“Yes Lord, Im Listening” January 21, 2024
“Yes Lord, I’m Listening””
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7/ 1 Samuel 3:1-20
Good morning one and all. Today, I’d like to lay out a hypothetical situation for you all if I may, and I promise that it is actually relevant to our worship theme of the day, so here goes. Try to imagine that one day, your phone rings. Now that, in itself, is no big deal. As always, you glance at the caller ID expecting it to be a sales call or yet another survey, but much to your surprise, the screen on the phone reads simply “Almighty God.”
“Well, this is a first,” you might say to yourself and cancel the call thinking that will be the end of it. But within 5 minutes or so, wouldn’t you know it but your phone rings again: same caller ID, same weird area code and number.
At this point, your spouse calls from the other room asking, “who the heck keeps calling you?” You answer, as you cancel the call a second time, that it must be some sort of prank call; someone’s sick idea of a joke. But at the same time, you can’t help but to be intrigued by the whole thing. I mean, what if? Few people seriously study scripture anymore and church attendance is at an all time low; So what if God has decided to change his methods of reaching out? What if a call to ministry and a call to faithfulness and a call to the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ are just that: a phone call? You contemplate this theory for a while but come to the conclusion that it is ridiculous: ‘The most unheard of thing I’ve ever heard of’, as they say.
You might even find yourself chuckling at the absurdity of it all. I mean, really. The idea that almighty God would actually use our phone lines to call upon us is just crazy talk. What kind of account would he have, after all? AT&T? Verizon? T Mobile? And how does God pay his phone bill? It must be astronomical! But enough of that; let’s continue with our hypothetical situation.
All of this high minded pondering and pontification is interrupted, however, by – you guessed it – a phone call that looked all too familiar. At this point as you cancel the call, you make a decision. “I’m going to call my pastor,” you say, and dial the number. You explain your situation with as much detail as possible, fully expecting this clergy person to say that you probably need a therapist, not a pastor . Instead , he reminds you of the story of young Samuel. When you confess that you’re not familiar with the story, he proceeds to paraphrase the story in the hopes it might jog your memory.
“Before Samuel was born,” he said, “his mother, whose name was Hannah, was feeling passed over and neglected . For years she had tried desperately to have a child, but remained disappointed. She was constantly in a state of fervent prayer, but it looked like they were to remain unanswered. Finally, she prayed to God that if he were to give her a son she would give him up to be a servant at the temple once he was weaned. And that, of course, is what happened.
Fast forward a few years now and Samuel is a young man in his teens. His primary duties consisted of assisting an aging priest by the name of Eli.”
“Now, Eli’s vision was just about shot and his hearing was close behind, so it was obvious he needed all the help he could get. The way the story goes, “he said, “is that Samuel was sleeping in the temple when the Lord called out to him: ‘Samuel, Samuel,’ he said.
“I’m coming,” the young man shouted and off he ran to the place where Eli was sleeping. “Why did you call me?” He said. “Is everything alright?”
A little grumpy from being woke up in the middle of the night, Eli growled. “I didn’t call you. Now go back to bed.” Which he did.
This happened a second time with the same result, but on the third time Eli realized that it was the Lord who had been calling upon young Samuel in his bed. “Go and lie down,” he said, “and if he calls again, say, ‘Yes, Lord, I’m listening.’
So Samuel went back to bed and sure enough, it wasn’t long before he heard the Lord call his name. This time, however, rather than run off, He answered just as Eli had suggested: “yes Lord, I’m listening.” What followed next, I’m sure, was a bit of a surprise when the Lord said to Samuel: “I am going to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12 I am going to do all of the dreadful things I warned Eli about. 13 I have continually threatened him and his entire family with punishment because his sons are blaspheming God, and he doesn’t stop them.” Now that is one heck of a burden to place upon a young man’s shoulders, but when Eli asked about it in the morning, Samuel reported what the Lord had said word for word and Eli’s only response was, : “It is the Lord’s will; “let him do what he thinks best.”
Now, at this point in our hypothetical story, you might imagine yourself saying something like, “Yes, that’s a good little story but I’m afraid that I might be missing the point here. That was thousands of years ago; this is different.”
“Fair enough,” your pastor says. “But if you want my advice. I’ll keep it simple. The next time you get a call from this almighty God person, I want you to pick it up, and when you do I want you to answer saying, “ ‘Yes Lord, I’m listening.’ Do you think you can do that?” ///
I’m going to end our little hypothetical at this point and leave it to you to come up with an ending that is surprising or dynamic or, maybe better yet, just from the heart.
The thing is that our God calls out to us all the time. The God of all creation has a wonderful way, you might say, of getting in your face; especially due to the fact that we are surrounded by his creation every day. We don’t have to go looking for weird coincidences or quasi-miracles to be inspired to tell the world of all the wonderful things that our God has done. God’s glory is all around us and he is calling us day and night to have a look.
So yes, God calls to us. There are but a few people I know who claim to have heard the voice of God speak to them personally and I certainly hope that no one here has ever received a phone call from the creator. That would be really awkward and I fear I would owe you an apology, but he calls us nonetheless. The fact that we all left our warm homes to meet here to day in worship tells me that we have indeed been listening.
But if God is not speaking to us as a voice in the clouds or some kind of writing on the wall or even a text message, heaven forbid, then how does God call to us? Well the answer, at least for me, has to be the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist gave us a taste of this raw evangelism, but Jesus was the real deal. It strikes me that if God in Christ and through Christ has come to us in the flesh to walk and talk and to laugh with us and yes, to suffer… it just seems to me that this is a voice that we might want to be listening for.
You know, there is an abundance of prophetic scripture describing the nature and characteristics of Christ the Messiah. We touched upon a few of them during advent and Christmas; most of them from the book of Isaiah: “And his name shall be called wonderful, counselor, almighty God, the everlasting father, the Prince of peace.” This is a bold statement and it simply reeks of majesty and glory and all those qualities that tend to make Christmas services so special. But I chanced upon another passage from Isaiah that describes the Messiah in language that is a bit more down to earth. From the beginning of the 42nd chapter we read: “See my servant,[a] whom I uphold; my Chosen One in whom I delight. I have put my Spirit upon him; he will reveal justice to the nations of the world. 2 He will be gentle—he will not shout nor quarrel in the streets. 3 He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the dimly burning flame. He will encourage the fainthearted, those tempted to despair. He will see full justice given to all who have been wronged. 4 He won’t be satisfied until truth and righteousness prevail throughout the earth, nor until even distant lands beyond the seas have put their trust in him.”
Upon reading through this a few times, I couldn’t help but to fall in love with this passage. I’ll admit there are some extravagant promises in this piece; Words like, “. He will encourage the fainthearted, those tempted to despair,” and “ He will see full given to all who have been wronged.” But the one statement that got stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave were the words of Isaiah who tells us: “He won’t be satisfied until truth and righteousness prevail throughout the earth, nor until even distant lands beyond the seas have put their trust in him.” Wow, that’s quite a statement, and to be honest it is somewhat unbelievable. It is somewhat unbelievable until you consider one thing, and that is that we of the church are indeed the body of Christ. It is through the church that the ministry and the influence and yes, the voice of Christ goes on. We of the church are charged to speak that voice and to live by that voice, and what’s more, we are charged to never be satisfied until truth and righteousness prevail throughout the earth,
impossible? God doesn’t think so. Our God doesn’t think so because amidst all the war and fussing and just plain meanness in the world, there are voices. There are voices that speak of peace. There are voices that speak of compassion. There are voices that speak of truth and righteousness and never falter or change to suit the fashion of the day.
Jesus calls to us- as individuals, as a church body, and even the worldwide church- he calls to us. It’s not always so obvious as what young Samuel experienced, but I have to wonder- I have to believe that the world could be a far better place if we all came to the altar of Christ with nothing more than the simple words, “ Yes Lord, I’m listening.”
Amen and Shalom