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Series: Epiphany

Category: 2018 Sermons

Passage: 1 Samuel 3:1-10

Speaker: Nicole Trotter


1 Samuel 3:1-10
Psalm 139

We’ve moved into call….in this well known scripture…a young Samuel is being called in the middle of the night by God…All of 12 or 13 years old, the age a boy became a man…Bar mitzvah age…

Samuel whose name in Hebrew means heard by God….and Eli…the High Priest who takes him…Eli means.. my God.

Here’s what we can learn just at face value from this scripture about God’s calling…Just skim the surface with me…First, we like Samuel, often miss God’s call. We mistake God’s call for something or someone else…not just once but three times…repeatedly, this is our nature. Especially in a culture of 24 hour news cycles, social media and smart phones. It’s noisier the ever and if you doubt that it’s affecting us, just read the studies on teenage anxiety and depression rates. So the first thing we can learn is to find time to practice listening…

Second, to hear God’s call is to give into acceptance. Here I am…We belong to God…to accept that we have been……claimed in love… here I am…here I am……a complete giving over and giving in to God’s will…Here I am…

The third …none of that is easy. And just like the part of scripture you didn’t here,  what God is calling on you to do or say is not always easy or pretty.

In the passage following what you heard, Samuel is called by God to share terrible news with Eli, the man who has taken him into his home, helped raise him…Eli is a High priest responsible for Samuel’s ability to finally hear God’s call….and God tells Samuel that he's is about to destroy Eli’s legacy. Because of the sins of Eli’s sons…And Eli knows it’s coming…and encourages the young boy to give it to him straight.

Samuel will become Prophet, Judge, and Priest… those are his titles…

But we know very little about his personality….here’s what we do know...

He was frightened by the divine revelation at night in the chapter you heard this morning.

Later in In chap 8 he’s angry when the people demand a king. (8:4-6)

And still, later he grieves over Saul’s rejection by God. (15:35)

Frightened, angry, and grieving…are not the first qualities we think of when we think of larger than life biblical character who becomes a priest, judge, and prophet.

But Samuel was called into fighting the good fight, called for a purpose larger than himself… and when one does that….call is not easy…and not pretty and as Jesus would remind us, to take up a cross…is to often to experience rejection and even death. That’s what makes this scripture especially fitting for this Sunday, the day before we remember The Reverend Dr, Martin Luther King Junior, who knew that his calling would be anything but easy...and those that heard God’s call to follow King knew it wouldn’t be easy….and those who didn’t follow, look back through history and now know what they didn’t know then, they were on the wrong side of history. And in today’s climate it’s perhaps more important than ever to listen for how God is calling…

And maybe you’re like me, and like Samuel…. you’re frightened, and angry and grieving for a country that is giving into fear…a country I have trouble recognizing as the one we once knew….which is why it’s also more important than ever to persevere…and to trust and to listen….to respond by saying “here I am.” and as a follower of Jesus Christ to trust these words…spoken by King…quoting Theodore Parker…

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

That’s not a quote about politics, but about what God is doing….

Those are the words I quoted two years ago….and I say them again today with more questions and even more, doubt about our future than I did two years ago…but my doubt only reinforces my faith in God…who I call upon to save me from myself…from my fear, my anger, and my grief. We call, God hears…God calls… we listen…

As a people committed to following Jesus  Christ we are called to love in the face of hatred…,even those we know in our heart of hearts are wrong, we find a way to forgive, even though we are angry, to stay in conversation even though we are frightened… because we are first and foremost children of God’s and our unifying principle is one rooted in a God who is always working for peace, for mutuality and unity for all God’s people.

That’s a social calling…a foundational unifying call, and it lives at the center of our Reformed Faith.


But there’s another way to understand call that feeds into the collective, but begins with the highly personal..……its one that lives more quietly in relationship…and it’s between you and God…and we heard it this morning…the psalmist writes...

Lord, you have searched me and known me. discern my thoughts from far away.

…Even before a word is on my tongue…you know it completely.

….Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

…Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

...If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me…

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”

even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.


God’s calling you, personally calling you into realizing the fullest expression of you….and written in the beauty of that Psalm and in how I understand relationship…never ending…constant…filled with intention….

God’s calling to you to be in a relationship with God…which means a constant listening…for where God is tugging at you…pulling you…pushing you….nurturing you….and challenging you…..and that voice your listening for will sometimes be indistinguishable from your own…because of God’s lives as intimately within us as our own breath…is our own life affirming breath….and God is also beyond us…so large we cannot grasp it, contain it or fully understand God. Both and... The intimacy and the mystery. All wrapped up God’s calling…into an ever-deepening relationship.

And because the universal lives in the personal and the particular….let me share with you how God called to me this week, how I experienced my own epiphany in this season of epiphany….and I share this in the hope that you will see yourself in it, and witness your own experience to others….

Before I read this Sunday’s scripture… (and that  detail of timing is important)I was in bed one night, tossing around….which I’ve learned not to fight…but to accept it…so I have practices like reciting scripture or I count my blessings… (I fall asleep… counting my blessings…) which sounds like a litany of thank you’s…thank you God for this in my life….thank you for that…but this particular night I heard that same thank you….only it wasn’t coming from me to God…but had flipped and was now coming from God to me…half asleep….and I wish I could tell you that Gods voice sounded deep and booming, like Dennis reading scripture, but it was my own voice….which is maybe why I think I didn’t make much of the time…I felt a calm sense of peace and fell back to sleep delighted in the feeling….But once the morning came, I was on to the next thing and tabled the experience.

And then two or three days later…in Bible study, after reading this scripture…For the third or fourth time…it hit me….God had called to me in the middle of the night…not unlike Samuel….…I had experienced a kind of epiphany…And I think that’s often how epiphanies work….It hits us later…in retrospect, we look back and realize God’s presence with us, and revealing to us something we needed to hear…

And let me add here, God was not thanking me under the heading of ego…but from a place of compassion…because what keeps me up is concern…or worry….borrowing trouble as Gladys likes to remind me…Lately, it’s concern for all of you… the people I'm falling for….and concern that I’m falling for you…. my concern is that I don’t have the proper sense of boundaries. You know they teach you proper boundaries in seminary, and I’m pretty sure I’m flunking because I don’t know how to distance myself and detach…

I sink in…that’s who I am…and I don’t know how to fulfill this call any other way…so that’s what was keeping me up that particular night… And the gift God gave me was in two simple words..the same ones I had been saying were now being said back to me…thank you….

Now, when we leave here, your job is not to make this ok for me…Do not worry about my worrying….God and I will work that out together..I have this wonderful call… God is speaking and taking care of me….That’s not your job.

What I hope for, in sharing all of this, is that you can hear in my story, your own encounters with God… God’s call to you is intimate, and it’s an invitation into a deeper love with God… it’s the song on your bulletin cover… a call from God to you…or a call from you to God….it’s both and…and the more you call out for God the more you will hear God call out for you….

This reciprocal relationship of call lives in every part of your life…not just in nature, not only in a yoga class or in mediation, but every moment….because you can’t get away from God…

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”