Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 07, 2024

Posted on July 8, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

July 07, 2024

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Mark 1:16-20

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the service, for the next few weeks, the primary reading – the preaching text – will be from 1 Samuel. We start today with God’s call to Samuel to be the first prophet to ancient Israel.

And as we move forward from here, we’ll touch on the people’s desire to have a human king as their leader – with both God and Samuel saying, “You really don’t want that.” And the beginning of the fallout from the people pushing to have a human king and getting their way.

There may be parallels between these readings and what’s going on in our current political news. That was not planned. We set this schedule of readings in May, before the most recent Supreme Court decision. But my hope is that, wherever you are on the political spectrum, these readings will give all of us some good food for thought.

Both of our readings this morning are call stories. And we typically hear readings like this early in the calendar year as we follow the chronology of Jesus’ life and ministry.

Samuel was ancient Israel’s last judge and first prophet. The people hadn’t been in the Promised Land for very long and things were far from perfect. Ancient Israel still wasn’t an organized nation; the 12 tribes weren’t getting along – they were more like individual city-states than they were a unified people. So, there was a risk of the people not coming together at all.

A series of judges had been leading the people during this time, but things weren’t getting better. People were doing what they felt was right, without considering the consequences or impact it might have on others. And in the book of Judges, we’re told that the reason things are so out of control is because there’s no human king.

But in reality, the people had wandered away from God, which is why “the word of the Lord was rare in those days [and] visions were not widespread.”

That’s the world Samuel was born into. His mother, Hannah, had been barren and had begged God for a son. She promised that if God gave her a son, she would dedicate him to God. And she did, which is how he came to serve in the temple at such a young age.

We know that when God calls people in the Bible, their lives don’t miraculously become sunshine and roses all the time. It’s usually the opposite – their lives become more difficult. And that was the case with Samuel.

After he answered God, God gave Samuel his first prophecy and it was brutal. The sons of Eli, the priest Samuel worked with, had been eating the parts of the sacrificial animals that were supposed to be given to God. Their literal appetites led them to abuse their power, insult God, and put their own desires above the needs of the people they serve. And Eli didn’t stop them from doing it.

And so, as a young boy, Samuel had to tell his mentor what God was going to do to his household. And Eli knew that that message came from God because God had already warned him. And within a few years, the Philistines rose up against Israel, stole the Ark of the Covenant, and killed Eli’s sons.

As both a prophet and a judge, Samuel had his work cut out for him. And the concern closest to his heart was the tendency of the powerful to take advantage of the vulnerable. So, in his work, Samuel exposed the threat of monarchs who were concerned with their own security and wealth, instead of with the wellbeing of their people.

And he tried to get the people to understand that their ideal ruler was someone who would only seek what was best for them, and someone who would reflect the concerns of God for the poor and the powerless. In short, Samuel tried to get the people to understand that God was their ideal ruler. But they weren’t having it.

God called Samuel to change a human system that was broken – and there was a sense of urgency because so much was at stake. The people were in the Promised Land and life should have been perfect for them, but it wasn’t.

Samuel’s call was hard work, and a difficult path for him to follow. The results of what he worked toward didn’t come about in his lifetime. But he faithfully continued to listen to God, to answer God’s call, and to speak the truth about what was going on even when it was hard to do.

When we read call stories in the Bible, we tend to think that God and Jesus called great people because of how they’re portrayed in these writings. We know how their stories unfolded and the things they did. And they were great people.

But they were ordinary, too. Samuel was just a kid. Most of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. What made them great is that they listened to God’s voice, answered God’s call, and spoke the truth even when it was hard. Those are the same things Jesus calls us to do.

They’re part of our call to discipleship, to following Jesus. And the good news is that we aren’t called to this life only once. Jesus calls us to it daily. As Christians, every day we recommit to this life. And sometimes we recommit to it many times in the same day.

Because there are a lot of voices shouting to be heard – telling us who they think we should listen to and to tell their version of the truth. And they’re distracting. It’s hard to listen to God above that noise, let alone to answer God’s call and speak God’s truth.

But who we choose to listen to matters. And if we aren’t listening to God, to Jesus, then we aren’t speaking the truth of God’s love – the truth of how much God cares for people who are vulnerable and that we are to do the same.

The human system hasn’t changed that much since the time of Samuel. It’s still broken. Not just in terms of politics, but in terms of how we care for the most vulnerable among us.

Racism is still quite real in our country. As are transphobia and other types of discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. There are still stereotypes and prejudices and false accusations being made about immigrants. People with mental health diagnoses often can’t get the help they need. Victims of sexual assault or domestic violence are often blamed for what happens to them.

These groups of people are among the most vulnerable not just in our country, but in our world. They are among us here. Their lives are at stake.

The life of discipleship that Jesus calls us to, calls us to speak the truth about their vulnerability. And to speak the truth about how much God cares for them, and what that means for how we ought to live as a society. And to keep speaking, and holding our leaders accountable, until the changes that are needed happen.

This life that God calls us to, that Jesus calls us to, is a life of faithful discipleship. Not perfect discipleship, but faithful – it means we keep showing up and doing our best. It’s a call to faithfully participate in our world.

It’s a call to a life that requires listening to God, to the truth of who God is. We’re called to a life that helps us recognize who is vulnerable among us and how much God cares for them.

It’s a life of community that asks us to work on their behalf and alongside them, to speak the truth for as long as it takes. And it’s work that’s absolutely worth doing. Thanks be to God! Amen.