June 15, 2009

Nurturing the Called

            Yesterday I preached from 1 Samuel 3:1-10 which narrates the call of Samuel. I was struck by the irony and hopefulness of the text.  Eli and his priestly sons, Hophni and Phinehas, have not fulfilled their calling as spiritual leaders of Israel. Eli is so spiritually insensitive that he mistakes the fervent prayer of Hannah for intoxication; his sons (maybe they are mad about their names) have turned the Tent of Meeting into a brothel. Yet, “the lamp of God had not yet gone out.”

            The further irony of the story is that Eli can longer hear the call of God; he sends Samuel back to bed twice before it dawned on him that God might be beckoning the young man. Samuel can hear, but does not know how to respond. Eli knows how to respond, but has not done so for a seemingly long time. After the third time, he instructed Samuel how to be attentive to the voice of God. The proper response, he said is “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

            It is important that churches know how to help persons of all ages respond to God’s call. The role of the seminary is to help refine the calling and equip persons to fulfill the vocation to which God is beckoning. The Fund for Theological Education offers the following suggestions for churches who desire to “cultivate a culture of calling”:

1.     Invite young persons to consider ministry as a constructive vocational option

2.     Invest in youth ministries—time, resources, presence

3.     Name a young person’s gifts through the eyes of God’s grace rather than their accomplishments

4.     Apprentice young people to faithful practitioners so that they might learn the practices of ministry

It is critical that churches assist persons in voicing the great question of Howard Thurman: “What shall I do with my life?” We also can help

recognize and interpret the call of God. Thus, we make sure that the “lamp of God” does not go out in our day.”

            Molly T. Marshall


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