Special Music: Chris Sorensen (Guitar/Vocal), Tom Eno (Saw)
Sermon: “Something Bigger Than Ourselves”
I began with a background teaser of how Samuel ended up serving the prophet Eli in the temple. It is a story worth reading! Then I described the terrible state of the church in that place and time. Eli had grown old and was apparently unconcerned about his son’s abuse of their positions of power. It has been suggested that they not only stole from the offerings but took advantage of people in moral ways as well. It is in this context that a young servant boy is left to sleep in the temple until ceremonial oils burn out that Samuel hears a voice calling his name…
People have asked me to describe my “calling” into ministry. It was not a static event that I can recall but a developing awareness of characteristics within me that inevitably led to ministry. I spoke about a newspaper route on Court and Emily Streets in my hometown of Ludington. As I was delivering papers I was talking to myself, analyzing and articulating issues in my life. Basically doing then what I do now from the pulpit (or more accurately, the isle). I didn’t even question that I was speaking aloud until a homeowner surprised me by stepping out from his doorway and observed that, “Talking to your self is a sign of insanity!” (In hindsight he may have been right.)
Some years later I was invited to “officially” speak in public for the very first time. My church hosted a well attended ecumenical men’s breakfast gathering. The week before I was scheduled to speak I had observed another speaker holding 5x7 inch cards and essentially reading to those gathered at the long tables. I felt using notes created a ‘disconnect’ between the speaker and the audience that I wanted to avoid. I worked diligently outlining and organizing my message and came prepared to the Tuesday morning breakfast. As the group of almost 30 men were finishing their ham and eggs, pancakes, juice and coffee my pastor leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Remember two things: first, when you have said what you came to say, sit down. Second, many of these men have busy schedules so when the clock hits 7:20 wherever you are in your message, pass it to me and sit down!”
As I was introduced and the polite applause settled I stood before them ready to deliver my well crafted message… except I could not remember a single word. Not a word, not a point, not even the subject that I was going to speak about… nothing… blank… nada… There were two Dan Andersons standing there that morning. The one standing silently before these men and the one running back and forth down the hallways of my mind finding every doorway locked shut. There was only one open door, and it was back into that breakfast gathering. I stepped through and the first words came out of my mouth, “A pause… is a VERY effective speaking technique.” Heads turned… light laughter was shared. Then I continued… “I recall only two things about my message this morning and they were just whispered to me moments ago by Reverend Collins. The first was to sit down when I had finished my message. The second was to make certain that when the clock turned 7:20, my message was finished; pass it to him.” I slowly turned my head… and every head followed in unison and looked up at the clock. It read 7:02. And then I said, “Bill, I’ve finished my message. I’ll pass it to you!”
The irony is that in the midst of what seemed by many to be a catastrophe… was the dynamic which would keep bringing me back to public speaking. The connection that I made with those men who first laughed at my humor and then could not help but follow my gaze as I led them to look at the clock was the connection that I would seek again and again as I lifted up the stories of Scripture and attempted to connect them to life.
The young servant boy, Samuel was hearing God’s voice call out to him. He wasn’t even aware of what was happening until Eli recognized Samuel’s gift. That is almost always the case with each of us here today. The very things that make us unique are characteristics that we too often take for granted. But God has placed those gifts within the church for a reason; the expression of God’s love in the world.
Today, we ordain and install elders and deacons into the church who are called by God to use the gifts within themselves to reflect God’s love for the whole world… beyond human bigotry and fear. God’s love is greater than we can comprehend!