1 Kings 19: 9(b)-13
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
I Samuel 3:1-10
1 The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
4 Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.
” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
8 A third time the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
I have sometimes felt that God asks me the same question that he asked Elijah in 1 Kings 19:13(a), “What are you doing here Elijah?” “What are you doing here, Jeremy?” What are you doing, for that matter, any one if us?
As we begin a new year, past the din, past the clutter, past Christmas and New Year’s; we are finally able to settle down and consider what we are called to; what we are supposed to be about this year. Here we are, towards the end of the season of epiphany, where we are drawn like the Magi to both wisdom and worship, not as abstractions, but in the living of our lives.
I shared a story at the Heartland Region Pastor’s Retreat of an experience I had while worshipping at Kitsilano Community Church the second week of advent. Some background info first: Kerry and I were part of the founding group of Kits Church. It has been six years since we have been there and we have been very grateful to the new pastor, David Jenkins, for his welcoming. Part of my restarting at Kits is that I am not involved as a leader. I started reflecting, with gratitude, as I sat there that Sunday, that I had requested that I be a worshipper and not a participant in any other way. Then I began to reflect about what would it be like in several contexts, not just at Kits, if in my adamancy not to be asked to be involved, that people over time stopped asking. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my identity gets caught up in what I do (that was truer in the first 20 years of pastoral ministry than now) rather than who I am in God. So as I sat there thinking what it would be like not to be asked to be involved in anything anymore, I had an epiphany. The epiphany was simply this: In the absence of all the other voices, request, demands and urgencies, when other people are asking me to do things…in their absence, the only thing left, would be to hear the voice of God. It was such an enormous relief. Trading the cacophony and boisterousness of all the competing demands and voices that have filled my life since childhood, only to hear the voice of God. That was the experience of Elijah when after the wind, earthquake and fire, came the gentle whisper of God. That was the experience of Samuel when he heard God call out his name. May it be my experience and yours that we might respond as the child Samuel did in this New Year: “Speak, for your servant is listening”.
Thanks for your patience in listening to my story.