Sunday Message  01-10-2021
      "T
he Call"
1 Sam 3:1-10
John 1:43-51
  An evangelist once asked all who wanted to go to heaven to raise their hands.  Everyone in the audience did so,
except one elderly man sitting near the front of the auditorium.  The preacher pointed his finger at him and said, "Sir,
do you mean to tell us that you don't want to go to heaven?" "Sure I want to go to heaven," the non- conformist
replied, "but the way you put the question, I figured you were getting up a busload for tonight!"   
    About 175 years ago, when Robert Moffat, Scottish missionary to South Africa, came back to recruit helpers in his
homeland, he was greeted by the fury of a cold British winter.  Arriving at the church where he was to speak, he
noted that only a small group had braved the elements to hear his appeal.  What disturbed him even more was that
there were only ladies in attendance that night, for he had chosen as his text Proverbs 8:4, "Unto you, O men, I call."
    In his consternation he almost failed to notice one small boy in the loft who had come to work the bellows of the
organ.  Dr. Moffat felt hopeless as he gave the message, realizing that few women could be expected to undergo the
rigorous experiences they would face in the undeveloped jungles of Africa where he labored.  But God works in
mysterious ways to carry out his wise purposes.  
Although no one volunteered, the young fellow assisting the organist was thrilled by the challenge.  Deciding that
when he grew up he would follow in the footsteps of this missionary, he went on to school, obtained a degree in
medicine, and then spent the rest of his life ministering to the unreached tribes of Africa.  The boy's name was David
Livingstone!  Moffat never ceased to wonder that the Biblical appeal directed to men had stirred a boy to respond
and eventually to become a mighty power for
Christ.                                                                                                             
    God calls people - ordinary, average, every day people, men and women, like you and I, to serve him in
extraordinary ways and in everyday average ways.  Our Scripture Texts this morning focus on the call of Samuel and
on the call of Nathaniel to serve the Lord.
    Now as we consider the call of Samuel, one may think that Samuel was no average ordinary person.  First of all
his mother had prayed long and hard to have a child and indeed Samuel was God's gift to her.  Her response to this
wonderful gift of God was to give Samuel to the priest to be raised within the tradition to serve God.  So one may not
consider Samuel to be average and ordinary.  However, he was only twelve years old when God called to him - only
twelve years old.
    This happened at a time in Israel when the word of the Lord had been rare.  It was a time when visions were not
widespread.  People just weren't in regular communication with God.  The people were lacking a great leader like
Moses who had been in constant communication with God.  We must remember that the word of the Lord was rare at
that point in time.  So it comes as a total surprise to the boy, Samuel, when someone -- someone called to him in the
night.  Samuel did not know the Lord and Samuel did not recognize the voice as the voice of God.
    In fact Samuel confuses God's voice with that of a human.  He thinks that it is his old and blind teacher, Eli calling.  
Samuel runs in to see what his old blind teacher wants, but Eli dismisses Samuel for Eli had not called.  The scene is
repeated a second time and a third time.  Poor Samuel is confused.  He knows someone is calling to him and the only
person around is Eli and Eli is not calling him.
    It is on the third time that Eli, although blind but not yet hearing impaired, senses that the Lord is the one who is
calling to the young boy. So Eli instructs Samuel to answer the call of the Lord.
    This is but the beginning of an important chapter in the history of our faith.  For Samuel, hears the voice of God
calling and responds to it.  God speaks and tells the young boy of the terrible plans for Eli's unfaithful family.  
Samuel, who is only 12, is frightened by what he hears.  We understand because Samuel is given a difficult message
to convey to his teacher, to his friend.  Who wants to be the bearer of bad news?  Samuel is obedient and faithful
and he tells all to Eli.  The boy, twelve years old, faithfully listens to God.  He begins his journey toward maturity and
his role in God's purposes.                                                                                         As we turn to the New Testament
and the story of Nathaniel, we must recognize that this is the only scene in the New Testament in which Nathaniel
speaks.  John identifies him as being present at a Resurrection appearance but no where else does Nathaniel
appear or speak or do anything in Scripture.  Yet Nathaniel is an important person, important in his interaction with
Jesus.
    Now Nathaniel’s brother is Philip.  Philip is a believer and had already responded to the call of the Christ.  But
Nathaniel was a skeptic. He was not sure about this man Jesus.  Philip, being faithful, seeks out his brother to
introduce him to Jesus and to invite him to share in his experience with the Christ.   But Nathanael wasn't too excited
about going to meet Jesus; however he went along, anyway.
    When Nathanael meets Jesus, Jesus is quick to assert, "Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit."  Jesus is
immediately able to see into the man.  Jesus is immediately able to know the man.  And Nathanael is amazed at the
fact that Jesus actually knows him.  Nathanael even asks, "Where did you get to know me?"  Jesus' response is
telling.  Jesus informed Nathanael that he knew him before his brother even invited him to come and to meet Jesus.  
Jesus knew Nathanael from before his brother, Phillip, even invited him to come along.  
    This becomes the focus, the key idea of this message.  Jesus knows us even before we are invited to meet him.  
We Presbyterians firmly believe that God is acting in our lives even before we know that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Jesus
knew Nathanael even before his brother, Phillip, ever invited him to come and meet the Lord.  God called Samuel
even before Samuel knew who was calling to him.  This is the good news.  God knows us.  God calls to us long
before we even know who God is.
    Throughout the scriptures we see God acting in people's lives long before they ever knew God.  God was acting
in Samuel's life long before the boy even comprehended who God was.  God was acting in Nathanael's life before
Nathanael ever met Jesus.
    God was acting in all of our lives, long before we knew who the Christ was.  It is only by the power of God,
revealing Godself to us, that we are able to know that Jesus is the Christ.  God was acting in our lives, leading us to
the point of accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior long before we ever knew the Christ.
    It is easy for a person to say Jesus is Lord.  Yet it is difficult for a person to live life under the Lordship of the
Christ.  It is only by the power of God working within, leading us to the point of recognizing the Lordship of the Christ,
and then enabling us to live as Christians that it becomes
possible.                                                                                                        Like Samuel, like Nathanael, God has
been acting in our lives.  God calls us to come and to follow Jesus.  We have heard God's call in our life and today
we are here praising God for what God in Christ Jesus has done for us.
    At the same time, God has called us for a purpose.  This is where it becomes difficult.  What is our purpose?  
What does God have in mind for us? The Apostle Paul tells us that God gives to us different gifts and different
abilities and we are called to use those gifts and abilities for the glory of God.
    All of us can be like Philip, inviting our brothers and sisters to come and meet the Lord.  It is a simple invitation,
"would you like to come to church with us?"  Some will say yes, others will say no.  But in all cases, we must trust that
God is already working in their lives, God is the one who is working to bring our brothers and our sisters to that point
where they are able to recognize the Lordship of the Christ; where they are able to respond to God's call, and where
they are able to live and fulfill God's purpose.
    A man on his way to prayer meeting one evening saw a stranger looking thoughtfully into an open window of the
church.  Sensing the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Christian smiled and tactfully invited the man to attend the service
with him. The stranger agreed, and it was the beginning of a new life for him, for that night he was saved. After the
meeting he said to the man who had invited him, "Do you know, I've lived in this city for 7 years and no one has ever
asked me to go to church.  Why, I hadn't been here 3 days before deliverymen from the bakery, the dairy, and a
laundry contacted me.  Yet in all those years you are the first person who ever showed an interest in my going to
church."
       What we must remember is that our task is easy; all we have to do is to extend the invitation.  That is all that
Phillip did for Nathanael, extend the invitation.  God in Christ Jesus did the rest .... Extend the invitation today. Invite
some one to church on Sunday.
Let us pray