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I'm Listening, Lord


1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

Bigfork Community United Methodist Church

JANUARY 14, 2018 – Second Sunday after Epiphany

We live our lives as a blink in the great span of time.Remnants of glaciers that were once as big as the basin that runs from Whitefish to Hamilton recede are disappearing…glaciers that were once as deep as the mountains are tall…glaciers that were so massive that they created the mountains on the other side of the lake with the gravel that they pushed out of their way as gravity pulled them south.

the earth as we know it here is but a snapshot of one phase of life on earth, one fleeting moment of the life of earth itself. It was different before we got here. It has changed since we arrived. It will be far different than it is one day after we are gone.

We have but a brief time to work and pray and enjoy our days on earth. We are like the shadows of clouds passing over the earth, here to celebrate the day and then on to another calling.What we do with that time…how we accept our days and what make of them…is our only prayer…our thanks to God.

How is it, then, that we can spend them as wisely, as fully and as wonderfully as we can?

We are called into relationship with God, our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sustainer. Our highest thoughts…our most outward-looking vision…and our inmost being…our most subconscious selves…are drawn to a relationship with the one who has all power and all knowledge and who is all love.

The world is a disruptive place, with interruptions on interruptions, and never more so than today. The world changes and compels us to adapt. Fear of the Lord…the Lord’s truth…is the beginning of wisdom. Still…thus…we are called.

Through all the big changes… bigger than we can countenance… and the changes so small and so gradual that we can only glimpse them by looking into a lens or back through the years…we are called to be one with God…to be holy as God is holy…to purify ourselves as Christ is pure…

We have an experiential bucket list …what can we do to experience the earth as creatures…and a transcendental bucket list…what we can do to find meaning in our lives.

Our psalm this morning reminds us that God not only created what is all around us, but all that is inside us as well. The Good Book says we are created in our Creator’s image. So we yearn to hear that still small voice and to walk in the paths of righteousness …a right relationship with our God.

We are invited to enjoy the great span of time before and behind us by being aware of the power ofthis moment…here and now…the most precious present there is.

Sometimes an innocent child becomes the oracle of the Lord. God speaks to sinners through the lips of one who is blameless, a child like Samuel, dedicated to God by a mother like Hannah, who trusted God and gave back to God the answer to her prayers.

She had prayed for a son when all seemed hopeless and she gave him as a servant to the priest and the to temple at Shiloh out of her gratitude.

Young Samuel is serving Eli as a young boy one night when he hears his name whispered in the darkness. He runs to Eli. Eli tells him to go back to bed. Again he hears his name and runs to Eli. Eli sends him back again.

But the third time, the old man awakens to what is happening. Someone is calling to Samuel and no one but he and the boy are here. In this sacred place…this holy moment…he realizes it is the Lord’s voice the boy is hearing. It is a burning bush in his house.

Being able to hear the voice is the great part of accepting the call. It is not so much in our speaking that we are saved. It is not in our works that we find our redemption.

It is by the grace of God that we are called and sent and redeemed. We are all called in some great way to serve. But it is only with a humble heart, open to God’s ways, that we are able to hear that call…and see that way.

Samuel was humble, but so was Eli. He tells Samuel to go back and ask the voice…the Lord…what it is that Samuel is called to say for the Lord.

Beyond our reading here, we are told it is a condemnation of the sons of Eli, something he suspected, a word he has dreaded…that he knows and fears…but he is willing to hear.

We want to believe what we want to believe. But this Eli is a rare man, one who can hear what he doesn’t want to hear…who is willing to accept and believe what he hasn’t wanted to look at.

Eli is a kind man and beloved by his people, but his sons have taken advantage of their father’s position to serve corruptly. Samuel serves innocently, not looking for his own advantage, and when he hears the voice calling him the fourth time, he says, “I’m listening. What do you want me to do?”

This is the prayer we were given last summer… “Lord, what is it that you want to do through me this day.” We have seen good come from that simple, powerful prayer…the prayer of Samuel shares with us today.

Beyond our reading this morning, the Lord tells Samuel that Eli’s sons have offended the Amighty, and both they and Eli will be held to account for their sins.

Eli then demands that Samuel tell him exactly what the Lord told him. Samuel gives him the word, and Eli responds magnificently to the bad news. “It is the Lord,” he says, “let him do what seems good to him.”

No quibbling. No excuses. Acceptance of the truth and of his responsibility for not serving it, taking the consequences of his sons’ sins upon himself. Eli is a rare man.

We have been called to serve God in this community. We are the body of Christ in the world and we have been called into the Word and into the world.

“Lord, what is it that you want to do through me this day?”

I have shared with you the story of my call to local church ministry, filled with chance opportunities, coincidences and surprises. That call continues to ask me to grow in new ways, to see in new ways, and to hear in new ways. It calls me to open my ears…and my heart anew.

As United Methodists, we believe that everyone is called. Don and Donna and Rita heard a call to become official members of our faith community, to support our ministries with their prayers, their presence, their gifts and their service.

You all reaffirmed your vows as members, too. But the first vow we make as we are received into membership in the United Methodist Church is the vow to be loyal to Christ. We are called to ask, “Lord, what is it that you want to do through me this day?”

There is a change that takes place when we ask this openly. We have a new calling, a higher calling. It doesn’t replace our vows to our family, but it makes it more real… on the outside and the inside.

We do not fend for ourselves alone. We carry on for Christ…and for all those we love…as well. We serve in the name of the one who came to find the lost and the last and the least…and to redeem them.

Paul writes to us today that our bodies become part of the body of Christ at that moment. If we become lost to that body, it feels pain, it grieves, it longs to be one with us again.

And so long as we remain part of that body, we are nourished by the other members of the body and the body nourishes us. We receive support and encouragement from every part of that body. As God first breathed life into Adam, the body breathes new life into the life we live here and everywhere.

You have not been called by Christ in the first instance, as Philip was called this morning. But you were called by one who believes in him, who has found new and more abundant life in him, who has been nourished by him…as Nathanael was called by Philip.

I have found him. Come and see. That is all we can tell someone who does not know our Lord and Savior… Come and see.

Then, when they see the joy and the meaning and the hope that has been added to the lives of those who follow him…as Nathanael saw Philip’s joy…they want that, too. And we want that for them. As a ‘community church’ in Bigfork, Montana, we invite others to share our joy. Once they see what we have seen, they are in Jesus hands.

The best testimony we can give to our faith is to live joyfully, obedient to the upward call, finding solace in Christ in trying times, and hope through him as good things unfold around us.

We are his and our relationship with him has made our joy complete. Come and see what happens when you, too, begin to say, “I’m listening, Lord.”

This church has been called into ministry in a new and powerful way through theexercise in faith we called, “Into the Word and into the world.” We have sought to unshackle our faith community from the burden of a mortgage.

We do this not so we can give less, but so that every minute and every dollar we give can go into ministry in our community and beyond. A Bible study and a widow’s support group begun already since we asked, “Lord, what is it that you want to do through me today?”

And the ideas keep coming. We have a little more than halved our mortgage so far, but I hear an impatience to get on with other ministries already. We don’t want to wait.

So last Wednesday as your Worship Committee was meeting we started talking about Thursdays. It is the day when Threads is open and high school students are invited to the Community Center to find free clothes that have been donated.

So why don’t we tell Threads that dinner is on, here, that same afternoon. Anyone who goes to Threads is invited to come here, to do homework, to enjoy our crazy hot Wi-Fi, and to have a meal.

The Rotary officers were meeting that same day and I went out and asked them what they thought about it. The officers were excited about the idea. I have been asked to talk to the whole membership this Wednesday about them taking one Thursday a month. When can we start?

We need to add one more line to our simple, powerful prayer. They are the words that can make our dreams and visions real.

We say, “Lord, what is it that you want to do through me this day?” To that we can add the words that called Samuel to be a great prophet in Israel at a time when the Lord hardly ever spoke directly to the people.

We can add: “I’m listening, Lord.”

As we step into the mystery of ministry, to be sure, we will stumble. We will wander. We will find barriers. But we continue to ask…and listen.

The Lord calls to us everyday and that call resonates in a place deep inside us. When ask, we hear, and when we hear, it suddenly appears around us.

Many starts may not pan out, but sooner or later, if we are listening for the Lord’s voice and not just to reinforce our own preconceived notions, we will find a calling in all the words the Lord whispers to all the ears that listen after we pray to know what God’s will is for us.

We are listening, Lord. What is it that you want us to do? We are listening, Lord? You are the Lord. May you do with us what it is that pleases you.What pleases you? We are listening, Lord. Amen.