June 2018, Christ Mountain Top, Confirmation weekend
the Psalm, Psalm 139, selections (6:00 pm)
Mark 2.23 – 3.6
1 Samuel 3.1-20
Sunday (age 9), my father let me take his Bible to Sunday School. The teacher taught us all about the books of
the Bible and how they are grouped in our Protestant Bible: OT Law, History, Poetry, Prophets (Major,
Minor); NT Gospels, History, Epistles (Paul, General), Prophecy. I took my pen and drew boxes in the table of
contents. I was really excited. “Let’s see…Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, Deuteronomy–Law …”. So,
on the way home I told my Dad all about it.
He wasn’t too happy about me writing in his Bible, so he bought himself
a new one and gave me his old one.
in SS? Gen, Ex, Lev …? That is a simple thing, but it is quite
useful. It is also part of getting to
know the Bible, the book that shapes our faith and relationship to God.
sermon, I read the Bible. I learned to
love it and cherish it through Christian Education–at church and at home.
few years later, I remember asking another teacher, “How can you tell if
God is speaking to you–or if it’s just your own thoughts in your
head?” I’ve learned that part of
the answer of how to hear the voice of God is to be in touch with what God has
told us already–in the Bible.
disciplined and simple preparation of attention and obedience–deeds of mercy
and compassion, service in Christ’s name, believing when we are filled with
doubt, faithfully tending the candles in the church. And I learned about this through a process of
Christian faith formation–in Sunday School, at the pastor’s home, in our own
family Bible studies.
little boy who helped the priest at the temple had a similar difficulty. Someone kept calling him in the middle of the
night. Who was it? The priest kept telling him to go back to
sleep. Finally, the priest realized that
Samuel was hearing from God and Eli told him how to respond: “Speak, for
your servant is listening”.
but years of training under Eli had prepared him for the moment. Years of difficult work–cleaning up in the
tabernacle, serving the worshippers, tending the lights, taking care of Eli in
his increasing blindness–they all led up to the moment when he was ready to
hear God’s voice.
is what faith formation is all about–Sunday School, VBS, camping programs,
youth group, Sunday messages, the sacraments, choir practices, small groups,
personal prayer and Bible reading–helping us hear God’s voice, God’s call on
our lives, and helping us to obey.
so this young boy learns to hear. What
an earful! The man who has cared for
you, who has nurtured you in your faith, who has helped you grow to this point,
your pastor or Sunday School teacher–he and his sons are guilty and will be
judged. Yes, as God says, it makes the
ears tingle–and not only for a boy.
What is it we say? “Were
your ears burning? We were just talking
with burning ears no doubt, to demand the message God has given to him. And this fearful boy spills the beans, holds
offerings from the altar and took them to their own table. He saw how they seduced the women who worked
at the Tabernacle. And he had seen Eli
simply shake his head, ask his sons, “Why are you doing this?” and
give them another scolding. Yes, God had
told Eli “You honor your sons before me.”
he needed to tell them. He was not
willing to take the risk–perhaps struggling with raising two young men all on
his own. And yet his reluctance to lose them
led him to greater loss. He was not
willing to tell his sons what he needed to tell them, what God called him to
tell them. But Samuel, as reluctant as
he was to give Eli God’s message, did not hold back those ear-tingling words.
nay-saying, this word of judgment, of choice and consequence–this too is part
of faith formation.
2:11-12 For the grace of God
that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and
worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this
present age, (NIV)
are dangers in drugs and alcohol, dangers in promiscuous sexuality, dangers in
allowing friends to tell us who we are, dangers in wealth and consumption.
“no” words, and they are part of the gospel message. They are part of the gospel message because
with the story of judgment comes the story of justification, with the story of
bondage comes the story of deliverance, with the story of disease comes the
story of healing.
our young people to hear God’s word is no namby-pamby exercise. Hearing God’s word is not always easy. Sometimes we do not want to have anything to
do with it, sometimes we get an earful.
Let us not make the mistake of Eli.
Let us not be teachers of hearing who cannot hear ourselves, let us not
be blind leaders. Or someday, the
children we raise to hear God’s word may have some very jarring words to speak.
ear-tingling good news of God. Let us be
disciplined to hear the words of a God whom we honor above all else. Let us be disciplined by careful and faithful
obedience, showing compassion and mercy, tending the candles of the church,
loving and believing our God.