I am sure you are all wondering why I am up here this morning instead of at the piano. Well, it
began like this—Keith knew he would be away this Sunday at BC conference, and asked if I would do
the service, so of course I jumped at the chance to share my thoughts. Not. Keith asked if I would take
the service and I said no, absolutely not. Being blessed with the gift of persistence, he asked again a
couple of weeks later and, being equally blessed with that gift, I said no again. And then somewhere in
there I discovered what the readings were for this week, and that one was the story of Samuel’s call. I
found at various times, ideas about call were popping into my head. Until I finally said, OK God, I get
it, and here I am . I heard God’s call.
To hear a call, as Samuel did—what would that look like? For you, for this faith community? I
think there are three parts to a call- we need to make time and space for God, listen for God’s voice,
and respond.
Samuel. A young boy, brought to the temple by his mother, Hannah, who had prayed for a son
after years of infertility .She had promised that she would offer him to the temple to do the work of
God. He was only about 12 years old when he heard God speaking. Eli, a mature and experienced
priest was right next door— why didn’t God call him, tell him to shape up or else? What was so special
about Samuel? Well first of all, Samuel was alert. He knew Eli often needed him, so even though he
was asleep, he was on alert. Anyone who has had a baby in their home knows this feeling. And I
imagine that at that time, with no traffic, or electronics, the time just before dawn would be pretty quiet.
We need to make space to hear God’s call. And we need to be alert.
We have all witnessed the person walking around with a cell phone saying “can you hear me now? Can
you hear me now?” How many signal bars do you have available for your communication with God?
Are there dead spots ? Is the signal strong?
A time when I heard a call was about 24 years ago. There was a war in the former Yugoslavia.
Atrocities were being committed , innocent people were being killed and traumatized. My mother was
part of a group on the Mainland who sponsored some families to come to safety here in Canada. At the
time, I had 4 young children, one with some special needs, a part-time job, and a marriage that was not
going well. Clearly I had no time or energy for anything else. But as I relaxed in a bath after a long day,
or before I fell asleep, or several times in that terrible 4 a.m. time when I couldn’t sleep, thoughts of
those people kept popping up. I finally had to say, “oh ok God, I hear You. That Sunday I stood right
here and said, “ we cannot stop the war , but we can make a difference to one family. “And you know
what? People stepped up, and the Lemo family arrived a few months later. And that is the thing I am
most proud of in my life, that because I listened, a family’s life was made better.
So, we make time , we listen. But do we hear? I often hear people saying to their children, “You
aren’t listening”!. There is a difference between hearing and listening. How do we know we are really
being heard? When the message is actually getting through ? What did Samuel say? He responded
eventually , when he knew it was God calling, “ Speak , your servant is listening.”
There is a story about a person many years ago applying for a job in a telegraph office, and you
probably know that in the days before easy phone service and internet and cellphones, this method
relied on a system of long and short signals called Morse code. So the young woman appeared at the
office, which was full of people and noise, including the clicking of machines to send telegrams, people
talking and moving around. Seven people were already waiting to be interviewed so she filled out the
application, sat down and waited. After a few minutes, she stood up, and walked right in to the inner
office. A few minutes later , she came back out with the boss who told the other people waiting to go
home, this was who was being hired. The other applicants were mad because they had been there long
before, and not even been interviewed. The boss replied that the whole time they had been sitting there,
the telegraph had been ticking out the message “ if you can understand this message , come in, the job
is yours”. They all heard the noise in the room , but only one person really listened.
When someone speaks to you about a situation, and you find you feel a tug on your heart, could that be
God’s call? When you are in bed at night and the face of the person standing at the traffic light with a
sign keeps appearing to you, can that be God’s call? When you learn a set of skills and then find a place
to use exactly those skills, could that be God’s call? There are many ways to be called, and can we
answer with Speak, your servant is listening.?
So we make time and space for God, we listen and hear , but then what? None of it will make any
difference if we don’t answer. As God’s hands in the world, I know that most of us are actively doing
what we can to make the world a better place. Sure, we could probably do more, but this morning I
want to talk about our ministry as part of the Duncan United Church family.
Yes, it is important to come together as Christ’s body on Sunday mornings, and to participate in Bible
Study and prayer. But consider this analogy . I say to one of my children, , come here please, and he
stops everything and comes and looks right at me, already that would be a miracle, and I say “ I need
you to clean your room. “And he goes into his room, and comes out a half hour later and says , well, I
have been really studying what you said about cleaning my room, and I think it’s an awesome idea! I
researched it on google, and I can now say clean your room in 6 different languages . I made a
spreadsheet with all the different tasks and an estimate of how long they would take, and have
considered 3 different action plans. I am thinking of calling together a few friends for a planning
meeting so we can research the need and the history of room cleaning. Cool, eh?
Obviously, this would not sit well with me. When we feel called by God to do something, we
need to take action. I could have ignored the thoughts about the people of Bosnia and carried on with
my life. And I have to admit, that being human there have been times when I did ignore that Voice. But
I also remember a pivotal moment in my life when I was about 17 years old. I was at choir practise in a
choir where everyone else was older than me. At the front of our church was a cross, and in front of it
there was a little ledge. A man came silently into our choir practise, wearing only underwear, and
climbed up onto that ledge in front of the cross. The choir director, who was in his 50’s and all those
other adults , kind of mumbled and then just carried on with practise Well, I do understand as a choir
leader now, that it is important to get in as much practise as possible, but really??? Anyway, after a few
minutes I realized that none of these adults were going to do anything. And if anyone was going to do
something it was going to be me. I called the police, and eventually someone came and got him. But
the point is, I had that moment of realizing , no one else was going to act and it had to be me. Here I am
Lord,it is I , Lord…What if we didn’t wait for someone else to step up, and we just saw a need and
A few weeks ago, the staff and Board of this congregation met and spent a Saturday together. One of
the things we did, was name all of the people we could think of in this congregation, and all the
different ministries they were involved with. We came up with 160 people’s names! And of course
many people are doing more than one thing. I think that is amazing proof of a church that is alive and
well. So many of you responding to the call to be the church in whatever way you can. But-you knew
there had to be a but—our youth leader Sarah sent us an article last week by Melissa Rau, a ministry
consultant. According to Ms Rau, , churches like ours are vulnerable. When we have paid staff to do
Pastoral care, Youth Ministry, Music Ministry, etc, is it easy to sit back and think, well someone is
taking care of it so we don’t have to worry about it. Rau points out the necessity to think of the people
in these positions as leaders who can mobilize and mentor others to perform that Ministry together. “If
we think of the staff as being paid to do the actual work,” she says , a little harshly I thought,” that it is
like saying to our youth , or our people in hospital, we can’t be bothered to care so we are just going to
pay someone to do it.” Well, I don’t see our church like that at all. I see so many people caring in so
many ways. And yet…. I see Sarah ask for people to be involved in Children and Youth Ministry and
get few or no responses. I hear Keith mention opportunities to help plan worship-a topic I know many
of you have opinions about!!–but we still don’t have a team. . And there are other gaps in areas where
we need ideas and action. I also know that there are people here who are looking for ways to be in
Ministry together, but aren’t sure how or where they are called to do so. There could also be people
doing things that do not really fit with their gifts and talents.
So this morning we are inviting you to consider what you are called to do to help keep this
congregation vibrant and strong. There is an insert of a leaf in your bulletin, and it asks you to consider
what gifts you bring . Are you artistic? A good listener ? Musical? Good at woodworking? Love to knit
or sew? A great cook? Observant? Love tidying cupboards? Do you have the gift of hospitality? I could
go on and on. If you are not sure what your gifts are, ask someone who knows you- they might come
up with something that surprises you. I encourage you to fill out your leaf with your gifts and contact
info either this morning or in the next weeks and place them on the tree that is in the hallway.  The skills on each leaf will be welcomed as a resource as we go forward in Ministry together.
I believe that, like Samuel, we need to make time and space for God. We need to be alert when things
disturb us and try to discern if this is God calling , so we can say, “Speak Your servant is listening”.
And we need to respond, knowing our own strengths.
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to respond to a call, and I hope you will consider carefully
the gifts you bring and fill out your leaves!