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The Lord…called as before…Samuel answered, "Speak, your servant is listening."

How do we perceive or discern God's call? Does everyone receive a call or only a select few? Our readings for this week explore the variety of ways God makes "call" known to us—all of us—even the very young.

At the time of SAMUEL, Israel was in danger from within, and from outside forces. The people were drifting away from their covenant promises, mixing the worship of Baal, the Canaanite God, with the worship of Yahweh. From outside, the Philistines who had learned to process iron ore and use it for military weapons, threatened them. The people were afraid and felt greatly distanced from God.

The writer of Samuel and Kings looks back on that period from another time of great change, 500 years later, as remnants of a broken Israel try to pick up the pieces and make a new start. The writer peers through the mists of time asking how the great leader Samuel got his start. Perhaps people in the writer's time are feeling the way the writer describes things in Samuel's childhood—that God seemed distant and visions were uncommon. Perhaps this also applies today?

At a time when adults like Eli were unable to perceive God's presence, it is a child who receives God's word. When Samuel was 3 years old he went to live at the Shiloh temple, in fulfillment of a promise his mother Hannah made to God. Eli, the high priest, had 2 sons who were also servers but their greed had given the priesthood a bad name. Eli had not spoken out about their behavior, and he too had distanced himself from God. In contrast, Samuel is conscientious and honest. We are told that Samuel "continued to grow and gain favor with God and with people" (1 Samuel 2:26). When Samuel is around 12 he experiences God calling him one night, as he sleeps in the sanctuary near the Ark of the Covenant. God calls 3 times before Eli realizes something significant is happening, and draws on the wisdom of his past experience  to help Samuel respond to God. The fourth time God is present as something more than a voice, and Samuel is able to receive God's message. Through Samuel,  Eli can hear it too.  Eventually Samuel is known as God's prophet throughout Israel.

We are all called at some point in our lives.  We are called to bulbul our own unique calling that is tailored specifically for each one of us.  Each is special and each is called.  God's call is not usually something we hear with our ear, but something we feel in our heart.

We all have a job and we all have a talent, we all have unique gifts to share, we are all parts of the body that makes this church.  Paul says this in his letter to the church in Corinth. We have all been called for special reasons in own way as demonstrated in the various calls that we are hearing in today’s readings.  We all have a particular calling in our lives as well as in our Church.   Every one of us has a role to fill, our job to do, our part to play within the Church. It may be preaching or reading the scripture. It may be on a far off mission, or teaching the children. Perhaps our role is counting the Sunday offerings, singing, or planning socials. But all have a part to play and a gift to share.

    I was reading Robert Morgan who was writing about World War II and said how his father had enlisted in the army They didn’t send him to Europe or the South Pacific, but into the mountains of East Tennessee as an agricultural specialist to help the farmers increase their crops for the war effort.

     He also noted that during the same War, England needed to increase its production of coal, so Winston Churchill called together the labor leaders to enlist their support. In his rallying speech to the laborers He told them to picture in their minds a parade that he knew would be held in the center of London after the war. First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers and the pilots. Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner’s caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, “And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?” And the ten thousand would reply, “We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.”

     Not all the jobs in a church are the same, not all are visible. But it’s often the people with their “faces to the coal” who help the church accomplish its mission.

    We are all needed, and the work of each of us is different but still required.  Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the Corinth Church.  He did this by reminding us of the various gifts among us, by comparing the church of Christ to a human body. And all of the members of Christ make up one body; the members are many, but the body is one. We are one body, because we have one principle, even though we come with many different callings.  That we are all quickened and animated by the same Spirit.

     The human body is used as an analogy by Paul and says how one might think the foot and ear are less useful, perhaps, than the hand and eye; but because one is not a hand, and the other an eye, would they say, they do not belong to the body? So every member of the body cannot have the same place, cannot do the same job. But all members are dear and all are needed.  All are called differently as we have seen in today’s readings.

     We all have different callings and gifts and each are perceived differently….

There was a concert violinist who had a brother who was a bricklayer One day a woman was gushing to the bricklayer It must be wonderful to be in a family with such a famous violinist Then not wanting to insult the bricklayer she said Of course we don't all have the same talents and even in a family some just seem to have more talent than others

     The bricklayer said You're telling me That violinist brother of mine doesn't know a thing about laying bricks And if he couldn't make money playing that fiddle of his he couldn't hire a guy with know-how like mine to build a house. If he had to build a house himself he'd be ruined

     If you want to build a house you don't want a violinist And if you're going to lead an orchestra you don't want a bricklayer  No two of us are exactly alike and None of us has every gift and ability.  None were called in the same way  Our responsibility is to exercise the gifts and hear the call that is for us.

 The first six verses of PSALM 139  speak of the mystery of God who knows our every thought, movement, and longing, and who surrounds and protects us.

Verses 13-18 clarify that this knowledge and care have existed since our life took shape in our mother's womb. God is pictured as a knitter and weaver (NRSV 13, 15). It is a "grandmotherly" image, calling up memories of hands that are strong yet gentle, gnarled with age, but skilled and graceful. And this knitting or weaving had a purpose. Each of our lives are part of God's intention for the world. God's purpose is vast and seems almost  unknowable. Yet our reality is that we experience God with us. 

The account of the calling of the first disciples in the gospel of JOHN, is quite different from the other 3 gospels. In John's gospel the first four disciples are  Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathanael. In the verses  preceding today's passage it is John the Baptist who introduces 2 of his disciples (Andrew and an unnamed disciple) to Jesus in Judea. After spending a day talking with Jesus, Andrew runs to share this experience with his brother Peter. The  Interpreter's Concise Commentary suggests the unnamed disciple is Philip, because of the story which follows (which is today's reading). The setting for today's incident  is Galilee. Jesus finds Philip and asks him to "Come with me!" Philip, like Andrew, could not keep the Good News to himself, and ran to tell Nathanael. But Nathanael is a little skeptical. Could the one spoken of in the book of the Law and foretold by the prophets be a carpenter's son from Nazareth? Philip doesn't argue with him. He responds only "Come and see"—the same words Jesus had offered to Andrew and Philip. Nathanael is portrayed as a very real person—devout, cautious, a bit stubborn, but also curious. Jesus comments that he has seen Nathanael sitting under the fig tree—symbolic of a place of peace and meditation. Jesus promises  Nathanael understandings of God even greater than those their ancestor Jacob experienced through his ladder dream, where God's messengers traveled back and forth between earth and heaven.

God's will and purpose are "manifest" (shown) in various ways. Young Samuel heard God's call through his service in the tabernacle, and with the help of his mentor Eli. Eli hears God's call through the child Samuel. The psalm reminds us that God's call is there for us from the very beginnings of our life, although it may take us a while to discern it. The Corinthians received God's call through a letter sent to them by the apostle Paul. The first disciples received God's call through the nudging of a friend and their own willingness to search and reflect. God calls to us. God calls us as individuals and as congregations.

     I enjoy Paul’s analogy of the Body of Christ and that we as Christians are all a part of that body.  This body analogy also applies to the body of the Church to which we are all a part.  This analogy reminds me of a large ant colony

     Out of one side of the colony passes a two-lane highway of ants The outgoing column heads towards a destination unknown while the incoming procession returns to the colony

     As we look more closely we could see that each incoming ant is carrying something Not one returns empty-handed Their treasures seem small, miniscule to our eyes The size of each is tiny almost worthless, one might imagine. But the collection of each tiny burden accumulates into a rich harvest for the colony

     Each ant is working for the whole -- working industriously, tirelessly, to increase the general welfare, to work for the common good, Each brings what they find to their common home An ant colony is a true corporation, if you will, A body that is dependent upon the contributions of each and every one of its members  
 
      When we compare that to our church as Christ's body here on earth, Things are not always as they seem, we realize. It's not great preachers or fine buildings that make us rich. Nor heavy offering plates on Sunday mornings. We as a congregation are richest when each one of us comes with his or her own unique gift, our personal contribution out of love for the others our own personal calling in the Chruch

     Romans 12 describes the bringing of gifts so clearly in verses 5-8 where it says “We have different gifts according to the grace given us If [someone’s] gift is serving, let [them] serve;  if it is teaching let [them] teach; if it is encouraging let [them] encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others let [them] give generously; if it is leadership let [them] govern diligently; if it is showing mercy let [them] do it cheerfully.”

     I have always enjoyed the wisdom of Proverbs, the wisdom that is given there is often quick and apt with it’s use of metaphors.  Let’s keep this in mind when we thing of Proverbs 6:6 which says “Go to the ant you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.”

     I always laugh at this ancient catchphrase and the wonderful mental picture brought to mind by the word sluggard.

     And then my mind's eye returns to the ant colony with its two-lane highway Ants going out recharged and fully fed and ants returning carrying a little something to enrich the body. And not one of them is empty-handed  

  Let us pray

God of all blessings, source of all life, giver of all grace We thank you so much for the many ways that we can serve you, and for the many unique gifts and talents that we possess to serve you with.  We thank you for our community and for the Body of the Church which holds each one of us as its member. We thank you for the unique gife of our own personal call that each of us possesses. We thank you for the gift of life: for the breath that sustains life, for the food of this earth that nurtures life, for the love of family and friends We thank you for the mystery of creation: for the beauty that the eye can see, for the joy that the ear may hear, for the unknown that we cannot behold, filling the universe with wonder, for the expanse of space that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves. We thank you for setting us in communities: for families who nurture our becoming, for friends who love us by choice, for children who lighten our moments with delight, for the unborn, who offer us hope for the future. We thank you for this day: for life and one more day to love, For these, and all blessings, we give you thanks, eternal, loving God  Please help and guide us that we may be willing to get out of our comfort zones…….  Please guide us that we may be willing to invest in others' lives. ….. Please, Help us to see our church as the body of Christ….. In our differences, help us to remember we’re each needed, each called, to make each other complete—in the church, in classes, and in every small group.  
Eternal God…. we pray this day for those who are experiencing pain and torment, may they find the strength to live with grace and humor. ….. We pray for those experiencing doubt and anguish that they may find the strength to live with dignity and holiness……. We pray for those experiencing suffering and fear that they find the strength to move toward healing.

Loving God, We pray for those that we hold in our hearts that we now name aloud:

We ask these things through Jesus Christ as we pray the way he taught us to pray saying  Our Father……

Amen 

We are each uniquely called.  May we receive that calling with the love and wisdom in which it was given.   May the Grace of Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and forever.  Amen 

Children’s Story

King in a palace in a far away kingdom

A terrible thing happened

The king’s palace caught on fire “help help , oh my goodness”

Royal firefighters came “it’s ok king”

So grateful that he made a royal proclamation “everyone was to quit their jobs and become a fire man. 

Not long, king began having problems

Cut finger,  “Used to be a doctor, now a fireman.  Could blow my wistle at it”

Waiting for mail.  Royal postman “want this hose”

Got hungry Royal cook “a hat would you like that”

Realized he made a mistake, decided to make a new proclamation.

“Everyone go back to their own job and from now on only firemen should be firemen.  And they all lived happily ever after

Because the king realized an important lesson. That it takes all kids of people to make up the world and if we all had the same job it would be hard to get along and a little silly too. 

Let us pray.   Thank you God for making each one of us Different and one of a kind.  In Jesus name AMEN

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