Eli and Samuel (1 Sam 3)
Back in college, as I sat in my class on Hinduism and Buddhism and the Professor was explaining the Bhagavad Gita, I had a moment where my mind began to wonder and a moment of clarity overtook me and I realized that God had called me to ministry. Granted it would take a few more years to figure out exactly what that meant, but I know starting that day that God had a plan for me. Now that was not the first time I had heard God’s call, nor was it my first pledge to become a minister, but it was the first time that I had a clarity of understanding that let me know what my future would hold.
This Sunday we celebrate the call of Samuel in the worship service. I really like this story because there is a lot within it that I wholly identify with, especially the times that God calls and you think it is someone else. In fact, for me a big part of the Solidification for my call was Linda Jo Peters, the associate pastor at the church next to my college, and my professor who taught me to listen to the call, which they had already known about, just like Eli already knew about Samuel’s call.
The thing it that sensing a call is not easy, just go to any seminary. Many people are called to seminaries, but the number who graduate and choose an ordination track is very different. This has nothing to do with ability or intellect; it usually has to do with call. Sometimes, as in my case, it was confirmed, and others find that what they thought was a clear calling was actually to something very different. But that is the nature of calls in that it is not just the individual hearing, but also the community’s witness as well which confirms it. This is very important in our understanding of calling, because call is not or should not be equated to status or power; rather, a calling is the humble submission to the will of God.
This is seen in the pithy recognition from Eli to Samuel “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him." (1Sa 3:18 NRS) which in English seems almost like a “blow-off” statement, but in Hebrew has an ultimate understanding that he will do what he wants because it brings him great joy with an understanding that the Joy being derived from Samuel accepting God’s call and allowing God to use him as he sees fit.
NOW, this does not mean that Samuel blindly follows God in a never-questioning sort of way; we know from the call of David that Samuel has some issues and struggles with God, though, every time he goes back to follow God’s plan.
In the morning service this week, as it were planned this way . . . we will be ordaining Pat DeWhitt as an Elder, recognizing her call, which is very much a recognition of call and how our community endorses that. At the Gathering we will be talking about our plan for the coming year and see where God is calling us as a worshipping community.
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Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen