Posts Tagged ‘1 Samuel 3:1-10’

Painting of Samuel learning from Eli

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Here is a sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B:

A Call in the Night

A Sermon on 1 Samuel 3:1-10 with allusions to John 1:43-51

The problem wasn’t so much that the word of God was rare.  The problem was that listeners were rare.  Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, are a case in point.  Along with Eli, they were supposed to be serving as priests at Shiloh.  But instead of serving and leading the people of God, Hophni and Phineas exploited them to serve their own appetites.

These were dark times in Israel.  But the ark of the covenant containing God’s written word was still there, and the lamp on the lamp stand in the sanctuary still burned.  That was where Eli’s helper, Samuel, slept every night.

It was night in Israel in more ways than one.  Those who were supposed to be listening to God weren’t.  And God was getting ready to speak and to act, to do something about it.  In this sleeping youngster, God saw someone who would truly listen to him.   “Samuel, Samuel!” God called.

At the sound of his name, Samuel was awake.  It must be Eli.  Eli was elderly.  His eyesight had grown dim.  He often needed Samuel’s help.  Samuel hurried to his side.  “Here I am,” he said.  “You called me.”

Eli was surprised.  “No, I didn’t, son.  Go on back to bed.”  Twice more this happened.  Now even though Eli’s eyesight was dim, his insight wasn’t all gone.  He discerned that the voice calling Samuel by name was God’s voice.  “Samuel, it is the Lord calling you.  Go back to bed.  If the voice calls again, answer, and say, “Speak, Lord.  I’m your servant, and I’m listening.”  So Samuel went back to bed, and waited.

In many ways it is night now.  Every day the numbers of the dead in the violence in Iraq grow, now to over 2,100 Americans and by an estimate President Bush cited on December 12, 30,000 Iraqis.  (Note: this was preached in January 2006.) We are bound to remember them as well, for Christ calls us to love and pray for our enemies.  Most of the Iraqi people are just trying to survive.  The costs of war are always a nightmare.  How can we describe this as anything other than night?

How can we describe it as anything other than night when there’s deep economic distress: layoffs abound along with the fear of layoffs, while top executives pull in hundreds of times more income than their employees.  In some cases their lowest ranking employees have to depend on Medicaid.  The state of our economy means suffering for many and hard, hard work for our friends on the front lines, at social services, trying to help.  And they’re trying to help with fewer and fewer resources.  You may disagree, but it seems to me that something’s out of whack when our representatives are cutting taxes on the wealthy who can afford to pay more, while cutting care for the elderly, poor and disabled, and meanwhile there’s an expensive war to pay for.

How can we describe it as anything other than night when self-centeredness seems to be the rule everywhere?  Shadows of all kinds fall.  Sorrow strikes everywhere.  And need of all sorts is everywhere. (more…)

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