We Must Speak
In our podcast this week we discussed God’s calling of Samuel to be the “greatest” prophet of Israel. Samuel, we discover, was working in the Temple under the authority/tutelage of Eli. Samuel, we are told, did not know God and so when God called out to Samuel he instead thought it was the voice of Eli calling to him. In the story God continues to call to Samuel but we hear that God’s words fell to the ground. It was only after a time that Eli recognized what was occurring. Eli, in his wisdom, informed Samuel that it was God calling out to Samuel, it was God whose word was being spoken.
It is worth noting, again, that up to this point in the story God’s word had been falling to the ground, unheeded. It is Eli, the mentor, who is able to help Samuel hear, recognize and listen to God’s word, God’s language, God’s calling. It is only with Eli’s help that Samuel can move on to being the “greatest” prophet in Israel.
The story then goes on to tell us that as a prophet of God Samuel speaks for God to Israel and that God did not let Samuel’s words fall to the ground. I have to believe that God did not allow this to happen to Samuel, that is to allow his words to fall to the ground, because God had experienced what it was like to have one’s words fall to the ground. God, a God of empathy, out of the experience of having God’s words fall to the ground has compassion on Samuel, and ensures his words do not fall to the ground.
I have to believe that out of that experience with Samuel in the Temple, God continues to remember what it felt like to have one’s words fall to the ground. So, God wants to ensure that those who are called by God, to speak on behalf of God, do not experience the same.
Now, you may ask me who is it that is called by God to speak, like Samuel, on God’s behalf. I believe the answer is any one who is baptized. That is in our baptisms we are given the privilege by God to speak, and that God will ensure our words do not fall to the ground.
What are the words we are given to speak by God in and through our baptism? How about a word of healing. How about a word of love. How about a word of forgiveness. How about a word of compassion. How about a word of empathy. How about a word of mercy. How about a word of peace.
God gives to us these words to speak and God ensures that they will not fall to the ground.
But, there is no danger of the word falling to the ground if it is not spoken. There is, and can be, no activity on the part of God if the word is not spoken. And, in all my years in ministry it seems to me that the reason that people do not speak the word given in their baptism is because they are afraid, afraid that the word will fall to the ground.
But, we find assurance in the story of Samuel that God reveals Godself to be a God of empathy and makes the promise that our word will NOT fall to the ground. We only need to speak, speak a word of healing, love, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, mercy, peace and trust God to keep God’s promise.
We are called to speak to all people. But, particularly we are called to speak to those who are most vulnerable in our society, to children. We are certainly called, we believe at Braid, to speak a word of baptism to the most vulnerable of our children, those who are in foster care. And, we do so with the assurance that when we speak to these children a word of healing, love, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, mercy, peace that this word will be held by God, lifted by God, blessed by God and will not fall to the ground. Indeed, we believe a life will be transformed. We all have the authority to play the role of Eli, the role of mentor, and ensure that these children will recognize the voice of God in their lives.