“Tuning In”

Rev. Katherine Todd
1 Samuel 3:1-10
Psalm 46:10-11

1 Samuel 3:1-10

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Psalm 46:10-11

“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

I have a poem I want to share with you.  It’s called:

Omnipresent, Omnipotent, All-Knowing Internet,
You Are My Keeper

The Internet is my Keeper, I shall not want.

It keeps me company

It distracts me from my problems

I am powerful.

I can get anything, anytime, with the click of a button

The Internet follows my every whim and wonder

Without judgement.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I have the light of my phone to light the path,

I can google answers to any questions,

I can get copious information on anything I fancy or fear.

I can map wherever I need to go,

I can read others’ reviews,

I can find virtual company and friendship, and

No one ever need know the depth or shame of my pain,

…because I always post the happiest of photos.

This world is a scary place.

People and relationships are messy and unpredictable.

Boredom is torture.

But You, Oh Internet…

The warm glow of your screen…

You are my security.  With you by my side, I can do anything!

As long as I have signal,

…and the latest technology,

My heart rate lowers, and

I feel secure knowing I have all I need,

As long as you’re right beside me,

Within arm’s reach.

 

Beyond the offensiveness of these words with their prophetic bite, I think this poem, modeled on Psalm 23, is meant to give us pause.  Pause to think on the truths its calls to light.  Truths such as how deeply we’ve come to rely on something, and the question of whether or not this trust and reliance is healthy and life-giving.

I think it also calls to question who and what this relationship-with-the-Internet is replacing.

I imagine for a good number of us, the internet has taken the place of many things in our lives.  The internet has long retired the phone book. It’s retired concordances and encyclopedias.  It almost seems to have eclipsed libraries.

In many cases it has replaced friendships and evenings out.

It has taken the roles historically reserved for our elders and grandparents – answering all our questions about how to clean such and such or where to find this or that.

More times than many of us would like to admit, it has taken precedent over those in our midst, those right in front of our faces – our friends and families and acquaintances. Texts seem to demand immediate attention.  Posts and likes and emails call to us during dinner and movies and evenings.

Now admittedly, I have focused here solely on the losses we’ve experienced by the internet. Arguably, far more good has come from the internet than harm.

Life has been made so much simpler.  Our phones have replaced tool after cumbersome tool – flashlight, calculator, watch, calendar, computer,…  Increasingly our phones are an all-in-one!  We have apps that keep track of things, keep track of our schedules and appointments, give us discounts, and keep us organized.  We  have a means of communicating with friends and loved ones, spread across the globe. We have access to information, and we can open our eyes to see a much bigger and more amazing world than we could ever travel or witness in a lifetime!….

The internet is a tool, and it has accomplished many good things for us.

And like every tool, it can be used for good or evil, help or harm, connection or isolation….

But what the internet is so particularly good at, is distracting us.  And that is a concern.  Because the things that matter most in life require our time and attention.  They require our pressing in when times get hard. They require our ability to listen and stop and be.  …away from our screens.

Our relationship with God is one of these most important things.  And sometimes we can be so connected, so plugged in, so in the know, so distracted and entertained…  that we can inadvertently close ourselves off from the still, small voice of God.

The Spirit of God has been poured out!  The dividing wall has been torn down!  God has made a way for us to live as children of the most high God, as family, as friends of God.  But this is a relationship.  And like all relationships, it flourishes in the margins of our lives, in the spaces, in the moments in between.  Our relationship with God requires that we make and guard spaces in our lives and minds and hearts for God – to talk with one another and to listen, to delight in one another and discover new things, to ask and to receive….

Our Biblical story today has been a favorite since I was little.  I loved how God spoke to Samuel as a child.  I wanted God to speak to me like that!  How cool would that be!? – to hear God’s voice, directly?!?!

I don’t know about you, but I suspect many of us have had fantasies about God just making things clear and plain for us – speaking to us, plain as day.  And we are not alone in this.  Through-out history, folks have begged God and the prophets for signs and wonders.

We want undeniable proof.

We want clarity.

We want certainty.

How many of us have asked God for a billboard on the road or a sign in the sky or a word spoken directly to us from heaven.  Have you ever wanted that?

I have begged and asked God for such clear direction many times, but then there came a time in my life when I realized that opening myself to God’s clear direction meant I would be presented with a choice – to follow or turn away, to trust or doubt, to obey or disobey.

Scripture made it clear that we are responsible for the things we know, so I grew more and more leery of knowing the full truth or hearing God’s full direction.

What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do?

What if God asks me to give up something I rely on?

What if God gives me clear direction, and I do not follow.

…well then, I’m responsible.

And that thought truly freaked me out.

I began to see the good of not knowing.

I began to see the wisdom in God not unloading all the wonders of the universe on us…

But I have also at times and seasons, been very tempted to close myself off from God,… from hearing, from asking and stopping to listen…

You see prayer is much more than talking.

It is much more a listening.

And listening means opening oneself up to obedience or disobedience.  Listening and hearing means we’re presented with a choice and a responsibility to respond.  I wanted deeply to be faithful, but I feared that God might ask of me something that I didn’t want to do.  After all, didn’t God lead Jesus to the cross?!

So opening myself to God in prayer, opening myself to listen for God’s Word to me, meant deciding my response to God ahead of time.

Did I trust God more than myself, or not?

Did I believe that if God called me to do something, that God would make the way & provide?

IF I believed these things, it was time for the rubber to meet the road.  It was time for me to put my faith into action, trusting God.  As James writes, “Faith without works is dead.”

All these beautiful beliefs we have about God mean nothing, if it doesn’t result in steps of faith, acts of faith, …lives of faithfulness.

So I decided ahead of time to trust God, over all other things – to trust that God alone knows and wants what is truly best for me, and to allow God to reveal things to me over time.

I began writing things down so I didn’t forget them, and letting God build a case to me, until I felt compelled about which way to turn, in a given decision.  I exercised patience with myself.  If God told me something in prayer that was hard to hear or didn’t make sense to me, I simply wrote it down.  And inevitably, God’s Word on a matter would come in different forms, at different times….in a song lyric that jumped out to me, in a passage of scripture, in words from prayer imprinted on my heart and mind, in a comment from a friend, in passages from a new book…  God spoke, and over time, themes and direction emerged.

And if I was struggling to obey this word of God, I told God so, and asked God to help me, to make it clearer, to help me trust.  Until I would step into God’s direction for me.

I imagine everyone’s walk with God will look a bit different.  For some of you, God may speak clearest when you’re out hiking or walking, when you’re at church or reading scripture.  For some, it’s when you’re fishing or enjoying the company of your pet.  For others, it’s when you have your calendar out and are planning.  For some of you it’s early, before the rest of the world awakens.  For others it’s late, when all the world has fallen asleep.

Wherever and whenever God is calling to you, I encourage you to tune in.

Tune in, as the young Samuel did.

This tuning in, will require setting down our devices and tuning out the notifications and alerts.

Can we turn off our TVs, turn off Netflix, set down our phones, and step away from our computers long enough to be?

Scripture says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
We need the stillness.
We need the margins.
We need the moments of boredom and quietness.
Who is playing the role of God for us?
Is it God or our phones?
Who do we rely on? What do we place our trust in?
Who do we turn to in time of trial?
Where do we turn for comfort?
What happens to our heart-rate when we loose wifi connection?
What happens to our heart-rate when we loose connection with God?
God has made all things, and God has declared this world good!
Let us exercise care, that as we enjoy the gifts of God, we keep them in their proper places
So that the good gifts of God never eclipse the Giver.
And the call of God is not met with deaf ears but with an open spirit that says,
“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Let us pray.

Good God, you amaze us in the creativity of all those designing our phones and new apps and opening up for us new possibilities and opportunities.  In so many of these things, you have heard and answered our prayers!  Folks are connected.  Help is found.  And yet, we are so easily wooed and distracted by things that are just things. We are so easily distracted from the very ones that matter.  We are distracted from the living of our lives.  And most of all sometimes, we are utterly distracted from you.  How many of us have missed your call in the night? How many of us have missed your still, small voice after the storm?  How many of us have begged for your rescue and provision but not stopped in order to listen and receive and hear your Word spoken to us.  Forgive us, O God.

Help us protect the spaces in our lives, and may we tune in to You,

More and more.

Amen.

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