Words of Faith
Rev. Rita S. Platt
January 18, 2015
“Can You Hear Me Now?”
1 Samuel 3:1-10
When we see the title of today’s message most of us think of a Verizon wireless slogan. Your mind may create a vivid image of the man with the hardhat. He’s in multiple scenes, in a variety of terrains, always asking the same question, “Can you hear me now?” It’s hard to believe that the slogan started in 2002. Cell phones were becoming a part of most of our lives and they weren’t always the most efficient ways to communicate.
It was the beginning of the 2002 appointment season and I knew I would be moving. The move would occur quickly. I had been in Johnstown for 9 years when one of the churches in the 6 member cooperative had closed. The District was putting in funds until an appointment became available; it was clear that the situation could not occur indefinitely.
It was a winter day when the cabinet set my appointment. Jaime Potter-Miller called me as she drove from Cranberry to Johnstown. I was ready, had my tablet and apen was in my hand; there would be important details conveyed. Finally the phone rang. Not once and not twice but 4 times she tried to tell me the details and before she could get the information out, the call dropped. I finally heard the details when she arrived home. That was the longest 3 hours of my life!
I was expecting to hear her voice, but the mountains and valleys of the District Superintendent’s commute made it impossible.
Samuel wasn’t expecting to hear God’s voice.
His mother, Hannah, couldn’t have children; she cried out to the Lord. The priest thought she was drunk – God answered her prayer. She named him Samuel – the name sounds like the Hebrew word for “God heard.”
She told her husband, “When the boy is able to eat solid food, I will take him to Shiloh. Then I will give him to the Lord and he will always live there.” That’s what she did.
He grew up in “the church,” helping Eli with chores around the temple – lighting lamps and sweeping the floor. Samuel never thought about listening for God because no one was listening for God. The author writes: “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.”
It’s not surprising that when twelve-year-old Samuel hears a voice while sleeping in church (he was neither the first nor the last to sleep in church) he assumes it is Eli. Three times someone calling his name awakens him. Three times he goes to Eli and asks what he wants. After the third time Eli wonders, although God hasn’t been heard from in those parts for some time, if perhaps Samuel is hearing God’s voice. He tells Samuel that if he hears the voice again, he should answer, “God, I’m listening.” God speaks and gives Samuel disturbing news – news that Samuel doesn’t want to repeat. After he hears God’s voice, Samuel’s life is never the same. It’s harder – much harder!
It’s dangerous to hear the voice of God.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, and uncle were all preachers. When he became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, however, he still hadn’t had a firsthand experience of God. But then Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus and Martin found himself in the middle of a boycott. Although he had only been in Montgomery a year and he was only twenty-seven years old, he quickly became a leader of the movement. It wasn’t long before his family started getting threatening phone calls. He wondered if he could take it. He wanted out. Then one night, around midnight, another threatening call came: “We’re tired of you, and if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out and blow up your house.”
Dr. King prayed aloud that night. He reports hearing a voice calling him to stand up for righteousness, justice, and truth; the voice of Jesus promising to be with him through the fight. Dr. King’s life from that moment on is a testimony to his response to that prayer.
What would we hear if we expected to hear the voice of God? What would we hear? Might God tell us –
* to be honest about the prejudices that lie so deep within us that we don’t admit them even to ourselves;
* to repent not only of whatever hatred we feel but also whatever apathy we hide;
* to let worship penetrate our hearts enough for us to say, “Speak God, for I’m listening;”
* to realize that if racism seems like someone else’s problem then we are part of the problem;
* to stop waiting for others to take the first step and step across the lines ourselves;
* to speak with kindness and courage when it would be easier to say nothing;
* to do more than tolerate our differences and honor and celebrate them;
* to be impatient with inequality, impatient with anything less than freedom and justice.
We wonder why things don’t change; I think God wonders the same thing. I think God says to God’s children, “Can you hear me now? It can be different.”
Eli helped Samuel hear God’s voice. Imperfect as it may be, the best place for us to hear God’s voice is when we come together in community – when we worship – when in unity we say “Speak Lord, your servants are listening.”