The first half of this story will be familiar to most readers. Young Samuel is called by God in the middle of the night. But because Samuel does not yet know the Lord, he mistakes the voice for that of his mentor, Eli. But Eli understands what is happening and gives Samuel the instruction he needs to receive God’s message. Samuel listens.

In Sunday school lessons, this story often ends at verse 10 with Samuel dutifully replying to God’s call, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” But when we press on through verse 20, we learn that God’s message is one of judgment against Eli’s household. At first Samuel is afraid to share what he has heard with his mentor. But Eli insists, and when Samuel tells him, he listens.

Eli and Samuel show that hearing the word of the Lord is often a communal effort. Samuel would not have known the voice of the Lord had it not been for Eli’s wisdom and experience. Eli, who had lost his eyesight and his prophetic vision, would not have known that God was doing a new thing in Israel had it not been for young Samuel. Importantly, they loved and trusted each other enough to listen and learn from each other. Together they discerned the way forward.

Many modern readers may feel that the word of the Lord is rare in our days, since few of us awake in the night to hear God calling our names. But God is still speaking and is often heard best in community, as the example of Eli and Samuel shows us. Consider how God is raising up different voices in your life, church, and world to reveal to you something you could not know by yourself.

God, give us ears to listen to one another and hearts to trust one another, so that together we may hear you call us to new things. Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read John 1:43-51

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Lectionary Week
January 11–17, 2021
Scripture Overview

We read the stories of Samuel and the calling of Jesus’ disciples in John, and it’s easy to feel jealous. God spoke so directly into their lives that they should have had, it seems to us, full and unwavering confidence in their callings. Didn’t they have an unfair spiritual advantage over us? However, the psalmist reminds us that God knows and sees us individually just as well as God knew Samuel and Jesus knew his disciples. God has plans for us, even if they are revealed in less obvious ways. The reading from First Corinthians is quite different in its message. Perhaps we can at least recognize that even if we never hear God’s audible voice, through scripture God still provides guidance for our lives.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. Can you think of a time when you failed to hear God calling you? What helps you to listen to God?
Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. How does the knowledge that all humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” inform the way you regard and care for others?
Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Paul writes, “All things are lawful.” What does that mean to you? What are the responsibilities inherent in such freedom?
Read John 1:43-51. Who are the people who invited you to “come and see” Jesus? Is there someone around you to whom you could extend that invitation today?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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