Worship at Home
Rev Tony Coates
We are already a little way into the New Year, but these words are still appropriate:
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown”; and he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light, and safer than a known way.”
Those words were quoted by King George VI in his Christmas broadcast in 1939 just after the beginning of the Second World War. They are particularly appropriate this year.
Thank you, Lord, that we can come together, not in the same place, perhaps not even at the same time, but we still are together as a community of your people, united with one another and with Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Reading 1 Samuel 3: 1-10
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place.The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down.
Again the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ ‘My son,’ Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’
Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
A third time the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’
Then Eli realised that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’
Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’
Hymn ‘Hushed was the evening hymn’
- Hushed was the evening hymn,
The temple courts were dark,
The lamp was burning dim
Before the sacred ark:
When suddenly a voice divine
Rang through the silence of the shrine.
2. The old man, meek and mild,
The priest of Israel slept;
His watch the temple-child,
The little Levite, kept;
And what from Eli’s sense was sealed
The Lord to Hannah’s son revealed.
3. O give me Samuel’s ear!
The open ear, O Lord,
Alive and quick to hear
Each whisper of Thy Word;
Like him to answer at Thy call,
And to obey Thee first of all.
- 4.O give me Samuel’s heart!
A lowly heart that waits
Where in Thy house Thou art,
Or watches at Thy gates,
By day and night, a heart that still
Moves at the breathing of Thy will.
- 5. O give me Samuel’s mind!
A sweet unmurmuring faith,
Obedient and resigned
To Thee in life and death;
That I may read with child-like eyes
Truths that are hidden from the wise.
The story of the boy Samuel in the Temple is very captivating.
Some of us might still remember a sepia print that used to be on Sunday School walls of this very innocent-looking child sleeping in the Temple. And there is much to be learned from this reading. Samuel, dedicated to temple service by his parents, had to sleep in the temple, and one night, as he slept, he heard a voice calling, ‘Samuel’. He woke and ran to the resident priest Eli. You can imagine him eagerly saying, ‘Here I am, Are you all right?’ Eli stirred and said wearily, ‘Yes, I am, dear child. Go back to sleep’. It happened twice. And then a third time. Eli was a bit fed up and then realised that God was trying to get through to Samuel, so he said, ‘It’s God trying to get through to you. Go back to bed, and this time say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. And you will get what he is trying to say to you.’ And so Samuel got the message. And it was not a nice one. Eli’s two sons were dishonest, and Eli, who was old and feeble, had gone along with it. Samuel had noticed, but done nothing. He was a junior member of the temple staff, after all. What Eli and his sons were doing was like what today would be someone putting their hand into the collecting bag, or stealing church funds. And, yes, it was not a nice message: Eli and his sons were going to be punished for their dishonesty and Samuel was to warn Eli. We shall leave the story there, but you can read it all in the following verses. But we shall think about Samuel and how God communicated with him…
God had a message and Samuel did not realise who the message was from. All through the day, we all get many promptings, sometimes from ourselves: ‘I really must get round to doing that!’ Sometimes from other people, ‘You know, you really ought to…’ We mishear them or we ignore them, and we put them to the back of our minds. And sometimes it dawns on us. It’s God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. And then we realise we have got to act – like Samuel in the story. Today ask yourself, ‘What is God saying to me today?’ A phone call to someone isolated, or a card to sympathise with someone bereaved, an offer of help, and so on and so on. Sometimes something much bigger. The possibilities are endless. Don’t make a list, or, if you do, do one of the items immediately and have the satisfaction of crossing it off! What is God saying to you today?
We come to our time of prayer. We pray together…
We pray, Lord, in these difficult days, for our church. Guide our Minister, Elders, Church Friends, our Young Families workers, and all who have a role in our life. Keep us all faithful to you. Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for our nation and for all involved in our relationships with the European Union, and at this time for all involved in decisions on the Covid crisis. We pray for our government, for the devolved governments, and their advisors, and in particular for hospital staff: doctors, nurses, administrators. people administering vaccines. We thank you for the work done in producing the vaccines. And we remember those we know who work in the North Devon Hospital…Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for the United States at this juncture in its history. Guide the President and the President Elect, and we pray for peace and reconciliation in the days ahead. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
And we pray finally for ourselves. Help us to listen for guidance from your Spirit within us day by day, and be ready for tasks, however small, that will advance your Kingdom of love and justice in today’s world. Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
A prayer for the Season of Epiphany.
Holy Jesus, before your infant form, sages bowed the knee and acknowledged your lordship. Grant us also clear vision and courage, and in the light of your light may we devote our power and potential to your service. Help us to walk in your light day by day to your glory.
Help us, Lord, to put our hand into your hand and go forward into the future in confidence
And we say the grace together:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.