God had been calling Samuel all of Samuel’s life. The two chapters that precede today’s scripture reading from I Samuel 3:1-10 tell the story of God’s lifelong call that began when Samuel’s mother, Hannah, prayed and made a promise to dedicate her child to the service of God. Sure enough, Hannah’s prayer was answered with the birth of Samuel whom she took to the temple to be dedicated to the service of the prophet, Eli.

It is probably 12 years after Samuel’s birth that we hear the story of God calling Samuel’s name in today’s scripture reading. While the scripture reading does not state if this is the first time God called Samuel’s name, it does state that this is the first time Samuel heard God calling his name. It is a confusing moment for Samuel as he listens to God’s voice and thinks it is Eli calling him as he runs to Eli and says “here I am, for you called me.” Three times this happens until Eli advises Samuel to answer God calling his name by stating “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”


When I was a student in seminary, I took a course entitled Clinical Pastoral Education. Part of this course included a weekly written account of my conversation with a patient. This written account was called a verbatim which I would review with my supervisor. Part of the goal of a verbatim was to listen to what was being communicated by the words that were spoken and by the context in which words were spoken.

Today’s scripture reading is a verbatim of a conversation that Samuel had with Eli. To comprehend this conversation, it is important to know the context of the conversation as relayed in today’s scripture reading:

Context #1 – “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” Israel was at a transition point in its history as God’s called people. They had forgotten who God had called them to be as a royal priesthood. It is in this context of spiritual amnesia that God calls the boy Samuel to become a prophetic leader of Israel who will speak the Word of the Lord.

Context #2 – “Eli’s eyesight had begun to grow dim so he could not see.” In addition to Eli’s loss of eyesight being a physical condition, it was also a spiritual condition that described both Eli and Israel as the reason the word of the Lord was rare in those days and visions were not widespread.

Context #3 – “The lamp of God had not yet gone out.” The lamp to which this verse refers is from the time when God told Moses to make a sign of God’s lasting presence. The temple priests were responsible for keeping the lamp of God burning by keeping it fueled with oil the Israelites brought to the temple. This emphasis that the lamp of God has not gone out can mean that while spiritual darkness seems to engulf Eli and Israel, the light of the lamp of God is still flickering as it has not yet gone out. Perhaps, the context of the message of I Samuel 3:1-10 is a much a message of hope as it is a message of judgement. Perhaps God’s calling of Samuel is a proclamation that a new day is coming when Israel will listen for the sound of God’s presence.

Perhaps God’s calling of Samuel is a reminder that God calls all people to answer God’s call upon their lives by saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Listening, the means by how we answer God’s call upon our lives. It is not only the story of I Samuel 3:1-10. It is the story of the Bible.
In their book, Craddock on the Craft of Preaching, editors Lee Sparks and Kathryn Hayes Sparks quote the wonderful preacher, Fred Craddock as saying, “The Bible takes listening very seriously. The Bible’s term for ‘listening’ is translated most often as ‘obey.’ The Bible doesn’t know the difference between ‘listen’ and ‘obey.’
“Listening is fundamental, but it is so hard to do. We have marvelous mechanisms for not listening. The Bible recognizes this. Recall that marvelous passage about the suffering servant in Isaiah 50:4b-5, ‘Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord opened my ear and I was not rebellious.’ The wording literally is ‘God dug out my ear.’ You don’t just listen—it takes an act of God to really listen.”
Listening. The means by which we answer God’s call upon our lives as we answer with Samuel, “speak Lord for your servant is listening.”

David Isay is the founder of the project called StoryCorps that started in New York City in 2003. It all came from the idea of listening to people tell their stories at a StoryCorps booths where two people ask the questions they have always wanted to ask each other. David considers these booths to be sacred spaces. He states that he has learned that listening is an act of love that insists that every life matters. He has collected over 60,000 stories across the country with the hope that people will have the chance to hear each other as they listen to each other.

Saint Benedict in his Rule for the brothers began his entire book with this word for someone following Jesus in the Christian way – “Listen.” Saint Benedict followed this opening word in his Rule with this opening advice about listening with “Listen carefully and incline the ear of your heart.”

When we do that, we will hear God calling our name.


by Pastor Marc Brown
June 2, 2024

Accompanying Scriptures: 1 Samuel 3:1-10

Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for June 2, 2024

Scripture Lesson      1 Samuel 3:1-10

The Good News      “Listening”

Music                          “Be Thou My Vision” Hymn #451



Closing Music      “Immortal, Invisible” arr. Gerald Peterson

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