My Second Sermon

Happy Memorial Day Weekend folks!

I gave my second sermon in church today and I wanted to share it with all you lovely people!  There are a few things you should know, the first is that my spoiled West coast blood is dying in this humidity and I still have about two more months of feeling like I’m sweating my skin off!!!  The second is that in the season of Pentecost, Church of the Pilgrims is not going off the lectionary and doing a series of favorite scriptures.  This means that whoever is preaching on Sunday gets to pick their own favorite scripture OR they can go off a list that the congregation made of their favorite scriptures.  I chose to preach on 1 Samuel 3:1-18 and here it is!

According to Old Testament scholars, Samuel was around 12 years old when this happened.  Which makes me wonder..

Where were you when you were 12? For me, it was in 2004.  I was starting to really notice that I had more of an interest in spending time with boys especially when all of them started to jockey for the girls attention and I didn’t understand why.  Additionally, I was feeling pressured to care about football, an interest I managed to feign for the next 10 years- I remember picking the Philadelphia Eagles as my team because the wings on their helmets really spoke to me.  Magic the Gathering, an unashamedly nerdy card game, had made it’s second of many reemergences in my life.  I remember Green Day’s album American Idiot had come out that year which had a profound impact on my outlook on life at the time, with the whole theme of screw the establishment, we don’t need them.  Even though when I was 12 I had no idea was the “Establishment” was or what “Jesus of Suburbia”was about,,,,, even though that was my favorite song on the album.  And in retrospect, I think I took a lot of the lyrics from that song quite literally, namely “To run, to run away, to find what you believe.” Has become an unintentional theme in my life.   In fact one of my good friend’s got Green Day’s live album for me that year for my Birthday, it was called “Bullet in a Bible” and her reason for getting me this was because she had a feeling no one in my family would have given it to me.  I also remember starting to feel the projections of what a Pastor’s Kid should be like which prompted what you might call my first “rebellious stage” which came in the form of lots cussing and trying to embody Green Day’s frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, although thankfully I never got into the eyeliner phase

 

So now take this Andy and try to place him in Samuel’s position.  I think that Andy would have thought that he was in a scary movie.  I wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed, much less go talk to Eli and deal with his sleepy sass.

 

The main reason I chose to preach on this scripture is because it’s a big one in the YAV world.  When I was at the Young Adult Volunteer discernment retreat in Little Rock this past April, we used this scripture in our small groups to reflect on what God is calling us to do and I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on that a little bit more.

 

In my research leading up to this Sunday I found out that this is a scripture mainly used around Martin Luther King Jr Sunday in the spirit of someone from the outside of society being called into a leadership role.  Samuel came from humble beginnings, his parents were not known in the area, one day his Mom came to Eli’s temple, prayed to have a baby and Eli nearly kicked her out because he thought that she was drunk!  Later on in life Samuel, (who we’re going to start calling Sammy because I’m not a fan of formalities), Sammy went onto take Eli’s position in the temple, became the first of many Prophets to prophesy within Israel AND he anointed the first two Kings of Israel, Saul and David.  So why did God choose this outsider?  He could have taken someone of repute and thrust them into this high position, but instead he took this boy Sammy and gave him leadership and responsibility.  This wasn’t the first time God did something like this and it certainly wasn’t the last.  God chose Jacob, Moses, David, Saul, Esther all to do incredible things, all unlikely choices.  Jesus called Fisherman and Day Laborers to be disciples instead of priests and Prophets.  It would seem that our positions in church, life, work, is not a guarantee, and has little to no bearing in God’s world.  All people, even outsiders, are given tasks in God’s Kingdom.  

 

So as an outsider and as a 12 year old, I think it’s safe to say that until now, Sammy had never experienced anything like this before.  And as I told the story this morning, you might have noticed a place where I might have messed up, but I didn’t!  Once Eli realized that it was God calling to Sammy, Eli told him to, “Go to bed, lay down and if you hear the voice again say, “Speak Lord, Your Servant is listening”  and when God called him again, Sammy said, “Speak, Your Servant is listening.” Now there’s a few things happening here.  One is that Sammy couldn’t accept the call on his own, it took a collaboration of efforts in order for the call to be answered.  Another is that Sammy made the response his own by taking “Lord” out of the response.  So he was either taking this script and making it his own, properly embodying a rebellious young boy by not repeating his old Teacher word for word.  Or Sammy could be experiencing some doubt in this situation.  No one had heard or seen the word of God in years and now Sammy works in the Temple of God, our boy was probably ready for something big to happen in order to confirm why he’s doing what he’s doing.  Not only was he experiencing some doubt in God but after three times he still thought Eli was calling him, he must of been thinking “Why is this old man messing with me tonight??”  So it’s safe to say that Sammy had some doubt,  but  it’s important to remember that he didn’t accept that doubt as the answer.  He still said that he was listening  and God still spoke to him even though he had some doubt as to who and where this voice was coming from.  By morning however, clearly Sammy was out of doubt when he told Eli what he had heard that night and eventually everyone else in Israel started to take him seriously.

 

Another amazing thing that Sammy did here was that he just stopped talking and Listened.  He was open to where the voice might be coming from.  After realizing my dream of living and building a career in Portland wasn’t working out, I was humbled to put it mildly.  I hadn’t achieved my dream and I didn’t know what else to do.  But there was a voice in my life that had been saying the same thing for the past 4 years. This voice was my Mom saying, “You should apply for the YAV program!  I think it would be really great for you!”  After being humbled, I was forced to seriously consider other options, options that did not include moving back to Tucson for good cuz both God and I knew that was not gonna happen. So I finally gave in to that call and the timing couldn’t have been better.  This was the first year that Pilgrims was accepting a YAV and I couldn’t picture myself being anywhere else for my first year and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else either.  And Like Sammy, at the time of my call, I wasn’t prepared to call God by name either-I was content in my agnostic beliefs.  

I think this is a big scripture in the YAV world because in life, we tend to put too much pressure on ourselves as far as what we need to do with our one precious life.  Sometimes we just need to stop, listen and enjoy the ride.  To quote part of  a Mary Oliver poem that embodies this notion,

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

So What is a call?  Is me falling on my face in Portland being thrown into the YAV program a call?  It doesn’t seem like it to me, at least not in the traditional sense like Samuel.  But I’m slowly realizing that it must have been a call.  I was meant to be in DC at Pilgrims this year.  From working with groups in the Pilgrimage and helping to facilitate their growth and transformation within a small amount of time. and even when it comes to the role I’ve had in Church this year.  For example, last Sunday Jesse Dahl told me that when she asked Nelson and Cita, “Who teaches you about God?” they said “Jeff, Ashley and Andy”.  These are things that I never thought that I would be able to do, or even be called to do but I am so incredibly grateful that I have been able to be a part of this Pilgrim ministry for the past 9 months.  

So now starting to look further down the road, a habit that I’m trying to do less of, I can’t help but ask myself,  why do I feel called to pursue a career of being a counselor/therapist when my time as a  YAV is inevitabley over? Could it be another Prophecy from the Jesus of Suburbia I took too seriously?  Quote:

Oh Therapy can you please fill the void? Am I retarded or am I just overjoyed? Nobody’s perfect and I stand accused, for lack of a better word and that’s my best excuse. End Quote

What happened in my past that put me on this track?  What, where, when was that call?

 

What I think is important to remember is that calls aren’t always profound or life changing, they can be in our day to day lives- be nice to your bus driver or that biker without their helmet on.  Tip your waitresses,  Maybe I’m not gonna lay on the horn because this driver in front of me did or is about to do something stupid.  God didn’t ask Sammy to do anything.  He didn’t even have to tell anyone what God told him.  

So when have we missed a call in our lives telling us to listen up or to do something, but due to our own doubt or naivete we just went on with our lives.  I think the answer is that we don’t know, and there might never be a way of knowing.  But I know what we can do, and that is: embrace silence,  stop talking and try to listen more.  Father Thomas Keating, an architect of contemporary contemplative prayer says that, “Silence is God’s first language, everything else is a poor translation.  In order to hear that language we must learn to be still and to rest in God.”  So once again, I invite you to join me in some silence.  And we’re just going to try to embrace this silence until I ring the meditation bell.  

Now I invite you to close your eyes and find a comfortable position in your pew.  Maybe your feet are flat on the floor, your shoulders back and lined up with your hip bones, maybe your hands are face up or down in your lap.  Now just  focus on your breath for while. Feel your lungs fill up with air and release-again. Take this time to appreciate your lungs, this air, this life. Trying to clear your mind of all extraneous thoughts of what might happen today, tomorrow this summer.   Allow life to just happen. So now for the next minute or so with your eyes closed and in your head- I invite you to repeat to yourself be still and know.  Be still as you breathe in,  and know as you breathe out.  After a few minutes-BELL

Dear God, please help us to keep our hearts, ears, eyes and minds open to your presence in our lives.  Help us to find and enjoy the silent, sacred moments that pass us by everyday.  In your name we pray, Amen

Thanks for reading my sermon to those of you who made it all the way through.  I’d like to close with some more good news which is……I’m going to be a YAV again!  I have been offered and I accepted an offer to serve as a YAV one more time and this year I’ll be in Asheville, NC.  I’m looking forward to another year of serving God, embracing the Jesus narrative and living the YAV life in the South!  A place I’d never thought I’d be but am really looking forward to all the same.

SO another YAV year means another year of fundraising!  All the prayers, financial offerings and words of support helped to make this year possible.   I hugely appreciate all of this support that I received and I humbly ask for that support again in this upcoming year.  As a Young Adult Volunteer serving nationally, I am required to fundraise at least $3,000 that will go towards my travel, quarterly retreats with my community, my monthly stipend and other incidentals.

If you feel so moved to donate towards my year in Asheville I would greatly appreciate it! Just click on the link below, then click on the “Support Andrew” button, then click on the “Give” button on the right-hand side of the page and the rest is fairly straight forward but feel free to ask me if you have any questions.  If you are unable to support me fininacially at this time, your prayers and all other forms of support are also appreciated!  Thanks so much to all of you and God Bless!     Andy

Andrew Thomas

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