The commentaries for Oct 15 were written by members of the Strategic Team for Authentic Diversity in the Northwest Washington Synod.
by Rev. Sara Yoos
1 Samuel 3:1-21
In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate the anniversary of the Reformation. We recall how Martin Luther revolutionized the congregation’s access to God by making scripture and the sacraments accessible to the people. In the calling of Samuel, God comes directly to Samuel, bypassing Eli, the high priest. Eli, much like the Catholic Church pre-Reformation, traditionally mediated contact with God. But in this story, God speaks directly to Samuel, breaking down the institutional barriers between God and God’s people.
As we reflect on what it means to be a reforming church, moving into God’s future, we might ponder what existing institutional barriers are inhibiting people from accessing God (and vice versa). How does the church need to be reformed in order to help God speak more directly to God’s people?
One strategy, given Samuel’s account, is to listen deeply. Just as Samuel needs to overcome his own inability to hear what God is saying, so too do we need to be able and willing to hear God speaking through an unrecognizable voice. Perhaps the most challenging form of listening is one that stretches us to listen to those with whom we fail to identify with and cannot see our own experiences reflected back to us.
In an effort to live in authentic diversity, this text study will lift up voices in the church that we do not often hear. Here are 4 snapshots of diverse voices reflecting on this text. These perspectives are selected from theologians of varying Christian traditions and offer new angles through which to view Samuel’s call story.
1. Dr. King reveals what the prophet Samuel affirms: prayerful listening leads to prophetic proclaiming. Hearing God’s voice was critical for the prophetic witness of Dr. King. In January 1956, during the Montgomery bus boycott, he received a threatening phone call late at night. He couldn’t sleep. He went to his kitchen and took his “problem to God.” He was at a breaking point of exhaustion and about to give up. He spoke to God and says that he experienced the Divine and “could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice, saying, ‘Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth. God will be at your side forever.’” His fears and uncertainty ceased as God spoke and gave him “inner calm.” God provided the interior resources for him to do his social justice work. He needed God to speak first. Then he could act. He listened prayerfully then proclaimed prophetically. As a servant, an agent, of God in the world one follows the liberating agenda of God in society. Just as King recognized, God is the source and guide of just action in the world.
In the case of Samuel, prophetic action is grounded in God’s voice and direction, not even in the wisdom of the veteran priest Eli, because we do not call ourselves, but God is the one who calls us to act on behalf of the least of these, just as God has done throughout history. Thus, to act justly in the world is to follow God’s ongoing activity in the world. But to know what God is doing, one has to listen prayerfully. Subsequently, one may discover that civil disobedience and prophetic proclamation is rooted in theological obedience, prayerful listening to the call of a God of justice. Samuel reveals that prophetic proclamation follows prayerful listening. After he opens his ear to God, he receives his prophetic duty. What he is called to do is not easy. Samuel is called to speak during a time of change, turmoil and impending war (3:11-20-4:1). Samuel cannot lie down (vv.3, 5, 6, 9) forever, but must get up and act upon what he has heard. He has to “occupy” the prophetic role into which he is called. One thing is pretty clear — “a change is gonna come” just as new leadership came in the form of Samuel who replaced Eli. Something new is beginning, marking the end of an old way.
2. The author of the [New York] Times article, Meridith Kohut, draws attentiveness to the plight of the Venezuelans who are struggling under the country’s authoritarian rule and suffering from its failing economy. One of the protesters she quotes is a 22 year old who said he was fighting because “ of medicine shortages that killed his mother, worsened his grandmother’s high blood pressure and left his asthmatic little sister gasping.” And to make matters even more severe, his family can only afford one meal a day, usually just plain white rice. The article quotes Tyler, “We are living with a hunger that we have never had before.” Another protester said, “If they don’t kill us here protesting, we will die either way – be killed for a cellphone or a pair of sneakers – or we will die of hunger or die simply from catching any disease because there is no medicine here.”
“...Chances are, God will not call out to each of us in the middle of the night in a loud booming voice. But God is in fact still speaking? I would venture to argue that discerning the voice of the Divine in our midst is more obvious than we might think. If we remain entrenched in an understanding of vocation that is so self possessed, we might miss those people and places where God is speaking.“I thirst” (John 19:28). “We are living with hunger.”“I can’t breathe.”“Please don’t let me die.” How many times will we, like Samuel, hear God calling but fail to respond? Will we continue on with our own agendas or respond, “Here I am.” 
3. Many of us in this room have had long nights of chronic, festering debates about what our future(s) may look like or be, especially when we have or are wrestling the questions of:
What really is a call? Is it something that comes from within me, from within the self I think or know myself to be? Is it something from God because scriptures and the church tell me God knows me better than I know myself and has a plan for my life? What do I do with all this if I am lesbian, or I am a gay man and see myself as a real queen? How will being transgender, not transitioning yet or transitioning while under care affect my sense of God’s call? Or, is this calling...what my mother, like Hannah, wants me to do?
There are many voices competing in our heads for our attention and allegiance, and how many of us could actually say at any minute that we know God well enough, or She knows us well enough to recognize a word being spoken to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. The one thing that I have learned over thirty-seven years as a Presbyterian minister, some of those years lived in the closet, some of those years lived openly, and some of those years lived out, is that the love of God, the grace of our redeemer, Jesus the Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, reveal themselves over and over again.
We like Samuel, live in a church that often hears the voice of God but does not recognize or know its Creator. And we are in this room, in this chapel, because we are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex, and cisgendered people, people of color and white people, and biracial and multiracial and multi-class people, who some way or another must deal every day of our lives with knowing deep in our hearts that “yes, God has called us into baptism, into discipleship, and perhaps into ordination (I know some of you are still discerning).” That is our individual and collective “Samuel-like” transformation! That is our Samuel-like transformation in a world, a society and a church that is changing, but not yet fully changed.
Yes, night time comes with many things calling our name, and we wander and we wonder, both inside ourselves and listen for that calling from God outside ourselves. I do not believe it is a matter of either/or. Rather, it is a call that is a “both/and.”...we are called to be more radically inclusive in the church and Christ’s world in ways it has yet to see.
4. You and I we turn out just to be links in the chain, rungs on the ladder. Someone spoke to us and we will speak to another, we who are no less flawed and no more reliable than the one who came before us, but through us, God will speak to another and another and another. God will move the church and the world inexorably toward justice and love, toward wholeness and renewal, toward equity and peace. Not because of us, but through us. Not for us, but with us. Not claiming just part of us, but embracing and empowering every part of us. All that we have and all that we are used to change the world...And it begins with an unfamiliar voice, inviting us to listen and then to speak. Before Samuel will ever say “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” he says to Eli “Oh, okay. I guess I’ll do that.” His answer to the call isn’t really faith or trust or wisdom or discernment or understanding – it’s a raw sort of obedience. It is not an affirmation, but an action. It is not a thought believed but an answer spoken.
...The chosen one of God hears an unfamiliar voice that turns out to hold the future—if only that one will dare to answer. Dare to listen. Dare to speak and go and do.
 Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, 1 Samuel 3:1-10, 11-20: Prayerful Listening, Prophetic Proclaiming, Huff Post blog: March 12 2012.
 Meg Stapleton Smith, On Vocation, Venezuela, and Hearing God’s Voice, Daily Theology: July 24 2017.
 Rev. Dr. Joan M. Martin, Who and What is Being Called in the Night?, sermon given at the LGBTQ Inquirers and Candidates Retreat on September 4 2013, posted on Parity blog.
 Rev. Brian Ellison, Listen... and Speak, sermon given at the LGBTQ Inquirers and Candidates Retreat on September 5, 2013, posted on Parity blog