The text is the calling of Samuel, but this sermon I think focuses a bit more on Eli. And theme is How to Hear the Word of God. Eli himself is a stunning negative example of how not to hear the Word and the effects of that. But in this text even Eli is prodded into being a good teacher for your Samuel. This sermon both examines that negative example of how we lose the ability to hear the Word and then lose the vision itself, and then it examines how Eli’s Words to Samuel are the foundation of any ability to Hear the Word. The Light of Christ, even in the darkness of Eli, never goes out. And God uses Eli to set Samuel on a good path to Hearing the Word. In those examples we also find our way to hearing the Word of God.
Sometimes you feel like you live in a time of Eli. Just to be clear what that means is old, blind, uncaring, casually cruel, dismissive of almost everything as beyond your ability to do anything or even care. Like Ezekiel staring a valley of dry bones – Can these bones live? And it seems pie in the sky to say yes.
Yet this is how God works. He works by death and resurrection. And the form or the means of God’s work is His word. Just when we might think “the lamp of God” has gone out, it hasn’t, and it calls out “Samuel, Samuel”. And if comes and stands in our presence and speaks to us anew.
The renewal of the Christian life always starts with “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.” That is what this sermon ponders.