Speak, Lord; I’m Listening

January 15, 2006

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

1 Samuel 3:1-10

The Lord Calls Samuel

 1The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

 2One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4Then the Lord called Samuel.
      Samuel answered, "Here I am." 5And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
      But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down.

 6Again the Lord called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
      "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."

 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

 8The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
      Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.' "So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

 10The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
      Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

 

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our topic today is “Speak, Lord; I’m Listening.” I’d like us to explore together our Old Testament reading from the Book of Samuel. I love this passage.

 

Let’s take a look at what happened. Samuel is a little boy who has been dedicated to the Lord. He is an apprentice to the old high priest in the temple. He stays with the high priest, Eli. The scripture tells us that Eli’s eyesight was fading. We get the impression that the boy, Samuel, was bright and energetic.

 

Maybe it symbolizes different sides of your personality and mine. Maybe there’s a side of us that’s been around the block a few times. Maybe there’s a side of us that’s a little jaded or calloused. Maybe there’s a side of us whose spiritual vision is a little dimmer than it used to be.

 

But here’s the good news – there’s also a side of us that’s an inner child. There’s also a side of us that has energy and vigor and vitality and question marks and wonder and amazement at life. So Eli and Samuel symbolize different parts of us, don’t they?

 

Well, the story tells us that Samuel went to sleep near the altar in the sanctuary, and Eli was in his chamber, far off. In the night, maybe two in the morning, Samuel hears a call. “Samuel. Samuel.” And he’s up! He looks around, and he runs over to see Eli. He goes to Eli and says, “Yes?” Eli wakes up a little and says, “What is it, boy?”

 

“I heard you calling. Here I am.”

 

Eli shakes his head. Let’s read the Bible’s words. In verse 5, “I did not call; lie down again.” Lie down again – that’s a fancy Bible way to say “Go back to sleep, please.”

 

So Samuel goes back to sleep. The night is still. Then Samuel hears, “Samuel. Samuel.”

 

He goes back to Eli and says, “Here am I.”

 

And Eli says, “Lie down again. I didn’t call you.” So Samuel goes back to sleep.

 

You know what happened. It all happened a third time. Samuel heard the voice calling in the night. “Samuel. Samuel.” And he’s up and goes to Eli. And Eli, even though he’s a little jaded and a little calloused and old, he has experience. That part of us has experience, and that is good. And Eli says to Samuel, “I think it’s the Lord. Samuel, I know it wasn’t me, but it may have been the Lord. There hasn’t been a message from the Lord around here in a long time, and I don’t know why. I don’t know why the Lord hasn’t been talking to us that much. Maybe we haven’t been listening hard enough. I’ll tell you what to do. Go back to sleep. But this time, if you hear the voice again, say, ‘Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.’”

 

So Samuel agreed. He went back to his bed and fell asleep. And calling in the night he heard, “Samuel. Samuel.” This time, he woke up, sat up in bed, and said, “Speak. Your servant is listening.”

 

That’s where I’d like to focus on the story today. Friends, I have just one hope for all of us this week, and that is to be open to the supernatural, to be open to the call of God, because God is still calling you. That’s it! That’s my simple request for us this week, that all of us are open to the call of the supernatural, to the voice of God calling you.

 

We are the people of the supernatural, aren’t we? Of course we are. That’s why you’re here. Why else would you get out of a nice, warm bed and travel on an icy road on a snowy morning? You are people of God. You are people of the supernatural. Aside from all the other mundane things you have to do, you have God in your heart. You’re searching for God; you’re wondering about God. Wondering is part of the supernatural experience.

 

Why am I saying this? I’m saying this because sometimes we get a little distracted. Even the most spiritual of us can get a little off the track, can’t we? We can get so distracted by the mundane, business things of life that we forget about the supernatural. We forget that there is more to life than meets the eye. We can look at a tree and just see a tree rather than the spectacular creation of an unspeakably creative God.

 

I just want us to remember to listen for the supernatural this week, to listen for the call of God, because there’s more to life than meets the eye. Even those of you who are so concerned in your love for God and your love for the church about the business of the church and about all the things that need to be done – that’s great, and it’s part of our way of worshipping, part of our stewardship. But let’s always remember that first and foremost we are people of the supernatural. We are people who have an insight, a vision, a glimpse that there is more to life than meets the eye. Let’s remember it this week, because God is still calling you.

 

Let me ask you a question. We’re all familiar with caller ID, aren’t we? It’s a great thing. Didn’t have it in my village when I was growing up as a boy. It’s good to have. But what if the phone rang and we looked at the caller ID and there were only three letters, G-O-D? What would you do? Would you answer it? What would you say? Would you let it go to voice mail? That might be a way to get around it. “Let’s just see what message He leaves.”

 

What’s He going to say? How is He going to say it? Is He mad? Am I in trouble? Was it that thing I did? Was it that thing I didn’t do? Is it check-out time? What could it be?

 

What would you do? I would suggest, friends, that God doesn’t usually use the regular phone, but He’s still calling you. That’s why we’re here, to be reminded of that.

 

So, what does God say when He calls? You might think that you don’t usually get a call from God; you usually talk to Him. An answer? A reply? That could be risky. But thank God we have the Bible to tell us some things.

 

What does God have to say to you? I don’t know. That’s between you and the Lord. But I think I can tell you some things. I think the first thing God says is your name. What did God say to Samuel? “Samuel. Samuel.” How does God say your name? How do you hear it? What form does He use when He says your name? Someone told me this week that he loves his nickname, Fred. But when his parents were angry, they’d call him Frederick. And if his parents were really angry, they called him Frederick George. So when he heard that, he knew something was up.

 

How does God call your name? God calls your name like a loving parent. How do I know? Because when Samuel was awakened by the voice of God, he thought it was Eli. It wasn’t a thundering, nightmarish situation. Samuel thought, “It’s my caretaker!” Three times he went to Eli, because he was so sure it was his loving caretaker, Eli. That’s the way that God calls your name. And how beautiful that God calls your name when He wants to communicate with you.

 

A great writer, Dale Carnegie, wrote what I believe is the second most important book in the world, How to Win Friends and Influence People. In that book he said that the sweetest and most important sound in all the world to a person is his or her own name. Here’s the good news from the Bible: when God talks to you, He calls you by name! He doesn’t say “person” or “you over there.” It’s Christine, Regina, George, Thomas, Frederick, Anthony. He calls you by name because He knows you through and through, one and all, as an individual. He calls you lovingly, as a parent would, because He’s the greatest parent in all the universe.

 

What does He say? He says something good, because He cares about you. I believe I heard the voice of God in a very special way on October 21st, when I had a little bit of a cardiac situation. I believe I heard the voice of God in the ambulance as we were racing to Somerset Hospital and I was wondering what all the fuss was about. I believe it was the voice of God because God had something important to tell me. He said, “I’ve got more plans for you! You’ve got to go through this. You’ve got to make some changes in your life.” I believe I heard the voice of God in the voices of the doctors and the kindest ambulance attendants you could ever meet. I believe I heard the voice of God in the operating room in the reassuring voice of the surgeon. (I was up for the operation, by the way. They said I could even watch it on TV. I said no!) We were conversing, and the surgeon said to me, “How are you doing?”

 

I said, “Good. How are you guys doing?”

 

They said, “We’re doing fine. You’re going to feel some pain in a minute. It’s going to feel like you’re having your heart attack all over again. But don’t worry, it’s just us.”

 

I said, “Okay.” And I appreciated those reassuring words, because in a minute, Bang! I said, “I felt that. Is that you guys?”

 

They said, “Don’t worry about a thing. It’s just us.”

 

I said, “Thank you very much, Doctor.” They were working to save my life. I heard the voice of God through that whole experience. I’m grateful for every moment that He’s given me thereafter.

 

Where will you hear the voice of God? The voice of God is tender and loving and caring. I heard the voice of God in this congregation as you sent me cards and blessings and wishes of love and wonderful meals. I heard the voice of God in my coach, Bill Jones, when he gave me such good advice going forward from the time of that operation.

 

God is giving you new opportunities. God has a plan for your life. That’s what He wants to say. So, maybe it is a good idea to answer the call.

 

What else could God say? Let me just leave you with this: You remember that Stevie Wonder song that came out a few years ago? “I just called to say I love you. I just called to say how much I care. I just called to say I love you, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.” That’s why He’s calling, so answer the phone. It will be a good conversation. Friend, I believe that in the coming week you will hear the voice of God as you pray. Let Him call your name. Let Him lift you up. Let Him tell you how important you are. Let Him tell you that He has a plan for you. Let Him tell you that He loves you. I think it will be the most important call you receive all week.

 

Will you answer? I bet you will. God is calling you today, and the news is good, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.

 

© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski