From Pastor Kenny's Desk
January 14, 2018
The young Samuel was in the service of God under Eli’s direction. In those days, the voice of God was rarely heard – prophesy was uncommon. One night Eli was sound asleep (his eyesight was very bad—he could hardly see). It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning. Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested.
Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” Then he ran to Eli saying, “I heard you call. Here I am.”
Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” And so he did.
A second time, God called, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel got up and went to Eli, “I heard you call. Here I am.”
Again Eli said, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” (This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.)
God called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said once more, “Here I am. You called me.”
That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy. So Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.’” So Samuel went back to sleep.
Then God called out, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Yes God, I am listening.”
God said to Samuel, “Listen carefully. I’m getting ready to do something in Israel that is going to shake everyone up and get their attention. The time has come for me to bring down on Eli’s family everything I warned him of, every last word of it. I’m letting him know that the time’s up. I’m bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God’s name and God’s place, and he did nothing to stop them. This is my sentence on the family of Eli: The evil of Eli’s family can never be wiped out by sacrifice or offering.”
Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then rose early and went about his duties, opening the doors of the sanctuary, but he dreaded having to tell the vision to Eli.
But then Eli summoned Samuel: “Samuel, my son!”
Samuel came running: “Yes? What can I do for you?”
“What did God say to you? Tell it to me, all of it. Don’t suppress or soften one word, as God is your judge! I want it all, word for word as he said it to you.”
So Samuel told him, word for word. He held back nothing.
Eli said, “God reigns. God will do what must be done.”
Samuel grew up. God was with him. None of Samuel’s prophetic words remained unfulfilled.” Everyone in Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, recognized that Samuel was the real thing—a true prophet of God. 1 Samuel 3:1-20
On Monday, January 15, we celebrate and honor the memory and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. We remember that Dr. King did not bow down to the voices that wanted to silence him, nor did he hide with the threat of death. Dr. King stands in the legacy of our prophets, incapable of holding back the voice of justice from God.
As we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Call of the Prophet Samuel is an appropriate reading. In reading Samuel’s story, we can find the story of all prophets who have been called to speak out for God’s ways of justice and righteousness. We find the story of many who have heard the call of God but have had that call questioned by others (in this story, Eli questions the call, but not God, and when Eli is certain it is God calling Samuel, he encourages Samuel to listen to God). God calls Samuel to do something that is not easy: to speak out against Eli’s own sons, that they can’t skate by doing whatever they want to by offering sacrifices afterwards, that they can’t get off because their father is a priest. Samuel has to stand up to the family of the very person who has taken him in and cared for him, the very person who has instructed him how to listen to God’s ways. It is not easy to follow the call of the prophet.
As people of faith, in the past and present, we are called to speak out for God’s ways of righteousness and justice, and sometimes we have to speak out against the very institutions that have nurtured us in our call. Many have had to overcome the voices of fear inside us or the voices of doubt outside of us that tell us we haven’t heard God’s call and we should go lie back down. It’s not an easy call to follow. As we honor and remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we remember King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, in which he writes to some of the very clergy who have supported him but have also tried to stop him, in an attempt to avoid conflict. Prophets are called to speak to conflict, to address it and not run from it, to speak and act out despite their fears and the fears of others. Dr. King certainly did this in his life and ministry. While one can argue for or against calling Dr. King a prophet, it is clear Dr. King lived his life as many of our Biblical prophets did … speaking and acting out for God’s ways of justice and righteousness. I call him a prophet.
As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, we remember Dr. King’s dream. We celebrate our diversity, each person beautiful and special … just the way we are … and we realize how much we need each other. We celebrate the diversity of our gifts, our cultures, our languages, our abilities, our very selves … for God has created us ALL. And we celebrate that God has chosen to participate in our lives through Jesus … to see our need to love our neighbor as ourselves, and in that love, to seek justice … God’s justice … which restores and heals. For God is not passive, standing by, but God is active in our world and in our lives. Through the examples of Jesus, we know that God works in us for justice, for reconciliation, and for peace. Let us live into God’s ways of love, justice and righteousness as we share and demonstrate God’s many gifts with ALL people.
Personally, I cannot wait for the day when ALL people means ALL people, and I don’t have to list out age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, political persuasion, or any other category that has been used to keep people out. Oprah Winfrey, a prophet in her own right, eloquently shares this vision in the speech below as she accepts the Cecil B. de Mille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes. Her words are inspirational truth and inspire me to continue to bring justice and righteousness by helping others speak their truth. Click here for a glimpse of her standing and encouraging others in God’s justice and righteousness. Thank you for your partnership in bringing these gifts of God's to ALL people ... truly "A NEW DAY is on the horizon!"
Click here for A Litany & Prayer for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.