Pastors are often asked to tell their call stories, but I often struggle to tell mine. The story could begin at my baptism when my parents and godparents pledged to teach me the story of God. It could begin when my college professors encouraged me to apply to seminary, or when the seminary’s field education program placed me in a congregation, or when pastors I respected told me I had gifts to give the church. So many Bible stories describe callings that begin with burning bushes and blinding lights. I have none of those things, but I have Samuel.
God’s call on Samuel’s life began long before the sleepless night in our reading today. It began when his mother prayed for him and pledged him to God. It continued when he dutifully went to work in the Lord’s presence, before he even knew what that meant. It was unfolding through Eli who interpreted the voice of God when Samuel did not know what he was hearing. Samuel’s call did not just come to him in the night but followed him as he grew. The scripture says, “Samuel did not yet know the LORD,” but it is clear that the Lord always knew Samuel.
What hope this story gives to those of us who stammer and stumble when we are asked to describe our call! What reassurance this gives to those of us who did not meet God suddenly through fire and light but instead came to know God gradually in the midst of daily life and work, who did not have a sudden conversion but grew into our knowledge of the Lord! While we have not always known God, God has always known us.
Dear God, thank you for knowing us and calling us. Help us, like Samuel, to grow in our knowledge of you so we too may be known as your trustworthy messengers. Amen.
We read the stories of Samuel and the calling of Jesus’ disciples in John, and it’s easy to feel jealous. God spoke so directly into their lives that they should have had, it seems to us, full and unwavering confidence in their callings. Didn’t they have an unfair spiritual advantage over us? However, the psalmist reminds us that God knows and sees us individually just as well as God knew Samuel and Jesus knew his disciples. God has plans for us, even if they are revealed in less obvious ways. The reading from First Corinthians is quite different in its message. Perhaps we can at least recognize that even if we never hear God’s audible voice, through scripture God still provides guidance for our lives.
Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. Can you think of a time when you failed to hear God calling you? What helps you to listen to God?
Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. How does the knowledge that all humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” inform the way you regard and care for others?
Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Paul writes, “All things are lawful.” What does that mean to you? What are the responsibilities inherent in such freedom?
Read John 1:43-51. Who are the people who invited you to “come and see” Jesus? Is there someone around you to whom you could extend that invitation today?
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