19th Sunday after Pentecost – October 15, 2017
1 Samuel 3:1-21 and John 20:21-23
I vividly recall the year after my high school graduation when I sensed being called to something along the lines of pastoral ministry. It was a niggling inside of me; I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. At the time I was doing military service so I didn’t really give it serious thought and effectively brushed it off. But the seed had been planted and must have been lying dormant in my mind. After military service I went ahead and pursued anything except pastoral ministry. I tried my hand at agriculture with limited success, and then followed it with a stint in horticulture that is definitely something I enjoyed. It was a full eight years later, after much wrestling with what was in my heart, that I finally registered to do a Bachelor of Arts, with the intent to do a Bachelor’s degree in Divinity—I was on my way to studying theology. What exactly had been happening through those eight years? Was I fleeing from God’s call or was God preparing me by sending me through the school of hard knocks?
I wasn’t unlike Samuel in our reading today. Samuel missed God’s voice not once, not twice, but three different times. He had strike three, he should have been “out”… right? God can find someone else to talk to, but once again, a fourth time, the persistent voice of God comes back and addresses Samuel again.
How many times have you missed God’s voice? Was it your schedule, your pain, your distractedness, your hardheartedness, your stubbornness and opinions, the crescendo of other voices have caused you to miss God’s voice. The good news is that even though these things can cause us to miss what God is trying to communicate to us, God will persistently speak again.
Keep in mind there are also voices that exist in the world apart from God’s; including your inner voice and thoughts. I think we need to recognize that there are many voices out there in the world. And I am speaking metaphorically in that television, movies, and music are a voice in our lives, which tell us what to do, what to buy, how we should look. Music is quite sinister in that we can adopt a worldview while we sing along and don’t even realize it. There are also voices from our friends, our doctors, from politicians and other world leaders. Many voices exist in the world apart from God’s.
Does the calling always come from God self? At first Samuel thought it was Eli’s voice that was shouting for him, he was very confused. Was God attempting to get Samuel’s attention by speaking in a voice that he could recognize? Perhaps God uses the people around us, such as our parents, or our children to move us in a particular direction.
Our friend Sam tells me of his Uncle Joe from the Philippines and his journey to do the work of God. His uncle used to tell them how his parents threatened to throw him overboard the ship they were on unless he promised to study theology. If God was speaking through his parents, God certainly showed a sense of humor!
Hear how Uncle Joe explains it to Sam: “I thought all along it was my parents’ idea for me to go into ministry, and to become a pastor. My parents chose professions for some of their children: Socorro a teacher, Cynthia a nurse, brothers Benny, Manoling, Edgar and Leo were to study to become engineers—they excelled in Math. I was lousy with numbers, for this and other reasons; I was to become a pastor. My reaction? I vividly recall how I burst out in tears.
Then at some point during my student life, I started owning that choice and I realized it had become my call (not just my parents); I was being called into Christian ministry. Looking back now, my parents “anointed” me; they were instruments of God’s choice. I have no regrets about it; it just fills me with gratitude and joy! Who would have known? That I, a small town boy, would become the pastor of major churches in the Philippines and later in the United States.” Uncle Joe eventually rose to the highest leadership of a major denomination—the United Church of Christ!
There is no ready answer to how things should unfold. God works in unique ways to use each of us in our own way with our own personality and gifts. It isn’t only in ordained ministry that there is worth, as my two examples happen to come from this morning. How many endless ways can God do God’s work through a teacher, a physiotherapist, an electrician, a hairstylist, a custodian or a Supreme Court judge? Whichever career path or job any of us take on, you can still be driven by a desire to serve the Lord. We can all serve the Lord in many ways at our jobs but also during a multitude of situations that each of us face in our day-to-day personal life.
Eventually, a willing heart, and a simple “Let’s go and see where it will take us” attitude, is what makes us useful instruments in God’s hands.
Where are each of us, individually, on this path of God’s calling?
Take a moment to ask yourself; Have I heard God yet? Am I even open to listening? Is God speaking to me through someone else? Is God using me to my full capacity? Here I am, Lord, use me as You wish.
Copyright 2017 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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