The first reading is 1 Samuel 3:1-20.
I’m a big fan of the kid with her hand raised who really, really, really wants to answer the question. Her hand is raised high, shaking, and quivering, with the desk the only thing keeping her from launching into the stratosphere. There’s oohs and ahhs, the chant of “me me me me” leaving their lips, and the utter collapse into a pool of sadness and despair when someone else is called to the answer the question. I love seeing what happens when the answers wants to burst out of them.
Samuel, to me, feels like the overeager student. When he hears a voice, he runs to a voice he knowns and who has called his name before – Eli. He doesn’t recognize the voice, only its content. His brain fills in the rest, assuming that the one who called him in the past is speaking to him now. Samuel responds but doesn’t listen. He hears but he doesn’t understand. God is calling but he doesn’t quite get it.
For Samuel to hear God calling his name, he needs help. He needs the years of being in the Temple’s faith community to point to the One who calls. He needs to hear the story of God over and over again so that he understands his role as being God’s servant. And he needs leaders, mentors, teachers, and friends like Eli to help him see God’s work in the world. Samuel doesn’t hear God’s voice in a vacuum. He is surrounded by a life of faith and worship that brings him to this personal encounter with God. Even in an environment that Scripture tells us is not perfect, Samuel is molded so that he is ready to hear God speaking. And he’s able to respond and to ask God to keep speaking.
God not only reaches out to call us by name. God also gives us a community to live and be formed in. Both are essential to our faith journey. Without God’s encounter, we’re left without a connection to our creator and source of life. Without community, we’re left without the people God uses to form and shape us. And once we are called, we are invited to be a community for someone else.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, 1/18/2015.