Scripture/Sermon of the Day   January 17, 2021

Psalm 139:7-8  New King James Version
 
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence? 
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I go to hell — Look! — You are there!

1 Samuel 3:1-20      Good News Translation

The Lord Appears to Samuel
3 In those days, when the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under the direction of Eli, the word of the Lord was rare; there was no frequent vision.  2 One night Eli, who was now almost blind, was sleeping in his own room; 3 Samuel was sleeping in the sanctuary, where the sacred Covenant Box was. Before dawn, while the lamp was still burning, 4 the Lord called Samuel. He answered, “Yes, sir!” 5 and ran to Eli and said, “You called me, and here I am.”
But Eli answered, “I didn't call you; go back to bed.” So Samuel went back to bed.
6-7 The Lord called Samuel again. The boy did not know that it was the Lord, because the Lord had never spoken to him before. So he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.”
But Eli answered, “My son, I didn't call you; go back to bed.”
8 The Lord called Samuel a third time; he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.”
Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, 9 so he said to him, “Go back to bed; and if he calls you again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.
10 The Lord came and stood there, and called as he had before, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak; your servant is listening.”
11 The Lord said to him, “Some day I am going to do something to the people of Israel that is so terrible that everyone who hears about it will be stunned. 12 On that day I will carry out all my threats against Eli's family, from beginning to end. 13 I have already told him[a] that I am going to punish his family forever because his sons have spoken evil things against me. Eli knew they were doing this, but he did not stop them. 14 So I solemnly declare to the family of Eli that no sacrifice or offering will ever be able to remove the consequences of this terrible sin.”
15 Samuel stayed in bed until morning; then he got up and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli about the vision. 16 Eli called him, “Samuel, my boy!”
“Yes, sir,” answered Samuel.
17 “What did the Lord tell you?” Eli asked. “Don't keep anything from me. God will punish you severely if you don't tell me everything he said.” 18 So Samuel told him everything; he did not keep anything back. Eli said, “He is the Lord; he will do whatever seems best to him.”
19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and made come true everything that Samuel said. 20 So all the people of Israel, from one end of the country to the other, knew that Samuel was indeed a prophet of the Lord.

Reflection/Sermon:

I.      Here we are on the Sunday before the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States.  And from November 3rd until now feels like the longest 75 days I’ve ever lived.  I keep wondering, “Are we ever going to get to January 20th?”  Because, if we ever get there, that time, January 20th at 12:00 noon, we will see a transfer of power from one person to another.  And this is something that has been happening it seems as long as there has been human history.  Leadership changes hands.  In our nation, on Wednesday, this will have happened 46 times.  And this has important consequences because every leader will have some effect on the country they lead.

II.     In our scripture reading for today, we are seeing something like this that happened 3000 years ago in Israel.   The priest Eli was the 14th of the rulers in Israel called Judges and God is choosing Samuel to be the 15th and last of the Judges.

III.    And just like today, transfer of power in the Bible wasn’t always easy.  When Samuel was judge and God had instructed him to anoint a new king, Samuel said: “Saul will kill me if he finds out.”  So even when God picked the leaders — people had to be careful!
        HAVE YOU SEEN RECENT PICTURES OF OUR NATION’S CAPITAL?  It looks like a war zone!  We have more soldiers now in Washington D.C. than we do in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan!!!!  Walls and iron fences surrounding the Capital Building!!!  Thank goodness we have the Bible to read, so we can relax and not be concerned.  Because when we read the Bible, we discover that people did things like this thousands of years ago!  This is not new at all.  Often, as power changes, there’s a crisis.  This isn’t breaking news — it’s ancient!
        So don’t be afraid, — our faith teaches us to trust in the Lord.  Remember, during Jesus’ whole lifetime, he saw the presence of the Roman legions every day.

IV.     Our reading for today is one of those passages
        in the Bible that is so important — it’s like the calls of Moses and Abraham and Isaiah.  This is the call of the boy Samuel to be a prophet.  There is no other place in the Bible where these words are used:  “The word of the Lord was rare — there was no frequent vision.”  Something momentous and world-changing is happening here in this otherwise insignificant spot in Israel, at the temple in Shiloh — through this young boy Samuel, who was about 11 years old.
        And the word of the Lord comes during a time of spiritual drought.  When the word of the Lord is rare and there are no visions — does that mean God has stopped talking to us — no, it means we’ve forgotten how to listen.  Even Samuel needed help — someone has to help us.

V.      Samuel heard a voice calling him but didn’t recognize it.   Eli, the old man, had to tell him. We have to learn how to be in conversation with God.  We’re not born with this knowledge — it’s passed on to us.  It’s why we’re here this morning — to hear God and to learn how to enter into this on-going conversation which is the most important relationship in our lives.   Eli told Samuel how to engage God in that conversation — and those five words, “ Speak, your servant is listening,” changed Samuel’s life, and the course of Israel’s history.  They prepared the way for Jesus and changed the course of our own lives.  Five words, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

VI.     We’ve all been waiting for this coming Wednesday and we pray that the transfer of leadership and power will be peaceful and that the process of healing the divisions of our nation may begin.  It will be an important day for our nation and the world.
        But much more important for our lives than the political transfer of power that will be happening is the transfer of power in our hearts.  And this is something that happens quietly — it is a quiet, peaceful revolution.  Look at the calls of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah — Samuel.  Look at Gabriel visiting Mary.  No one else was around.  And in their own way, each said, Speak, your servant is listening.  Five words that will bring to life the image of God within us.  And that’s how God plans to bring the love of Jesus into this world.  Quietly, peacefully, beginning with each of us.