Sermon from June 3, 2018, at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, MO. Given by Corps Member Rebecca Cole
Hi everyone! My name is Rebecca, and I am one of the current corps members at DAH, and I am so pleased to be with you all today.
Starting summer before going into 7th grade I was lucky enough to get to go to a week long Episcopal Youth conference each year at Kanuga, a conference center outside of Hendersonville, North Carolina. It was always an extremely important time in my faith- a time to go to the mountains and out of the swamp that my hometown of Mobile, AL was in, and, as is important to many middle and high schoolers, a chance to be away from parents. Sorry Mom and Dad. We had relative freedom to explore the conference center, and it was so exciting to feel like I had at least a glimpse of life after turning 18.
If you have been to an Episcopal summer camp or youth conference, you have likely heard the hymn “Here I am, Lord” which is taken from both Isaiah chapter 6 and today’s reading in Samuel. We did this hymn little differently than many places do. The last night of the conference, we would hold a service, and we would play this hymn at the end, and everyone would take off their shoes, jump up and down, and scream the lyrics at the top of our lungs, either running towards the front and jumping around the altar, or even up and down on the pews. I know what you must be thinking, the conference center loved us.
It gets me thinking about how adament both Isaiah and Samuel were in their “here I ams”. Three times Samuel came running to Eli and said, “here I am, for you called me.” It reminds me of the times you have a conversation with someone and maybe they mumble their words, or maybe like me you don’t have the best hearing in the world, and after of couple times of asking “what did you say?,” you give up and kind laugh and say “mmhmm” or “that’s right.” I don’t know if this is a modern phenomenon, or if we are just trying to be polite by not asking people to repeat what they have been saying 5 times, but 9 times out of 10, whatever you come up with as a response is not at all an appropriate reply to whatever it is they are saying.
I think it is important to note though, that it seems to me that by the third time, Samuel is probably getting pretty annoyed. he starts out running toward Elil and saying “Here I am” and then transitions to simply getting up saying, in what I imagine is a rather exasperated voice “Here I am, for you called me.”
Annoyed as Samuel might be, he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t shrug it off. He trusts himself, and he is confident in asserting “I heard that” rather than just ignoring. I think it is important to note though, Samuel doesn’t figure this out on his own. Samuel hears the call, but he cannot figure out who it is coming from until Eli helps him out.
At Deaconess Anne House, we are very lucky in the fact that we get to meet with a spiritual director. If you are not familiar with spiritual direction, which I was not until this year, it is an ancient practice in which the director sit with the directee, and helps them deepen their spiritual life as well as figuring out how God is working in their lives. A lot of what we talk about in Spiritual Direction is “nudges” from the Holy Spirit. Things that you may not realize were God’s hand until you name them out loud.
When I was in college, I volunteered at a crisis hotline. During our training, the director of the center said something that has really stuck with me. People are experts o own lives: At the crisis center, we don’t tell people what to do or which decision to make. First of all, if you tell someone what to do, if they are anywhere as much of a contrarian as I am, their knee jerk reaction is not to do it. People usually already know the next steps. Our job is to help nudge them to name those things out loud. So that instead of saying “I know you’re failing a class so just to your professor and talk to them about how to bring your grade up.” You ask them, “if you had a friend who was in your same situation, what would you advise them to do?” Many of the times, people will name a course of action to help them cope with the situation they were in. It is amazing how much kinder people treat their friends than themselves. They knew the answer all along, they just needed someone else nudge them name what they already knew.
Similarly, Eli had to nudge Samuel- even though Samuel was the one to hear the voice, Eli had to talk to him about who it was from He had to guide him to help him realize it was not Eli to whom he should be saying Here I am, but God.
I suppose I am trying to make the point we have to constantly remind one another that God is working in one another’s lives. Not in a trite or dismissive way, but truly sitting with one another and allowing each other to name aloud where they are being called, and helping one another say “here I am” to God wherever He calls us.