1 Sam. 3:1-10 / Mt. 9:35-38
On Ember Friday, we are asked to pray for the choice of fit persons for the ministry. We can find this theme reflected in the readings for today.
The reading from 1st Samuel is about a significant incident early in the life of the boy Samuel. He had been given by his parents to service in the temple of the Lord in Shiloh in thanksgiving for his birth. I think it is a story familiar to many of us. I heard it first from my grandmother when I was a small boy.
We are told in the early parts of this first Book of Samuel that spiritual life in Israel at that time was in a very poor condition. The two sons of Eli, the priest at Shiloh, were described as scoundrels. “They had no regard for the Lord or for the duties of priests to the people.” (1 Sam. 2:12-13a) Eli himself was very old, and at the time of today’s reading had become blind. Naturally he was very grateful that Samuel had been dedicated to the service of the temple.
At the time of our reading Samuel must have been at least 6 or 7 years old. His mother had borne three sons and two daughters after Samuel’s birth. He was old enough to help the old priest to take care of the temple in many ways. However, we are told that he “did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” (v. 7)
Samuel slept in the temple itself, where the Ark of God was kept. A lamp was kept burning in that place from evening until dawn. It seems likely that even though he was still a small boy, Samuel acted as a guard for the Ark. Probably he was also the one who lighted the lamp that was there in the evening, and saw that it was extinguished at the proper time at dawn.
As you heard in the reading, young Samuel heard a voice calling his name three times. Each time he ran into Eli’s bedroom thinking that Eli had called him, and was sent back to his place in the temple to go back to sleep. By the third time Eli realized that it must have been the Lord calling to Samuel. Eli therefore instructed the boy to answer the voice by saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (v. 9) The Lord did call to Samuel again, and he answered as Eli had instructed him, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” There our reading ends. If you don’t already know what the Lord had to say to Samuel you will have to look it up in your own Bibles.
The point is that Eli had perceived that God was calling Samuel to greater service at a time soon to come. Eli passed the responsibility of responding to God on to Samuel. It was at this point that the word of the Lord was revealed to Samuel, and he came to know the Lord.
I don’t know of anyone in my lifetime who has actually heard the voice of the Lord in a way that can be measured physically. But I know that the Lord does speak to us inwardly in our prayer and in our meditation. Instead of audible words, God speaks to us by insights and intuitions, and through other people. It is by the growing certainty of these insights and intuitions that we are led to find the vocation and ministry to which any of us are called.
God does not need our prayers in order to call others to ministry, ordained or lay, but I believe that God wants our prayers so that we may be aware of the needs of the Church and the world, and be aware of the role of every one of us to help guide, nurture, and encourage those whom we know who are responding to God’s call. Also I believe that God wants our prayer as a way of connecting us with the actions of God and participating in those to which we are called. Prayer is also a means by which God can enlighten us.
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