– by Rev. Colleen Woodley –
1 Samuel 3:3-10,19
Here I am
In today’s first reading, a young and naïve Samuel awakens from sleep to hear someone calling him. He believes that it is Eli calling him and three times he answers him, but Eli tells him that he did not call. After Samuel answered the third call, Eli begins to understand that it is Yahweh calling to the boy and tells Samuel to answer that he is there and listening.
Eli is an older priest and the notion is that if Yahweh was calling, it would be addressed to Eli, however Yahweh has chosen to speak to the younger, innocent Samuel instead. This is a case of things being opposite of what is expected, a new order is taking shape, God is speaking to an unexpected subject. Samuel is sleepy and quite unaware of the importance of the voice that calls to him. In a way it is a comical scene with a bewildered boy, a sleeping old priest who becomes confused, followed by an unexpected ending and a prophetic call. This young, inexperienced, and unsuspecting boy has found favor with God and his answer is “Here I am, I am listening.”
It is apparent in this story that we cannot always know where God is going to show up and who will hear God’s voice. You have heard us talk about God as a God of surprises and indeed that is the case. Every day is filled with uncertainty and surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant or worse. But what we are charged with is the question of how we approach these surprises, calls, and unexpected voices. If we hear someone call, are we able to say “here I am, I am listening”? Are we able to say it again and again, even if we are asleep, or confused, or unfamiliar with the one who calls us?
If we can see God’s image in those we encounter, then our answer of “here I am” is an appropriate response when we hear a voice calling. In fact, most likely every single day we answer that call with the response “Here I am.” I think one of the most endearing parts of this story is that Samuel is totally in the dark, physically, emotionally, intellectually, he has no clue what is taking place but he answers affirmatively. It is as though he is totally prepared despite being totally clueless. This is one more story in which God calls on the least likely character, in the most unusual circumstances.
Some of the most humbling and gratifying things in my life are a result of someone, God or others, calling out to me and asking something of me. In spite of the wonder and humility that I find in someone calling on me, the one thing that I can do in any case, is answer the call and listen. Those situations have always borne out to be meaningful and moving experiences for me, and they made me grateful. When we call on each other, and when we make ourselves available, we build the unity between God and ourselves as well as ourselves and others. That unity builds and strengthens all of us.
In a sense, each of us can identify with Samuel every day; we awaken, plan our day, and then the day takes on a different direction. We hope that we have some control over our time and our environment, but in reality, maybe the best we can do is plan, and hope, and then say, “Here I am”, saying it to our God and saying it to one another.
What are we actually saying, when we say those words, “Here I am”? I believe that those words are an act of faith, an act of hope and trust, and most importantly, an act of love. Those words indicate that we are willing, that we are open, and and we are trusting. They indicate that we will allow ourselves to be vulnerable. They indicate that we are capable of unselfish acts of love, and that we are willing to listen to those who call out to us. The trust is fueled by our faith and our courage.
Sometimes, like Samuel, we may find ourselves bewildered, or feeling clueless, yet we can still answer courageously, “Here I am.” So many of you do that every day; you are a people of hope and the very Spirit of Here I am.