Sermon Ideas For 1 Samuel 3:1-10 Part 3
A child awakes in the night and hears a voice. The voice is audible to him, but to no one else. He makes his way to find the source of the voice—to answer the call in the night. Samuel himself knows that the voice is calling him by name, but does not recognize the voice for Who the voice is. To be able to answer the call, Eli must point Samuel to the source of the voice so that the call can be answered. Very often, God's call to us is mistaken for the voice of the world. Consequently, the message gets jumbled. When we are pointed to the true "voice," then the message can be heard loud and clear.
The Taize Picture Bible has a painting of the young boy Samuel looking for the voice that is calling him in the night. In the picture, the smallness of Samuel is contrasted to the magnitude of the pillars in the temple. The candle that Samuel holds to light his way is dwarfed by the light of God streaming into the temple. His searching face lends an air of attentiveness to his step. Samuel is engaged in active listening. His "listening" is directed to the light.
Scripture has many stories about God speaking to humans. One of the hardest dilemmas humans seem to face in the stories is trying to decipher which voice is God's voice. Elijah was in such a predicament. In a culture where "the gods" were heard through unbelievable feats of "magic," the voice of God came in an unusual way. As the wind tore the rocks apart, and the earth shook and fire blazed, God was silent. The word of God came to Elijah in the still small voice. This is a voice we must, like Samuel, be willing to seek out and to listen to hear—even in the dark of the night. But how does the voice of God come to us? How do we figure out where the voice comes from? How do we learn to say, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." and then in the quietness hear the still small voice?
It seems that the first step in hearing God speak is taking the time to listen. I do not think that it is a coincidence that Samuel heard the voice of God when all was still in the night. The crowded air waves that surround us in our daily living make it difficult to decipher any voice, much less the still small voice of God. Soren Kierkegaard was quoted by Joachim Berendt in The Third Ear as saying, "As my prayer became more attentive and inward I had less and less to say. I finally became completely silent. I started to listen—which is even further removed from speaking. I first thought that praying en tailed speaking. I then learned that praying is hearing, not merely being silent. This is how it is, to pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking. Prayer involves becoming silent, and being silent, and waiting until God is heard."
Samuel was called that night to be a prophet to the people—the voice of God in the world. He came to know the voice of God because Eli helped him recognize the voice as that of God. In the movie Romero the character of Romero comes to know the voice of God. It seems that Romero had taken up residence, just as Samuel had, in the modern day temple. He was in service to God already, and yet the voice of God did not seem crystal clear to him. When he began to hear the voice of God speaking to him (perhaps not as audibly as Samuel heard), he, too, doubted where the voice was coming from and needed to be pointed in the right direction. In this case, his fellow priests helped him listen for the voice of God through the poor and their interpretation of scripture. He is enabled to listen, and becomes a modern day prophet—the voice of God in the world. In a stunning scene, Romero prays a prayer of total surrender and of commitment to listening to God speak. When the noise of the violence of his world is silenced momentarily, he finds himself alone on a dusty road. He quietly prays, "I can't. You must. Show me the way." Romero had finished listening to the other voices of the world and had opened himself up fully to hearing God's call in the darkness of his life and community.
The story of Samuel makes it clear that we must not only hear God, and seek God, but also respond to God. We must seek out that voice in our own lives and then be able to be shaped and molded by the words. There is an openness to hearing in the story that we don't often find. The hymn by Daniel L. Schutte "Here I Am, Lord" is based upon Isaiah 6, but also speaks to our passage today.1
As the passage lends us an ear to listen to God in the night of our lives; as we listen, and offer ourselves into service, then God's word speaks through us to the world.
1. "Here I Am, Lord" by Daniel Schutte. c: North American Luturgy Resources 1981 (words) and 1983 (music).