolute waste of her time and his money, with a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Duke, she was going to dig ditches in Haiti.  “You were completely irresponsible to encourage her to do this,” the man said to Rev. Willimon.  This was one mad daddy.

            Willimon was able to calm the man down somewhat and suggested that it was really her parents who started this process with their daughter.  They were the ones who had her baptized and read the Bible to her.  It was her parents who took her to Sunday School and Youth Group.  Rev. Willimon said, “You’re the ones who introduced her to Jesus, not me.”

            “Maybe so,” replied the father, “but all we ever wanted her to be was a Presbyterian.”

            Following Jesus rarely ends us up where we thought we would be.  Rev. Willimon says that’s why we bolt the church pews to the floor, or at least want them to stay in the exact same place with all the other properly placed church furniture.  It’s the same reason for having the worship service printed up in a bulletin (hold it up) and keep things in the church predictable and in order.  He suggests an inner fear.

            We tend to tie everything down, whether with bolts and screws or with tradition and habit, to make church as predictable, settled, and fixed as we can, because the stories we hear in this place are about people whose lives have been radically changed after hearing their name called.  We believe in the living God, and we are perhaps a little afraid of what God is up to, on the loose even when the word of God seems rare, and visions are not widespread.  Even the living God who comes out of little redneck village like Nazareth.

            When you hear the word of God, it’s not usually what you had in mind.  It turns things upside down, the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  Servants are leaders.  Barren women, like Hannah, have babies.  Settled people, like the fishermen Jesus first called, leave their life’s work to follow some hick from Nazareth.

            Maybe we think visions aren’t widespread.  We may think the word of God is rare.  Maybe we think the living God ought to be living in decent, respectable neighborhoods.  Maybe we think the living God ought to live in a particular way, particularly we may think God ought to sit where he belongs in church, and stand when he’s supposed to…like we do.  But God’s calling comes in completely unpredictable times, from completely unpredictable places, and urges us to unpredictable places.

            On the evening of December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks left a hard day’s work as a tailor’s assistant in Montgomery.  She was tired and got on the bus to go home.  In the segregated south, black people had to ride in the back of municipal buses.  And the color line could always be moved back if the white people needed more seats.  Black people were not allowed to sit if any white people had to stand.

            Rosa Parks was sitting on the forward-most row in what they called the “Colored Section” when a white man got on the bus.  There were no more seats, so the bus driver told Mrs. Parks and the other black people in her row they would have to get up.  The white man was supposed to get a seat, and all the black people on the row had to get up because no black people could occupy the same row as a white person.

            We don’t hear much about Rosa Park’s seatmates, but we know about Rosa Parks.  Like Fannie Lou Hamer said in Mississippi, she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”   Her feet were tired, and her face must have been hot with anger and fear, and I know that God spoke words of comfort to her, as she sat there while the driver stopped the bus, and went to get the police.

            As the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, God called somebody else.  “Martin.  Martin!”  God was calling.  Rev. Martin Luther King knew from the start that he was being called to a dangerous calling, but he was being called to a just calling.  If you read his speeches, you will know as he did that God was always with him, and his words would never fall to the ground.  Even on the eve of his murder, as he spoke to the sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, he said that he may not get there with them, but the day would come when a lady like Rosa Parks could sit where she pleased, unrestricted by the ignorance and fear of others.  Dr. King’s life was never the same after he heard God’s call, and through him, by the grace of God, neither was anybody else’s.

            Be ready.  God is calling you.  That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?  Be careful how you respond.  Listen first, before you hit the ground running.  Be open to the living God who lives where Jesus walks through cities and hamlets calling people from their ordinary lives, often away from comfort and predictability, saying I am doing something exciting here.  Come and see.  Come and see.

So may it be with us.  Amen.


[1] William Willimon, Pulpit Resource, Sept 10, 1995

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4th Sunday in Lent

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