On Sunday January 18th our minister Rev Christine Gillespie led worship at Wesley Chapel. We sang, ‘Thou whose almighty word,’ before Christine led the prayers. Before the first reading from the Bible from 1 Samuel 3, we sang, ‘Spirit divine attend our prayers.’ We then sang, ‘Hushed was the evening hymn,’ before we heard the reading from Ephesians 4v1-16.
Christine then began to preach saying how she had been taught that preaching was a bridge to connect the Bible to our daily lives. She began with the text from 1 Samuel 3, ‘In those days the word of the Lord was rarely heard, and there was no outpouring of vision’. We could say that is true of today; where are the stories of those who have responded to God’s word today? Words of the Lord were rare in those days. We are all getting older. Do we remember large Sunday school anniversaries and other times when the church was full of children, Christine wondered? All was not well in the temple and yet people were still coming to pray and worship, although there was corruption. Eli was elderly and frail; his sons were more concerned with their own comforts than serving God. Priests were entitled to come and eat from the sacrifice, as they had no other income or means of supporting themselves as they served God daily. However Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas had demanded by force the choice cuts of the meat before the sacrifice for themselves. In their greed they dishonoured God. If the leaders were corrupt then it was not surprising that God’s word was rare at that time and yet there was Hannah’s heartfelt plea for a child she could dedicate to the Lord, which had been answered. Even though Eli turned a blind eye to the corruption of his sons he could still recognise God’s voice. Samuel who had been dedicated to serve the Lord in the temple but he had not yet heard God’s voice, so he did not recognise God’s call to him, but after God had called a third time, Eli recognised that it was God calling the boy and told him to say to God he was listening and Samuel did. Samuel did listen and God spoke in the silence of the night time, recognised by an elderly frail man and listened to by a child. Do we hear the challenge to us to listen?
Christine says that she lives in a large house and does not always hear the phone ringing if she is in another room so has to remember to take a phone with her if she is expecting a call and remember to listen. If we want to hear God’s voice we need space to listen or it can be impossible to hear. We need to learn to listen. Eli failed to see his sons’ misuse of power. Do we need to see what is going on in service to God?
The previous pope, who retired, reminded us that being human was a great challenge; reaching higher standards involved struggle. We need to see where faithfulness is in people like Eli and Samuel. We are told to look to the well spoken, well dressed and successful, yet it was an old frail man and a child who could hear God. The Christian faith in Russia during the communist regime was kept alive by grandmothers and the young. Why do we think God cannot use our experience and maturity or that it is only in Church that God speaks? Maybe some can hear but don’t recognise God’s voice. Not all messages are comfortable and Samuel was reluctant to tell Eli what God had told him. Do we really want to hear what the Lord might say to us?
In Ephesians Paul was writing from prison a message of hope that Christ is the head of the body. Christ tells us to be patient and humble. Paul wrote from prison to tell them to grow in maturity in Christ. It is now 2 weeks since we renewed our covenant with God and sometimes it is difficult and costly for us. God has given us skills and abilities to use. The word of the Lord is rare today, but are we listening to it or helping others to recognise the Lord’s voice. It was on that night that Samuel came to know and recognise the Lord’s voice and his life was changed and hope of renewal was given. Every member of the church needs to grow and become whole. May we indeed each grow in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We sang ‘Open Lord my inward ear’ before Christine led the prayers of intercession. Worship finished as we sang, ‘Come let us to the Lord our God.’