1 Samuel 3: 1-10 , John 1: 43-51
To change things round a little, I did an introduction to the Bible readings this week - to help to set the scene and get people to 'tune in' to the Samuel reading in particular.
The first of our readings tells us about a young boy, Samuel. He is the son of Hannah. Distraught because she had no children, Hannah prayed for a child and promised God that if he granted her request, she would give the child back to God. When the baby was born she named him Samuel – ‘I asked the Lord for him’ – and once he was old enough she took him to live with Eli, the priest in the temple. So in the story we are about to hear Samuel, who may have been 7 or 8 years old by this time, is sleeping in the temple as a little ‘mini-priest’.
The second of our readings is from John’s gospel: right from the start of Jesus’ ministry – Jesus has just been baptised by John in Jordan and has started gathering followers around him – Andrew & Peter are already following Jesus.
Have you every heard the call of God?
Even the question might make you feel uncomfortable: what sort of people hear God’s voice? Surely only very holy people, or people who are on the brink of insanity, or perhaps people in desperate need of help – but not ordinary people.
But that’s not what our two Bible readings have said.
The story of Samuel is a very human story. A little boy hears a voice in the night and assumes the voice he hears is Eli – but it’s God.
An ordinary boy, an ordinary story– but with extraordinary account of God calling to a young lad.
I remember this story well from Sunday school – with a picture of a blond-haired cherub – and the message that even little children could hear God.
God calls people – of all ages.
It’s also strangely reassuring that the call is not always heard clearly – that when God calls, people might need to keep listening – and so learn to hear what God has to say to them.
John’s gospel deals with different kind of call: to adults, to follow Jesus – it’s a more tangible call, from a man who is standing right on front of them, but its still extraordinary that they listen and follow – after all, they know very little about this man Jesus.
Andrew has seen him baptised, and tells Peter, his brother. Philip is from the same place as Peter & Andrew so maybe they’ve told him something about Jesus. But all Jesus says to Philip is ‘follow me’ – and not only does he decide to do it, he goes to fetch Nathanael as well. Jesus tells Nathanael he saw him under the fig tree & that’s enough to convince Nathanael that Jesus is the King of Israel.
What they have seen & heard, what they have learnt about Jesus enough to convince them to follow and learn more.
God’s call might not be a single, life-shattering moment for us: it can be a process, a journey, a life-long adventure – to listen and learn, to follow and find.
God’s call comes throughout life – prompting, guiding, supporting.
We might wonder what God will say if and when he does speak to us. For both Samuel and for the first of Jesus’ disciples the call was about their direction in life, what they should do, how they should act, how to grow closer to God.
We think about little Samuel and feel very much like been around the block a few too many times in comparison! Like Eli we might feel old, that our eyes are growing dim. We might be going through life not expecting to find anything new, and certainly not expecting to hear God speak to us or feel the love of God touch our lives.
But God broke in to Eli’s life, too, when he spoke to Samuel – he gave a message for Eli through Samuel, which also started a new chapter in the life of Eli.
You are never too young to hear God – and never too old either. We need to listen and to be open.
And when we do hear something, it could be very simple – follow me, walk in way of Jesus, move closer to God & know his love and care for you – through all of life’s journey.
So may God bless each one of us here, and help us to feel his presence, hear his call, and walk in his way.