Sermons

"Here I Am Lord!": Sermon for the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B

"Here I Am Lord!": Sermon for the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B

Jan 14, 2018

Passage:1 Samuel 3:1-20

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Epiphany

Category: Hope, Mercy, Faithfulness

Keywords: hope, listening, love

Summary:

In the lesson from 1 Samuel, young Samuel keeps hearing God call him, but never knows who it is... That is until his mentor, Eli, correctly figures out that it is God who is calling Samuel. We often forget that God is constantly pursuing us--calling us. This sermon helps us figure out how to listen... and how to respond!

Detail:

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I've been watching on the news about last week's winter "bomb cyclone" that nearly paralyzed the East Coast. Many of us have friends and family there who huddled up in the snow and ice. But one of the more drastic consequences of this winter weather was the effect on airports and travel. New York's JFK Airport was so backed up by the storm that some travelers had to wait not hours, but days for flights.

This brings to mind for me the first time I ever flew in an airplane.

I was seventeen years old. And all of my travel up to then had consisted of family driving trips across the South from our Houston-area home to relatives in Florida or South Carolina or West Texas.

But here I was at seventeen. Dartmouth College in New Hampshire was recruiting me to play football.  And they were flying me up there.

This was going to be a great adventure. Having never flown before, I got on a large passenger jet at Houston and flew to Atlanta. Then I boarded a different plane and flew to Boston.

That's where things got tricky.

At the Boston airport, I was supposed find a small, regional airline called "Bar Harbor Airline." They were going to fly me into Hanover, New Hampshire. I asked around the large Logan Airport until I found the small desk marked "Bar Harbor." The woman there told me to listen to the overhead speaker. They would call out the airline and the flight number when it was time for me to leave.

"Bar Harbor 1592. " I had it memorized! I just had to listen for "Bar Harbor 1592" and I would be set.

I sat there listening to exotic names and different regional airlines, but never heard "Bar Harbor 1592."

There was one airline that had a similar flight number, and the name of the airline made me chuckle. The man kept repeating: "Bah Hahbah 1592, ready to Board." "Final call for Bah HAH-Bah 1592."

I thought, "why would anyone call their airline "BAH HAH-BAH?"

Finally, after waiting an hour, I went to the desk and asked the woman. She explained that Bah HAH-Bah was Bar Harbor... and that I missed the boarding call. My young Texas ears didn't understand Boston loudspeakers.

But the woman sitting there also took pity on me. She said: "you're in luck. The engine on that plane's not working right."

She pointed out the window.

"It's that six-passenger plane sitting out there on the tarmac. There are only five passengers aboard right now. And, there's a blizzard coming. SO, I know that after the pilot fixes the engine, he would love to have you onboard to balance out the weight when he's flying through that blizzard." She smiled broadly and assured me: "I'll get you on that plane!"

"Thanks?" I said....

In our Old Testament reading today, we hear another wonderful story about a young man who keeps hearing a message he doesn't understand.

The context of our story is that Samuel's parents have promised him to the Lord as gratitude for the gift of his birth. He is handed over to the priest Eli to serve at the temple and assist the priests there.

But we also know that Eli's sons have been abusing the privileges of being the priests of Israel--taking sacrificial animals for themselves, and breaking other major rules of the temple. Eli has allowed this.

This is the setting for the story we hear today. Young Samuel is serving his master, Eli, at the temple, in the holy of holies. It is night and they are ready to sleep.

As Samuel lies down in his corner of the holy of holies, a voice calls out his name: "Samuel, Samuel!"

Of course, he looks around, and, seeing nothing, he rushes to the side of his master, Eli. "Here I am, for you called for me."

Eli basically says, "Go back to bed! I didn't call you!"

Samuel goes back to his corner and lies down.

Once again he hears: "Samuel, Samuel!"

And again, he rushes to Eli. And, a second time his master sends him away.

Then a third time he hears his name called and runs to his master. This time Eli realizes that something big is actually happening here. He tells the boy: "lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'"

Samuel goes back to his corner. The Lord calls out to Samuel by name: "Samuel, Samuel." This time, the boy follows his master's advice. Samuel says: "Speak, for your servant is listening."

Samuel is finally able to hear what God has to say to him.

But the truth is, Samuel doesn't do it on his own. It actually takes the help of his mentor Eli to point out that it was God calling him.

Samuel doesn't have a clue it was God who is pursuing him. But God used the wisdom and experience of Eli to help Samuel hear God's voice.  

I think most of us from time to time forget that God is constantly pursuing us.

We get into trouble and think we have to dig out of it on our own.

My teenage self heard "Bah HAH-Bah," and was going to sit forlornly in the Boston airport all night. But someone helped me. I made the flight. I can't say for sure that I heard the Lord speaking... But I'm pretty sure the Lord heard me call him quite a bit during that flight!

This season after the Epiphany is one in which we are all called to see that Christ is the light of the world. As we are illumined by the Word and Sacraments, may we know that God is forever calling each and every one of us by name. Sometimes, depending on our circumstances in life, that's hard to believe or hard to hear. But together, as the Body of Christ, we can know that God is with us and pursuing us and loving us.

And when we hear that call, may we each strive to answer, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening."

Amen.