Mitchells Presbyterian Church
Audio/Video Service January 17, 2021
2nd Sunday after the Epiphany
“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the Earth”
Welcome and Announcements:
Welcome everyone to Mitchells Presbyterian Church on this January 17th , the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany! I’m Reverend Michael Clang, Covenant Pastor here at Mitchells and I am so glad that you all have tuned in to our YouTube channel to worship with us today. It’s my hope and prayer that the next 30 minutes will be a real blessing to you.
The new sign is in! What a great joint venture between the Buildings and Grounds and Safety and Security Committee. Great work team and thank you everyone for your donations that made it possible. Awesome work everyone!
Wanted to remind the Mitchells congregation that your Pastor Nominating Committee is still hard at work reviewing applications which includes a lot of reading, watching, and listening to sermons, and prayer. So, let us continue to keep them in our prayers as they listen and discern from God the right fit for this amazing congregation!
This week, your session met and the class of 2023 began their tenure as the class of 2020 ended theirs. Let us give a BIG thank you to Posey Howell, Kemper Hulvey, and Vickie Wallace for their service. Here is a prayer from our Presbyterian Book of Worship:
“God of grace, we thank you for the gifts of Christian ministry given in your servants Posey, Kemper, and Vickie. We celebrate the years of their labor and rejoice in the blessings so many have received. Give them a sense of fulfillment and completion, a time of refreshment and rest, and new opportunities for living the good news of your love in Jesus Christ”. Amen. Thank you all so much!
Finally, you will notice that after the Lord’s Prayer and before the final blessing, we have added back our Hymn of Dedication so enjoy that time to hear and sing those wonderful words.
United together as one, wherever we may be this day, let us now call ourselves to worship.
Call to Worship:
L: The one who calls you together yearns for all people to hear and be blessed.
P: Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.
L: Blessed is the One who brings trustworthy words for the healing of the world.
P: Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.
Hymn of Adoration: Maroon Hymnal #316 “More About Jesus Would I Know” (v. 1&2)
1 More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of his saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.
More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.
2 More about Jesus let me learn,
More of his holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.
Prayer of Confession:
Assured that the One who calls us to hear and obey already knows the confessions of our heart and is ready to forgive, let us confess our sin before God. Holy God, you see into each of us and know us fully as creatures in need of your constant care. We confess that we have neither heard your word nor followed your will. We have failed our nation, neighbors, families, friends, and ourselves. Give us ears to hear your wisdom. Lead us to honesty and faith so that we may begin again with renewed strength. (time of silent confession) Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
Hear the good news: In Christ, you are a new creation! The old is gone and behold, the new has come. Know that you are forgiven and be at peace. Amen
Prayer for Illumination:
By your Holy Spirit, O god, open our ears, our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to the Holy World so that it comes to rule within us. Amen.
Lessons: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 and 1 Samuel 3:1-10
Sermon: “Words for Life”
An elderly man is convinced that his wife is losing her hearing so he calls their doctor and the doctor tells him, “We need to figure out how bad her hearing is so using a normal tone, talk to her at various distances until she can hear you.” That night the man decides to try this. He estimates he is sitting about 30 feet from his wife and asks her, “What’s for dinner?” He hears nothing so he moves a little closer; about 20 feet away and asks again, “What’s for dinner?” Still nothing. Finally, he gets right next to her and asks, “What’s for dinner?” to which she responds, “For the third time, chicken!” Ha.
This man seems to be in a little bit of denial about his own hearing and I must say, I can relate to that. Lately, Tracie keeps telling me that I can’t hear some of what she is saying to which I say, “I’m hearing you fine, I’m just not making out all the words”. Ha. I know . . . I’m in denial too!
Well, in our first testament lesson today, young Samuel does not seem to have a problem at all with his hearing. In fact, his hearing seems to be quite astute. Rather, it’s more of a listening or discerning problem. He knew that he was hearing a voice calling in the night but “whose” voice was it that he was hearing? Seems a good question for us today. In a world that bombards us with seemingly endless noise and chatter, how do we know “whose” voice we are listening too so that we can respond appropriately?
In the 2nd chapter of Samuel we find that the sons of Eli, the priest, who are priests themselves, are taking advantage of their religious position by forcing worshippers into giving part of their sacrificial offerings to them for their own benefit. We discover that they are abusing the system in a number of ways and we learn that despite the pleas of the people and the warning of a mysterious man of God, Eli did nothing to discipline his sons or correct these injustices.
We heard that in Samuel’s day “the word of the Lord had become rare and visions few” and while the narrator does not tell us why, I think we can start to piece it together. It’s because of the disobedience of the leadership at the top; the failings of Eli and his sons. Furthermore, the narrator tells us of Eli’s failing eyesight. This was probably literal AND metaphorical and would further explain why visions had become rare. They were blinded by their greed and corruption and could no longer see the path that God had laid out for them. So, as a result, we hear in Judges (21:25) “that everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Things were out of control.
But it is into these tumultuous times that Samuel was born. Given back to God from Hannah to be raised and trained by Eli, he is now a young man when our story opens. Samuel is to sleep one night in the room of the temple that housed the ark, that visible symbol of God’s presence. Eli is sleeping in a different room and soon after Samuel lies down, God speaks to him. “Samuel, Samuel!” God calls out. “Here I am!” says Samuel, who then runs and announces to Eli, “Here I am, for you called me.” Understandably, Eli sends him away. “But I didn’t call you; get out of here kid!”. Yet, the same confusion occurs once more: God calls Samuel, Samuel answers running to Eli, Eli sends him back to bed.
We might wonder at this time, why doesn’t Samuel recognize that it is God’s voice? The narrator must sense our question because they explain it’s because “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him”. Obviously, to our narrator, “to know the Lord” did not just happen because you had the title of priest or minister or the Master of Divinity title attached to your name, otherwise, Samuel, would have “known”. It was going to take an intervention from Eli.
When the third time rolls around and Samuel runs to Eli, Eli now gets it. Here is where he seems to redeem himself because he realizes that it is God who is trying to speak to Samuel, so Eli tells him how to proceed:
“Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.’”
For all his failings as a leader, without Eli’s priestly expertise and long years of personal experience with God, Samuel would not have come to know God and receive God’s word. It’s a curious paradox. Samuel is the one to whom God chooses to speak, but Samuel does not know what to say; Eli knows what to say, but he is not the one to whom God chooses to speak. In other words, you need both receptivity and expertise to make it work. It takes a willing heart, AND one willing to share and mentor others. It was recently quoted in the Harvard Business Review, from longtime Wall Street executive Rick Woolworth that while more than 75% of professional men and women want to have a mentor, only 37% have been about to find one.
And for those who do find one, many only focus narrowly on career advancement, missing opportunities for deeper discussions around behavior, values, relationships, parenting, finances, and spiritual life. 1 Samuel needed this relationship from Eli and Eli responded. His advice was simple; “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.’” In other words, slow down, listen, and act.
Years ago when my sister’s son was a young boy we were visiting and at one point he was running and running around the house touching this and that, but not really focused on any one thing so we stopped him and said, “Nathan, what are you doing?” And he responded, “I’m hurrying . . . I’m hurrying!” How often in life are we just hurrying from one thing to the next that we don’t take the time to slow down and reflect on what we might be hearing from others and from God? We “listen” but don’t really “listen” to what others might be saying to us.
Maybe we think that a “word from God” will only happen in a place like church or on a mountaintop pilgrimage. Hardly. Rebekah “heard” God while drawing water from a well. Amos was tending his garden. Paul was on the road to Damascus. Apparently, Martin Luther was on the toilet in his monastery cell! They don’t call it the throne for nothing! Ha.
Telling Samuel to go back and lie down was a polite way to say, “stop running back and forth”. We might say, take some time to reflect on what you are hearing. Maybe do a short meditation. Maybe journal your thoughts.
Stop. Listen. Then respond, “here am I”.
The Hebrew word that we translate “here am I” is “hineni” and it reflects a willingness to respond with action. It’s more than saying “here I am”. Its “here I am and I’m ready to go”! It’s action AND it’s dialogue too. God wants and welcomes a conversation. As Samuel responds to God with “hineni”, God delivers a word to him about what will come to pass in Israel, a word that is also a message of judgment against Eli and his house for their corruption.
It’s a tough first message that he will be asked to deliver. I think I would have asked God for something a little easier to begin with than speaking against my teacher but he does it and Eli responds, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” As things went on, Samuel grew and continued to speak with confidence as he learned to trust the “word of the Lord” that came to him and people learned to trust him as a prophet.
But it was not always easy, just as there is no guarantee that it will be easy for us. As this story shows, being called to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God” means that at times God might ask us to move a bit out of our comfort zone.
1 Quote from Presbyterian Outlook, December 28, 2020.
If Samuel had not taken Eli’s advice and responded to God’s call when he did, what would have happened in his life? How much longer would it have been before god re-approached Samuel with a vision or a word? In the same way, what would have happened had Eli not taken up the mantle and chose to be that mentor; to offer those words that Samuel needed to hear in that moment; to offer the wisdom of his years?
While I love how this story shows what happens when we stop, listen, and respond, I love it more for showing how we all learn to discern God’s voice in our lives in the proximity of people who have come before us. Those mentors, those special people along our way who help us attune our ears and hearts to hear the music that sings to our hearts and gives us life!
Who are the mentors or Eli’s in your life? In whose lives are you an Eli? Who are you helping to hear the music? May it be so. Thanks be to God!
Affirmation of Faith (Apostle’s Creed):
As our response to the scriptures being read and proclaimed, let us affirm together what we believe by reciting together the Apostles Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
Call for Offering:
“From the fullness of God, we have all received grace upon grace.”
Thank you everyone for continuing to send in your tithes and offerings to the church office. For the offerings that we have received this week, let us pray:
Prayer of Dedication:
We give you thanks, O loving God, that you have placed in the hearts of your faithful people the gift of generosity and the desire to do your will. Use these gifts to proclaim good news to all people. Amen.
Pastoral Prayer (with Lord’s Prayer):
A lot is happening in our world and in our nation so as we gather across time and space in this time of prayer, join me in taking some nice cleansing breaths as we calm our busy minds and open our hearts to the presence of the Prince of Peace. Let’s breathe [go 30 seconds]:
Let us pray for all the earth, the church, and all those in need, saying God of grace, hear our prayer.
Let us pray for the world:
for leaders of nations that wisdom and integrity will prevail for the good of all people, especially the poor and for regions torn by conflict that peace may reign and destruction end; God of grace, hear our prayer.
Let us pray for all people of faith:
for the unity of the body of Christ, that divisions might not turn people away from the church; that wherever prayers are raised up, the one God of all will hear; and for all people who nurture life in the name of a greater good; God of grace, hear our prayer.
Let us pray for our own nation:
For the president and the president-elect, Congress, the Supreme Court, and all judges, for state governments, city councils, school boards, and all who have power to make policy, that all consideration be given to what is most healthy for all.
This week, as we witness again the transfer of power to a new administration that comes from our fair and just democratic process, may it be peaceful and may all of us unite behind your will for the good of all. God of Grace, hear our prayer.
Let us pray for those in need:
for all who are hungry in our nation and world, for those who have no home or employment; for parents and children who live in fear for any reason, and for all who are in mourning; God of grace, hear our prayer.
In the silence of this moment, we lift up those on our prayer list and those on our hearts [time of silence]. God of grace, hear our prayer.
O God, you have made us, formed us, and called us by name. Receive our prayers this day, in the name of the one who taught us to prayer saying: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Hymn of Dedication: #338 “He Leadeth Me, O Blessed Thought” (Verses 1&2)
1 He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, he leadeth me;
by his own hand he leadeth me:
his faithful follower I would be,
for by his hand he leadeth me.
2 Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
sometimes where Eden’s flowers bloom,
by waters calm, o’er troubled sea,
still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
Stop. Listen. Respond. Good words for our life. So, who are you mentoring? Who are you sharing your wisdom; your experience; your faith with? And who is mentoring you? May we all respond to Gods call like Eli and Samuel because they needed each other just as we need each other for this journey of life. You are so loved. Here is your virtual hug.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord be kind and gracious to you.
May the Lord look upon you with favor and grant you peace.
God’s Shalom! Today and every day! Amen.