Summary: 2nd Sunday After Epiphany, Series B

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2nd Sunday after Epiphany, January 15, 2006

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, in each generation you call forth those to follow you. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your call, and teach us to listen for your leading. Make us expectant, eager, and grateful to respond to your call, that you might continue to form your church, call forth those to do your work in the world, to tell the good news of your love and redeeming grace to those around us. This we ask in your Holy name. Amen.

What a marvelous invention is “Caller ID.” Before we had that service installed on our phone, I would be in the midst of meditating and studying for my sermon, and the phone would ring. I’d answer, and find myself on the line with some tele-marketer, who would just keep babbling on about how I needed some product. By the time I was able to convince them that I REALLY wasn’t interested in their product, I had totally lost my train of thought on my sermon, and had to start all over.

Now, when the phone rings in the midst of my study, I glance at the phone, and if it says “unknown caller,” I let the answering machine pick up the call. I’ve been able to shut out those unwanted, unknown voices from interrupting my study. But then, the system is not foolproof. I have also missed a couple of calls from my daughter in Nairobi, because the system doesn’t work on overseas calls. Some unknown calls are worth the interruption.

But then, the phone is not the only interruption we encounter. Have you ever had a tiring day, and decide to go to bed early, only to lay in bed unable to sleep because of all the thoughts that keep running through your mind? It’s like hearing voices in the night – unwanted voices that seem to call out to you and keep you from falling asleep. Sometimes they are voices reminding you of what you need to do the next day. Or they may be the voice of your conscience, calling you to rethink some decision you have made.

On some occasions, I’ve discovered that the only way that I can get to sleep is to get up out of bed and make notes of all these intruding thoughts. It’s like making a to-do list for the next day. Then I go back to bed, and pray that God would grant me the rest I need to do what is right in the morning.

The boy Samuel, in our Old Testament lesson for this morning, heard a voice that interrupted his sleep. The sun had set, and his room was dark. The first stages of drowsiness crept steadily through his body. But as his consciousness began to slip away into sleep, he suddenly heard his name spoken.

“It must be Eli calling me,” he thought to himself, as he jumped to his feet to respond to the old Priest. “Did you call me?” he asked Eli. “No my son. Go back to sleep,” Eli responded. Returning to his mat, Samuel again sought the peace of sleep. But again he heard a voice calling his name, and again he went to Eli’s side, only to be told that he wasn’t being paged and to go back to sleep.

This time Samuel found it hard to think of sleep, to relax, listening as he was for that voice to come again. And it did. “Surely this time you called me,” Samuel said to Eli. But once again, Eli said, “No, my son, I did not.”

Samuel heard the voice, not once, but three times. Each time he thought it was Eli calling him. But then the wise old Eli sensed that Samuel was hearing the call of another voice in the night, and said to him, “Go, lie down; and if you hear the voice again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” And when the voice came again, Samuel was able to respond to the call of God, which came to him in the darkness of the night.

Like Samuel, we hear voices that call out to us in the darkness of the night, voices that interrupt our sleep, or our plans for the day. And like Samuel, we often have a difficult time distinguishing the source of the voices we hear. Quite often, the voices we hear are the voices of our world, calling for us to go in this direction or another.

But I believe the voice of God also calls to us. Amid the assortment of other voices that we hear, is the voice of our Lord, who calls us to faith and service. We may mistake that divine voice for just another human sound. We may confuse it with the noises of our world or the rumblings of our own emotions. Unfortunately, there is no “caller ID” that identifies the voice of God when he speaks. But it is there, nonetheless – a patient voice that keeps speaking our names, waiting for us to respond.

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