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Sermon and Prayers For The Second Sunday After Epiphany - Year B
I Samuel 3:1-20 and John 1:43-51
"God's Call"


READING:  I Samuel 3:1-20 and John 1:43-51
SERMON :  "God's Call"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or02sm 527000

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.


CALL TO WORSHIP 
L   God is with his people.  He dwells in their midst.
    Listen and hear him speak.
P   Our hearts long for his word.
    We wait upon the Lord so that we may renew our strength.
L   God is our help and our support.  His spirit moves among us
    to lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days.
P   With joyful hearts we sing God's praise.  With rejoicing we call
    upon Him.  The Lord is our  hope and our salvation.


RESPONSIVE PRAYER:
L   God of mystery and of power, nothing is hid from you, to you all
    things are plain. 
P   Give us grace, O Lord, to hear your word and see your hand.
L   Your might and your strength are beyond all comparison.
    Your love is greater than words can say.
P   Give us grace, O Lord, to hear your word and see your hand.
L   You call us Lord to a closer walk with you.  You guide us into
    the paths that you have chosen in your wisdom..
P   Give us grace, O Lord, to hear your word and see your hand.
    Keep us from fleeing your presence.
    Make us responsive to your loving call.
    ............... (silent prayer) ..............
L   Gracious Father, hear our prayer and make us new.
P   We ask it in the name of Jesus Christ,
    who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
    one God, now and forevermore.  Amen.


SERMON: "GOD'S CALL"
The stories about how Jesus called his disciples are all well
known, well worked over as it were, and so is the story of how
God called Samuel to be his prophet in Israel.

But I am very conscious as I stand here of how so many people
fail to hear the call of God 
         despite all the talk that the church does about how we are
         called to be followers of Jesus and despite all the sermons
         that state that we are called to be like the prophets and to
         hear and speak God's word to one another.

Why?  

Why do so many people, many of them fine people, 
         many of them people who already believe in God and accept
         Jesus as their saviour 
believe that God is not speaking to them personally?
that God is not trying to guide them in a particular way?
that God is not reaching out to them?

I think that the answer is that people fail to hear the call of
God, that they fail to notice how God is summoning them,
- not because that call is not issued -
- but because they are either ignorant about how God calls us,
- or because they allow themselves to pass over that call - to
set it aside as it were, and so grow used to ignoring the Word
when it comes.

Think about the boy Samuel for a minute.,

He was a special lad - a special gift from God to his mother
Hannah.  He was dedicated to the Lord by her upon his birth
and sent, when still very young to live with the Priest Eli at
Shiloh.

The scripture says that he lived in a time in which the word of
the Lord was rare, a time in which visions were not widespread.

Nevertheless Samuel lived in a holy place and in the holy
presence.  He witnessed the sacrifices made at the alter in
Shiloh, and even as a lad he wore the linen ephod and ministered
in the house of God.

Like his teacher Eli, he prayed to God,
Like his master - he served faithfully.
Like others, he had heard the teachings proclaimed, the story of
God's love.

Samuel lived in a special place - indeed the scripture says that
Samuel grew up in the presence of God.

Samuel then, of all people, should have been able to recognize
the call of God.  But - as the story in the 3rd chapter of the
book of Samuel shows us - he did not - that is he didn't until
Eli recognized that call for him.

We are told that three times the Lord called to Samuel where he
lay in bed, and three times he answered by saying "Here I am" and
running out to see Eli in the next room.

On the third occasion that this occurs Eli perceives that Samuel
is answering God's voice and instructs him to

          "go, lie down, and if the Lord calls you, you shall
          say - speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

And so it was that Samuel finally heard what it was the God
         wanted to say to him,
so it was that Samuel learned the fate that was to befall Eli .
so it was that Samuel learned that he was to speak the word of
          God to others.

How much are we like Samuel 
         - living in a special place,
         - listening to the stories of his love, 
         - and serving him in his house and in his world.
How are we like Samuel 
         - dedicated to the Lord.
How much are we like him
         - thinking that the voices we hear in the night come from
         another room,
         - thinking that are dreams are simply the result of eating
         before bedtime,
         - that inner nudges we feel come only from our intuition, or
         from the fact that our unconscious mind is able to play
         tricks on us?

God calls us in many ways.  God speaks to us in many forms.
And almost all of them are gentle,
         almost all of the subtle,
         almost all of them can be mistaken for something else - that
is until we heed those calls - then we discover the power of God
is in them and behind them.

That is what happens in today's gospel lesson.  The power behind
the call of God is discovered by one who decides to listen to it.

The gospel lesson tells us that shortly after his baptism Jesus
decided to go up to Galilee.  He had already received Andrew and
Simon Peter as his disciples.

As he prepares to leave Bethany to go to Galilee Jesus goes out
and finds Philip - he seeks him out -as he sought out Samuel, and
as he seeks out us - and he says to him, "follow me".

Philip responds to this call 
and as he prepares to join Jesus he goes and locates a man called
Nathaniel, telling him

          "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and
          also the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from
          Nazareth"

It is obvious from the text that both Philip and Nathaniel were
men who were seekers, men who were looking for the promised one
of God, but Nathaniel is not prepared to accept that the call of
God he has heard through Philip is in fact from God and replies
to him:
 
         "Can anything good come out of Nazareth"

Still, Nathaniel goes along with Philip,
he goes to check out what he has been told, 
         and in doing so discovers that Jesus is a prophet, that he
         has special powers - for Jesus knows - without being told
         where he was the moment before Philip called him.

Jesus says to him:

          "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you
          under the fig tree?  You will see greater things
          than these.  Very truly I tell you, you will see
          heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and
          descending upon the Son of Man."

Do we listen to our fellow seekers -
Do we check out the calls they issue us 
the call to meet the Lord in a particular place and time?
the call to discover what we have been looking for?

If I praise you all too much now - let me know, because when I
look out here on Sunday morning I see faithful people.  I see
people who have decided to follow Jesus, people who are
struggling to do what is right, people who worship and who pray - 
people who listen to the holy stories, and seek to obey the will
of the Lord.

I see people like Samuel, and Philip and Nathaniel,
people who work for God.

But still, I wonder - when I see you - how many of you believe
that God has spoken to you?  How many of you believe that God has
personally called you to do what you are doing?

And of those who do believe this - how many believe that God is
still with you - guiding you, or trying to guide you, each day?

God is calling all of us -he calling TO all of us.
He is calling us not just to follow him, 
         He is also calling us to do and say particular things at
         particular times.
          He is calling us to walk a particular path with him, a
          path that is similar to, but not identical to the path of
          all the disciples, apostles and saints before us.

God has a plan for you- 
God seeks to guide you.
And that call is personal.

God seeks you out - as Jesus sought out Philip 
God is calling you by name - just as he called Samuel by name.

God calls in our dreams
         He calls in the voice of those people who are trying to help
         us find our way.
         He calls through our spouses and our workmates.
          He calls when we pause to read his word, or to
          meditate.
         He calls when we are trying t o decide what to do next.
         He calls when we gaze upon the heavens.
         He even calls out to us when we pray.

You know - a lot of people speak to God, they pray to him,
without ever really considering how it is that God might answer
them - without seriously considering how they are meant to listen
to him.

It is like they pick up a telephone to speak into it,
and instead of HOLDING IT LIKE THIS,
they HOLD IT LIKE THIS .

         In one of Bill Keane's "Family Circus" cartoons, the yard
         is filled with children playing as only children can. 
         They are yelling and screaming, blowing horns, and crying. 
         The dark is barking, a jet flies overhead, and two boys
         are beating on a drum.  Inside the house, the mother of
         one of the children says to her husband, "Listen.  That's
         PJ crying!"

Mother's ears were conditioned to hear the sound of her child's
voice, even above the din.

God calls us for a purpose - a good purpose
He calls us to us to come to him so that he may transform our
lives.  He calls to us to listen to him, and do what he tells us
- so that he might change us, and our world, making it holy and
good, full of love and joy, whole and at peace..

If we want to hear God it sure helps to hold the telephone right.
         It sure helps if we have learned how and where he speaks,
          It sure helps if we, by continual practice, have
          conditioned  ourselves to hear him.

Listen for God's call where-ever you are -- in whatever you see
and hear,
         be it in a dream you have just had,
         in the message of a preacher you have just heard,
          in the quiet voice you have heard inside you at the
          seashore,
         or in the words of a friend who is telling you how God has
         dealt with her, and what it is she thinks God is trying to
         say to you.

That happens when you belong to a church you know - 
that happens when you gather with fellow believers
Sometimes they speak to you about God,
Sometimes they have a message from God that is meant specially
for you.

Listen too to "the book", and judge the things you hear by the
book and by the Spirit that is within you.
         Examine the events around you and pray about them.
          Look and listen - and I promise you that you will hear the
          voice of God, you will hear his call.
 
Listen 
- and then do as you feel or believe you have been called to do,
and if it is a true word, and it very often is you will
experience the power that is behind that word, behind that call.

You will see things happen as promised,
         You will see changes that are good.
          You will see God glorified and people who seek after only
          their own desires humbled.
         You will see mercy and grace, judgement and vindication/
          You will see new life arise out of ashes and new hope come
          out of despair.
 
Listen - and as Jesus promised to Nathaniel, you will see heaven
opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the
Son of Man,

Listen - and you will find that you have been looking for.

Let us pray - Dear Lord - we know that you do call us - help us
to listen for your call, help us to be able to recognize it and
to accept it.  Help us discover your personal word for us - your
personal demands upon us - your personal will for our lives.  We
ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen.

HYMN: God, You Meet Us 


PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Eternal God, you are the maker  of us all, and we are your creation, people
formed in your image, as individuals, as community. - formed and fed and
furnished with understanding of who you are and of who and whose we are.
We are worshipping you today in recognition of your calling, of your
communicating, of your caring to invite us to share in your creative and
healing work.  We are here because we have heard you speak in us and
through others.  Help us, dear Lord, to ever respond to you and your
invitation to your grace... Lord hear our prayer...

God of all our moments, of our days and our nights, you speak and you act
in the world around us, not only to call all people to you, but also to
direct and guide us in the way of healing and wholeness.  Awaken us Lord,
to hear what you would say to us.  Help us to open our ears, our eyes, and
our hearts to your presence . Help us to know when it is your voice we are
hearing and it when it is our prejudices and desires to which we are paying
heed.... Lord hear our prayer...

Lord, we pray that your church may rise up with renewed commitment in
answer to your call, that your people may be instruments of your grace and
love.... Lord hear our prayer....

We pray for those who consider themselves inadequate and dismiss or avoid
your calling in their lives.  Give them a new vision, a vision in which you
are their strength and their hope... Lord hear our prayer....

We pray for those who, in answering your call, must leave the known for the
unknown, the oasis for the desert, the comfortable for the uncertain.
Grant them courage and steadfast faith... Lord hear our prayer....

We pray too, today, O Lord, for those in want and need - for those of us
and of the larger community who suffer in body or in soul.  We remember
before you......  (Various intercessions)...   Lord, hear our pray.....

Loving Father - bless us all with an abundant faith, a fruitful ministry, a
joyful life.  Bless us and all those who gather together to continue the
work of Jesus, who came to heal, save, and deliver us all, and who taught
us to pray as one family, saying... Our Father.....

		
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1997 - 2006
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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