July 19th 2020

Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-20 & John 1:43-51

I wonder if sometimes we forget just how much we mean to God.  Do we really appreciate what our lives mean to him?  When we present our children for baptism, do we fully appreciate what we are doing, for in fact, just as Samuel was given to God at birth, so in baptism we are giving ourselves or our children to God and asking for a place in his family?

The truth is that few, if any of us fully understand every detail of what goes on in the sacrament of baptism, because of course, it is God who is at work in and through it.  And as we grow from childhood to adulthood, most of us, like Samuel we neither know God personally, nor understand fully what is happening when it comes to matters of faith.

The gospels describe the call of many disciples, but the naming of these individuals, of Philip and Nathaniel, as of Simon and Andrew and some of the others permits us to follow their progress from time to time.  In other words, their names allow them to be singled out and known, and to know that we are known, called and valued.

When we first hear that call, we may be puzzled like Samuel, and are therefore dependent on mature Christians to help guide us through those first faltering steps forward in faith.  So, it falls to each one of us to support those who are being called in faith but who perhaps don’t yet understand what it all means.  If we can learn to recognise as Eli eventually does that there are people all around us whom God is calling it might renew our desire for mission, no matter how scary it seems.  But we need to go further than simply recognising who God is calling – we, like Eli are called to support them on their journey, and not only them, but those who have been in our midst for some time but who may be being called by God in way’s they had never considered before.

Jesus clearly saw Nathaniel as someone in whom God was already at work, and presumably also in Andrew, Philip and all the other disciples Jesus called by name.  They may not have understood at first what was happening, but they soon did for where Samuel had Eli, the disciples had Jesus himself.  Today’s servants of God – that’s you and me – must have confidence in who Jesus is and in the activity of God in the world, even our small corner of the world where we are now.  And we have to be sensitive to the fact that God may be, and probably is, already working in the hearts of other people, even those we would least expect to find it.

Today, more than ever, it our responsibility to help one another both within and outside the church, to see the glory of God in Christ Jesus, and in the world.  It is very easy to lose focus of what our priorities should be when it comes to faith and particularly in leadership, because so many other practical problems can get in the way.  Building matters, financial difficulties, personality clashes, and even different likes and dislikes all get in the way when it comes to us focussing on the true will of God for our own lives and the lives of those around us.  If we stop to remember who it is that called us, and why we have been called, we are challenged to consider what it means to trust the same one who is still calling us today.  But in order to do this we also need to be open to the prayerful counsel of those in whom we trust, being aware that God’s call may not lead us where we want or expect.

On the way, we learn a lot about ourselves.  Sometimes, the calling demands hard things of us.  We are reminded that we are far from perfect and like Eli, the message for us is not easy either to give or receive.  But hearing hard things is sometimes necessary, even essential in some cases if we are to move forward in faith and service. 

Being comfortable where we are in faith is fine if we want things to stand still and stay as they are, but usually, the hard things we need to hear are things which move us out of our comfort zone, because it is there that we really learn to trust God and allow him to work more effectively and powerfully through us.

This time of lockdown has most definitely moved us out of our comfort zone when it comes to worship and how we share fellowship with one another at a distance.  I would argue that in many ways the challenge has been a blessing.  We have not dug our heads in the sand in the hope that when we raise them again things will be just the same as they have always been.  Instead, we have sought and found new ways of reaching out, of communicating not just with our own wee closed group but with others far and beyond our usual Sunday reach.  I would argue that we have risen to our calling and in so doing deepened our commitment to God.  As the easing of lockdown continues, I pray that we are not tempted to return to the way things have “aye been” but rather let what we have learnt in lockdown enhance our traditions.

These may have been difficult and challenging times for us all, but they have also been exciting and encouraging, particularly with regards to how we “do” church.  May God continue the work he has begun in us all.

 

Prayer

Loving heavenly Father, you have called each one of us by name and have a place for us all within your family.  We confess that our focus on your leading has sometimes wavered for we have been distracted by the ways of the world and the practical needs of our own churches.  We come before you, humbly asking for your merciful forgiveness.  Help us to remember whose we are and know that with you by our side that nothing is impossible.  You have challenged us to review our priorities in life and the place you occupy in it.  May we always put you first and in a loving spirit eagerly listen for your word every minute of every day.  Hear us dear Lord, guide us and inspire us, for we ask it in the name of our Son, our precious Saviour Jesus Christ.  AMEN

To listen to Stuart Townend sing “Salvation’s Song” click on the link below.

Salvation's Song