Updated: Aug 1, 2021
God calls each of us by name (The Rev. Dr. Deborah White)
So today since the children of Grace are watching us from home my own children Katie and Nick are going to help me talk to you about today’s Bible stories. Let me call them. Yoo hoo- children! (The children don’t come). Hey, you guys! I thought you were going to help me with the sermon today. (They still don’t come). Where could they be? Yo! Boy! Girl! (That’s what I call them sometimes). (Still no offspring). Hmmm. Let me try one more time. KATIE!! NICK!! (Katie and Nick come right away). Here they are. Where were you guys? (Katie and Nick answer that I didn’t call them by their names so they didn’t come). Ah ha ha. Very funny – as if there are other children here right now!
Sometimes it feels important for someone to call you by your name before you want to answer. Now, sometimes that’s because we think that the someone who is calling us wants us to do something and if we pretend that if we think she is calling someone else we can get out of doing it. Now admit it- who has tried that trick when they heard their mom or dad calling them just about the time the table needs to be set for dinner? (Give them a chance to answer and respond). I KNOW that these two have tried it.
I’ll tell you a secret: adults try it all the time. Adults even try to do it with GOD! When I used to hear God’s voice calling me and telling me that I needed to become a priest, I’d pretend not to hear him. Then, when God got so loud that I couldn’t pretend not to hear, I said to myself, “God must be talking to my SISTER. My SISTER would like to be a priest.” (It turned out that that was true, but it also turned out that God was talking to me). We have all kinds of tricks to try and get out of things God wants us to do – even when those things might be good for us. Have you ever maybe thought your teacher was calling on you to tell you did something wrong, but it turned out that it was really your chance to take home the class pet? Or maybe your grandmother called and you thought you were going to have to help her clean her car, but she really wanted to take you for ice cream? God is like that. You never know what God might want when God calls on you, but you can bet that whatever it is will be good, because God always wants what is best for us.
Today we heard a story about a little boy named Samuel who heard God call his name. Samuel lived a long time ago when children used to go and live in churches with their priests. Isn’t that a weird idea? Can you imagine living at Grace with Reverend Deb? Well, these guys can! (Gesture at Katie and Nick). And they probably wouldn’t recommend it. Anyway, Samuel was asleep, and God called his name. Samuel thought it was the priest, Eli, calling him, but Eli said it wasn’t him. After this happened a couple of times, Eli realized that God must be calling Samuel, so he told Samuel to answer God and tell God he was ready to talk. Now, that was some very smart advice – because let me tell you: if you try to avoid talking to God, God will just find you one way or another!
Later on, we heard ANOTHER story about when some people got called by God in a different way. In that story Jesus was out walking, and he saw Phillip and he told Phillip to follow him – and Phillip did because Philip just knew that Jesus was VERY special. He was so excited that he ran right off to tell his friend Nathaniel so he would come too. But Nathaniel wasn’t buying it. He figured Jesus was just a poor carpenter from a small town, so he couldn’t be very important – and he told Phillip so. But Philip just invited Nathaniel to “Come and See.” What a great idea! Phillip didn’t argue with Nathaniel or get mad. He didn’t go without him. He just suggested he come and see! So Nathaniel came and when Jesus saw him he not only knew his name, but he also knew what he was like and how he had thought Jesus wasn’t very important –and even where Nathaniel had been sitting when he said it! THEN Nathaniel KNEW Jesus was special – and he was very glad that he had come with Phillip.
So, what do you think Samuel and Philip and Nathaniel learned? (Give them a chance to answer and respond). Yes, that you should answer when you hear your names called – even when you aren’t sure if it’s good news! What else did they learn? (Give them a chance to answer and respond). That’s right! God knows each and every one of us by our names. I think they might have learned one more thing too. What might that be? (Give them a chance to answer and respond). Good! They figured out that it’s a really great thing to share the good news about Jesus with your friends because knowing Jesus will make your friends happy too! Do you think you would like to try to listen for God’s voice? (Give them a chance to answer and respond). Will you try to answer when God calls you? (Give them a chance to answer and respond). Will you share what you know about Jesus with your friends? (Give them a chance to answer and respond). Great – and we will too! All right then, what do we say in church when we agree (Give them a chance to answer). That’s right. We say “amen.” AMEN.