January 14, 2018
I Samuel 3: 1-10; John 1: 43-51
Hear God’s Call
I Samuel 3:1-10 and John 1:43-51 both narrate call stories. I Samuel draws us into the call of the young Samuel, who is ministering in the Temple alongside the older, Eli. In the last part of John 1, Jesus calls Nathanael to be of his 12 closest disciples. In each of these stories, someone near that person helps them hear and respond to that call. Samuel believes what he hears is to respond to Eli. Eli redirects him to listen for the greater purpose to which God is calling Samuel. Finally, Samuel responds, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Nathanael’s life took a deeper and divine meaning when he accompanied his hometown friend, Philip, into the path of Jesus of Nazareth, and then responding positively to the invitation to follow.
In my own call story, as I narrated it in my ordination paper 27 years ago, I felt called to be in places, and to help others be in the places, where we will hear God’s call to a meaning and purpose greater than ourselves. I feel blessed to still have the opportunity to exercise that vision of my own call and to walk with others in their journey of following those divine calls.
I reflect on these lectionary texts through the lens of that call and of the UCC’s Humanitarian and Development Ministries with which I work. These ministries in disaster and sustainable development and with refugees are made possible by people getting personally involved through the UCC’s One Great Hour of Sharing Offering. These ministries support local capacity building and amplify the efforts of the vulnerable and excluded people impacted by natural disaster, forced displacement or chronic poverty around the world. Each year, thousands of people worldwide are impacted positively by your response to the call to participate.
One way to supplement your participation in the OGHS Offering is to engage a group in a Disaster Recovery Mission trip. These sites now in Florida and coming soon in Texas and elsewhere provide space for you to hear God calling you and provide access to exercise that call to share your presence and skills for a purpose greater than yourself. You can walk with people as they recover from disaster.
Nathanael met Jesus through mutual friends. Philip, of Andrew and Peter’s home town, knew Nathanael. They already had changed life course and begun to follow Jesus. Nathanael begins the interaction with Jesus as a skeptic. He quotes the stereotypes of the day. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” At the same time, he allows himself to be open to the possibilities, to get drawn into conversation with Jesus, to be in a space physically, mentally, and spiritually where he could hear God call him to more.
Through your United Church of Christ, you already have relationships in disaster recovery and in global sustainable development and with refugees. You already are present and walking with people in need. How long and how far we can go together is the content at the heart of God’s call. Where there is confusion about how to get involved, know that you are already in relationship and an important part of response systems. Where there are questions and skepticism, get involved and open yourself to the possibilities. Where there is a call to go deeper, experience meaning and purpose that could change your life forever.
Reflections by: Rev. Dr. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, UCC national setting Team Leader, UCC Humanitarian and Development Ministries (One Great Hour of Sharing) in disaster, refugee, development and volunteer ministries.