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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, January 17, 2021  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  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.” (NRSV)

This is a favorite passage of mine because it relates to my own conversion experience. I grew up in a solidly middle-class, Republican neighborhood in Cincinnati. My mom and dad met at Knox Presbyterian Church, and so I attended church events twice weekly throughout my childhood. None of it “took.” I didn’t believe any of the religious proclamations or scriptures I studied in my youth, but I didn’t tell anyone.

After an incident during my senior year of high school in 1968, I had determined that these Presbyterians were all a bunch of hypocrites, and I wanted nothing more to do with them. When I graduated from high school, I swore I would never return to a church. I declared my atheism and was proud of it, much to my parents’ dismay!

It was not until my mother died in 1987 that I reentered a church, returning to Knox for her memorial service. The Reverend Gordon Stewart was a wonderful man, and his sermon at her service was OK. Then, visiting my dad when he moved into a nursing home in the late 1990s, I again returned to Knox, pushing him in his wheelchair. Church was important to him. But I had no interest in talking with anyone there.

One day, a sermon “zapped” me. From that moment through the next two years, I began to hear God’s call. I opened up my mind and heart to the possibility of God and Jesus, understanding that perhaps the Holy Spirit is what was finally getting through to me. And at age fifty I entered seminary to learn more.

Don’t ever think that that voice of God calling you is something or someone else. Just listen. And be prepared to be changed!

Dear Lord, I give thanks for your persistent voice, even when I don’t hear it or don’t understand it. Just keep trying! Amen.

Written by Maggie Shreve, Parish Associate for Jail Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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