This coming Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary texts are filled with God’s call: to young Samuel in the middle of the night (1 Samuel 3:1-20), to Philip and Nathanael in Galilee (John 1:43-51), and to each of us with every word on our tongues & every action of our bodies (Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 and 1 Corinthians 6:12-20). God’s call is a worthy and ever-pressing/ever-present theme in discipleship and in preaching….
….but I find myself captivated more by the context of God’s call, as it is presented in the story of Samuel:
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. (1 Samuel 3:1)
The word of the LORD was rare. The whisper of God’s Spirit was infrequent. The wonder of God’s vision was an anomaly. The inspiration of the Most Holy seldom intervened. God’s insight hardly haunted leaders’ dreams or teased prophets’ tongues. The whole community lived with and within the silence of God.
And yet ministry continued. Rites and rituals continued. Faithfulness continued (just as wickedness continued). The lamp of God remained lit.
God’s word was rare but the work was ongoing.
How do we help congregations & the Church keep faith through seasons when God’s word is silent? How do we ourselves nurture faith when God’s visions vanish like a dream that fades upon waking? How do we preach & pray & worship & love & do justice even as we wait for God …. and how do we wait with joy rather than fear? In this season of epiphanies and revelations, how do we make sense of God’s secrets with wonder rather than worry?
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:17)
As you prepare this coming Sunday’s sermon, share your thoughts & questions & encouragements in the comments. Are you celebrating God’s clarity or wondering over God’s mystery? Is your congregation in a season of fresh perspective on its call, or in a time of harvesting the richness of faith’s patience, or entering a new process of waiting on God’s word?
Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, blogger, and soccer mom. Her upcoming book, Denial Is My Spiritual Practice (and Other Failures of Faith) with co-author Martha Spong, wrestles for God’s answers to the hard questions of life.
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