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Do You Hear What I Hear…

…or is that call just me talking to myself?

by Unvirtuous Abbey

Old Testament Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1–10 [11–20]

For Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012: Year B – Epiphany 2

My infant son, who is named after this story (his name is Eli Samuel), does not sleep. And when he does eventually sleep, he always jumps and throws his arms in the air as if he is falling, which makes him wake up, crying.

We go to him. We touch him and offer words that soothe him back to sleep.


The fear of falling is a very human instinct. And reaching up for someone is just as human.

Night time comes for a lot of us with many things calling our name. Many things lay claim on us. Just as back then, these days “the word of the Lord” is rare. We can all relate to a time and place when the soothing word of the Lord was no longer heard. When we’re falling, reaching, wondering who or what will catch us…not the least of which, God.

Supposed to Hear

In fact, if anyone in this story is supposed to “hear the Lord” it is old Eli, the priest whose sight has grown dim. Instead, it is to Samuel, who has no idea what it is that he is hearing, who hears. But, initially, only that something is calling his name.

To Eli’s credit, he helps Samuel to understand his call by helping him to articulate a response. “Here I am.”

Who helps you to articulate the response to the calls in your life?

How do you do that for other people?

What is it about call that lays claim on us?

How is God speaking to you? How do we not let such words “fall to the ground?”

Ears to Hear?

So often in the church, we move ahead with vision statements and meetings with consultants, or making motions and voting on them, we decide what to do, all without considering where God is calling us to be.

The problem with all of this today is that we live in a post-Harold Camping prediction world, and anyone who claims to hear the voice of God is suspect—especially suspect (except, maybe, the ancient Mayans). Profits, power, influence and control seem to be the motivation rather than what it is that God has in store for Samuel (meaning “one who hears”) and for us.

The Hardest Question

The hardest question is: Is “call” a fulfilment of self?

Does it come from within? In this passage, are we getting a chance to hear Samuel’s inner dialogue? Or is call something that comes from God? And if so, how do we discern it?

Unvirtuous Abbey appeared on the Twitter scene on August 6th, 2010. They are a slightly sarcastic, yet hopeful, group of monks. They try to elevate the conversation with humorous tweets about the Bible, God, and Jesus. They also pray about geeks, Guns and Roses, and Charlie Sheen. They have been interviewed by The Times -Union, The Practical Catholic and the Virtual Abbey. They consider themselves lucky to be among the guest bloggers of “The Hardest Question” and readily trade chores for the chance to write…anonymously, of course.


  1. Chris Enstad says:

    Great words in both pieces this week. Thank you!

  2. Anne Beattie-Stokes says:

    Why is it either or – from God or from within? Maybe the way God calls us is through our deepest gifts and yearnings. As Fred Buechner says, your call (vocation) is where your own deep yearning meets the deep hunger of the world. (not an exact quote but close enough)

  3. Unvirtuous Abbey says:

    @Anne: Who are we to argue with Fred B.? Love him!

    @ChickPastor, Chris: Thanks for the comments!

  4. Tom Williams says:

    Am I missing something here? It seems that on this Sunday when we are called to think about MLK, Jr., and his birth, this fits so well. One who is called to confront the powerful on behalf of the vulnerable and called from a group(children, apprentice rev’s, non-knowers)to do this work. And then the irony of the one to be confronted enables his own subversion!

  5. Jim Young says:

    Really appreciated you all’s comments on both the OT & NT lesson for this second Sunday in Epiphany. Don’t want to push into an allegory, but your thoughts prompts me to consider Eli as us mainline denomin. and Samuel as the ‘new’ Christian way, with God’s judgments coming on us as old Eli via the dismanteling by the Holy Spirit of the mainline churches. Nevertheless, it is Eli who guides Samuel in spite of his sin (the mainline failure to consistently connect its members to Jesus Christ leading to transformation, and thus God’s judgment is on us.) The temptation to suck the spiritual juice (or blood) from the newbies by gloming onto them as means of survival is a great metaphor/image. Course I am a huge Buffy fan too. . . Thanks and blessings!

  6. Unvirtuous Abbey says:

    @Jim: Push into allegory all you like! Depending on new blood to prop up what was instead of letting God do something new is a huge debate, isn’t it?


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