Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Old Testament and Gospel, which were read earlier.
When Martin Luther was a student at the University of Erfurt, he found a copy of the Bible in the school library. As he paged through Scripture, he happened upon the words in verse 10 and read them with great interest: “And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”” He wished he could be like Samuel and hear God’s voice! The great discovery of Luther’s life was that on the pages of the Bible, God does speak to us as He once spoke to Samuel.
In Samuel’s day, as in Luther’s, “the word of the LORD was rare.” People had little interest in hearing what God had to say. The five books of Moses were kept in the tabernacle, but even the priests neglected them. Not since the death of Moses had there been a great prophet in Israel.
No greater judgment can fall upon a nation than when it suffers the loss of God’s Word. When people do not appreciate the Gospel, God often takes it from them. Israel suffered this time and time again. Eventually, they would repent and God’s Word would be proclaimed to them again, though it didn’t take long for them to neglect God’s Word as they had previously done.
Wouldn’t it be nice if God were to call us the same way as He did Samuel? How would He call us? What will He call us to do? Fortunately for us, God does call us, just as He did Samuel. He doesn’t call us in the way that He did Samuel, but He calls us through another voice, that of His Son, Jesus Christ. He calls us to come to Him, just as He did Samuel.
As God called His people of old, He used the prophets to do so. But that is no longer the case today. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son….” What we sometimes forget is that God did not stop calling His people, He merely changed the messenger who was calling. Before, it was the prophets calling the people of Israel to believe in the promised Messiah of God. Later, it was John the Baptist who was the final voice of the people, preparing them to receive the Messiah who was closer than what the people thought. In the end, God sent His long-promised Son to be the ultimate voice, calling the people to repent and believe. But His calling went even further than that. He called 12 lowly men to be His disciples, to be His mouthpieces and to proclaim who He was and what He had come to do. They had three years to learn just what to say and how to say it. When it was time, they continued the same preaching and teaching as their Teacher.
All throughout His ministry, we see our Lord calling people. He calls the sinner to Him to repent. He calls the child to Him, to be the example of faith. He calls for the non-believer to come to Him and believe. He calls the believer to Himself so they may be strengthened. He calls the entire world to Himself in order to be baptized. He calls you each and every time you enter this place, His Father’s house, to confess your sins and receive His absolution. He calls you to feast upon His body and His blood for the forgiveness of your sins, a forgiveness that is certainly needed by all.
As we look at Jesus calling Philip and Nathanael, the calling is reminiscent of that of Samuel. Samuel is called by God to be His servant and to do His work. Philip is first called by Jesus and he declares to Nathanael, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael asks the all-important question: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The question is one that is meant to establish who Jesus was. Everyone knew that Nazareth did not produce anything. But in this instance, Nathanael was wrong. Nazareth did produce something good: it produced the Savior of creation.
When God calls us, the message that He calls us with is not one that is fluff, not one that can be ignored. However, throughout Israel’s history, they viewed God’s message as fluff and it was ignored, time and time again. Apparently, God’s people knew better than God Himself did. They knew exactly how to get themselves into trouble – ignore God and His Word. Eventually they would realize that they were not capable of getting themselves out of trouble and so they would turn to God, sometimes rather reluctantly.
When God sends forth His Son, unfortunately, the world had the same problem as they did with God – the world knew better. They didn’t need to listen to Him, just like they didn’t need to listen to God. But the message of Jesus was the exact same as that of God. Both call the people of God to repentance. Both call the people of God to believe. Both call the people of God unto themselves, for there is found everlasting life.
Try as we might, we can never cease depending on God. God created us. Jesus redeems us. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us and makes us holy. We are called by God to come to Him, to receive from Him, to worship Him, to serve Him as we serve our neighbor. God calls us, not for His benefit, but for ours. Even though God is calling, we seek to flee. Why is that? Why do we flee the gracious hand of our creator? We flee because deep down inside we know who we are. While we are with others who are like us, we draw comfort from the fact that we are more or less about as good as the people who are around us. We go into denial about our sin. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we are not so bad after all. But that’s where we are wrong. We are so bad. In fact, we’re even worse!
Despite the fact that we are sinners, God calls us unto Him. He calls us to be forgiven. He calls us to receive. He calls us to be His beloved children. Just as God called Samuel, just as Jesus called Philip and Nathanael, so are we called. We are called in our Baptism to be made forgiven children of God. We are called to serve our neighbor, to spread the Gospel to those who have not heard.
God calls men of every culture to proclaim His message … the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. The message of repentance is always similar to the message that God gave to Samuel that terrifies us of our sin. The message of forgiveness is always similar to the message that God gave to Philip that always points to Jesus.
Like Samuel the first and second and third time, maybe we do not recognize that the Lord is calling to us. Yet He does call. He calls to us gathered here in His home. He calls through His living Word. He calls us unto Himself and we respond, “Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.