Sermon "Someone's Calling Your Name"

PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11; I SAMUEL 3:1-11;

AUGUST 25, 2019

Listen! (Whispered) Someone’s calling your name. Can you hear it?

Maybe it has been a while since you’ve heard your name spoken in such warm, loving tones.

God calls you in a friendly, affirming, loving voice, just the way you are.

The world is often not so kind when calling your name.

Sometimes the world takes your name in vain – you know how that goes.

The God word even gets invoked at times, but not in such a flattering way.

On the subject of names, Presbyterian pastor and novelist Frederick Buechner writes:

“If someone mispronounces my name in some foolish way, I have the feeling that what’s foolish is me … If my name were different, I would be different. When I tell somebody my name, I have given him or her a hold over me that he didn’t have before. If he calls it out, I stop, look and listen whether I want to or not.”

Wishful Thinking, p. 12

If you’ve ever been a parent, you know what I mean.

As a father, I stop “dead in my tracks” if any kid anywhere within shouting distance yells out, “Dad!” for any reason reason at all, I “Stop, look and listen,” even if the kid’s not my own! Names have power.

One thing is for sure – No one knows our name, no one calls our name like God, who spoke well of his own son, saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

He’s calling your name … today … tomorrow … for the rest of your life, whether you’ve known him all your life, or you’re just getting acquainted.

Of course, he or she doesn’t stop with your name.

It’s a sure bet that once God starts calling your name, God going to want your heart as well.

Even if you’re a life-long Christian – God has something new in store for you.

Sometimes for Christians, the Good News becomes Old News.

But God says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.”

God is a God of new beginnings.

God did a new thing in the life of Samuel. It was also a new experience for the elder Priest Eli.

The Word of God was “rare” in those days, the writer says. There were not many visions.

But for young, twelve-year-old Samuel, it was a brand new exciting opportunity for God to transform his life.


Today I would like to share with you a little bit about Samuel -- a remarkable young man in the Old Testament book that bears his name, and how his life was changed when he heard God calling his name.

First, meet Samuel. Samuel is living proof that you can sleep in church and still hear the Word of God!

So if you find yourself dozing off today, we’ll just assume you’re deep in theological thought!

It was during the night when Samuel first heard a voice calling him:

“Samuel! Samuel!” The voice woke him from his sleep and he was confused.

Naturally, he went to Eli the priest, thinking he had called him.

“Here I am Eli, for you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call you, Samuel . . . Go back to bed ….”

So Samuel went back to bed.

But a strange thing happened – the voice called him again – “Samuel! Samuel!”

Did you ever notice that when God is trying to get your attention, He does not

stop after just one try?

God comes to us again and again, just like He did with Samuel.

So after Samuel went back to bed, a voice called out to Samuel again:

“Samuel! Samuel!”

Again, Samuel went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”

“No, no, Samuel, I did not call you. Go back and lie down.”

Well, this happened three times, and finally, the wise Eli said, “You know, Samuel, I believe something out of the ordinary is going on here. I believe it is the Lord who is calling you… so go and lie down; and if he calls you again, you shall say, “Speak, Lord for your servant is listening.” (3:9)

So Samuel went back and laid down in his usual place.

And the Lord did call again, and stood there, and spoke to Samuel.

He said, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.” (3:11)

(My grandmother used to say, “If your ears are burning, someone must be talking about you)!

Well, someone was calling Samuel’s name, and it made his ears tingle.

In fact, I’m betting Samuel got that tingling sensation all over his body,

Because God was calling him, and was about to change his life.

12“As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.”

What a wonderful thing to say of your life – “that the Lord let none of your words fall to the ground in vain.”

Jesus knows our name, and so much more.

Jesus thinks our name is a beautiful name, and when he calls your name, it is not in judgment, but with unconditional love, and desire a genuine desire to fill you with grace and power.


What does it all mean for us?

Today God is calling your name, just like he called Samuel’s name, and a whole host of others.

And God calls us by name so we may call others.

Jesus said, “Whenever you welcome the stranger, you welcome me.”

– just like someone did for you.

Who was it that first welcomed you in this church? Who was it that made you feel like you “belong” and were cared for?

* * *

Many years ago as a young seminarian in Chicago, I had the good fortune to stumble upon Lake View Presbyterian Church – just a few blocks down from Wrigley Field on Chicago’s north side.

It was a More Light Church early on in the 1970’s.

It was a sanctuary church that welcomed Central American refugees.

It was a church where homeless people would be found sleeping in the church basement when few would be able to survive the harsh Chicago winters.

As a young seminarian searching for a place to belong and trying to discern God’s call, it was an amazing place.

It took some courage to go to church for the first time alone. Will I be noticed? When anyone speak to me?

These are some of the same questions visitors here might wonder about.

Upon entering that first Sunday, a young man by the name of Norm greeted me at the door.

His welcome was genuine, and while we were talking, several other people came up extended their welcome as well.

I didn’t know at the time that my life was about to be change, and that a

call to ministry would emerge as a result of Lakeview Presbyterian Church.

On that first Sunday, someone invited me to sit with them, and after the service, someone else made sure that I was introduced to the pastor.

Before leaving, someone else said that there would be a potluck dinner and a theological discussion group at their house during the week, and I would be welcome to attend. They would even come and pick me up.

Systematic . . . intentional . . . they had a plan for visitors.

That entire congregation created a climate of awareness and intentionality about what it means to invite, greet, and welcome visitors, and eventually, have in mind an assimilation process that integrates new people into the life of the church.

If it wasn’t for that greeter at the door over 30 years ago, making me feel welcome,

I may not be here speaking to you today, and would not have experienced a “call” to ministry, I wouldn’t have met my wife, since she also was a pastor, and the list goes on in all.

It all started because someone called me by name, and welcomed me into the church.

When God calls your name, it is no accident. When someone in the church reaches out to you, calling you by name, it is no accident.

When God provides a purpose and plan for your life, it is no accident.

Someone’s calling your name. Can you hear it?

God calls you by name so that you may call others, sharing the Good News of the Gospel.

Do you want to make an impression?

Next time you have a visitor at church, remember their name, and call them by name if they come back next week.

You can never repay God for all that God has done, but you can pass it on.

I cannot repay Lakeview Presbyterian Church in Chicago for all they have given to me, but I can pass it on, and somehow I imagine that is exactly what they would want.

Norm was the greeter, and he called me by name that day in Chicago.

reach out and call others by name in the same warm, welcoming tone you once heard someone say to you. Samuel Moore Shoemaker, preacher Stand By the Door.” It’s message is just as appropriate today as the day it was written, and I would like to share a portion of it with you. He writes: I stand by the door.

I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,

The door is the most important door in the world-

It is the door through which people walk when they find God.

There's no use my going way inside, and staying there,

When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,

Crave to know where the door is.

And all that so many ever find

Is only the wall where a door ought to be.

They creep along the wall like blind people,

With outstretched, groping hands.

Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,

Yet they never find it ...

So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world

Is for people to find that door--the door to God.

The most important thing any person can do

Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,

And put it on the latch--the latch that only clicks

And opens to the person's own touch.

People die outside that door, as starving beggars die

On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter—

Die for want of what is within their grasp.

They live, on the other side of it--live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,

And open it, and walk in, and find Him ...

So I stand by the door. And once they enter that door, hopefully someone will be there on the other side to greet them. Do you know anybody who might enter that door with a little encouragement, and come to church? Do you know anybody who is not here today who could use a little grace and Good News in their life?

You could be the one who “opens the door” for them. Jesus said, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

REVELATION 3:20 There are people for whom the only image of the divine they ever see is the one they see reflected in you. Today we can spread the Good News of the gospel anywhere …in the schools … the supermarkets … the workplace … the neighborhood … the parking lots … the list is endless.

There is a real hunger out there for friendship, meaning, support, and to be a part of a caring faith community, and you can help create it. God calls our name and opens the door for us so that we might open it for others. There are many other reasons God is calling your name today. It’s a call to action. One of the churches in Marin I know of heard God calling them to do something about homelessness, so they used some of their land to build a subsidized housing complex for the underserved. That was way back in the 1970’s. They were ahead of their time. Today God calls you to be a church who welcomes all of God’s people, welcoming everybody, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious background. God may be calling you to do something about undocumented people who live in fear of being separated from their families and deported from the United States, leaving behind young children who have no one to care for them. We have resources in Marin Ct like the Marin Organizing Committee who can bring people together and help identify needs and strategies in our community and beyond. You don’t have to do it alone. At a time in our country where there is a lot of name calling, God calls our name in a different way. God calls you by name in warm, inviting tones that maybe only you can hear. What will you do? How will you respond? Sometimes I hear people say, what can I do? I am only one person. I tell them they can start by going to church, because they can become part of a community who can work together in solidarity for human rights and social justice. When you become a part of a congregation there is strength in numbers, and you don’t have to feel alone or powerless. It’s like my favorite basketball team, the Golden State Warriors says, There’s “Strength in numbers.” It’s written on their T-shirts. That’s not just true in basketball, it’s true in the church.

And it all begins when God calls your name, and then you call out to others. I have been delighted that since coming to Marin I have found many kindred spirits who are involved in meditation and contemplation, and practicing mindfulness, trying to discern the many ways large and small the messages the Divine has for their life. I don’t think Samuel meditated, but he knew when another voice spoke to him in the middle of the night, not once but three times, and got his attention. It changed his life. Where will you be, and what will you be doing when God calls your name? What doors will you open in God’s name when empowered by the Holy One and your brothers and sisters who are a part of a faith community?

These are incredibly challenging times, and yet I think they are incredibly hope filled times as well. You can make a difference. We can make a difference. It may start in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep and something or someone gets your attention, just like young Samuel. It’s a sacred voice that speaks from within, yet will not rest until your voice speaks the truth to someone else – words of encouragement and hope, because sometimes God’s voice is best heard through you. Listen! (Whispered) Someone’s calling your name. Can you hear it?

Philippians 2:5-11;

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1 Samuel 3:1-11

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.

2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 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. 4 Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!”[a] and he said, “Here I am!” 5 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. 6 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.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 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. 9 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.

10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.

Let us pray: Thank you God for calling each of us by name. Thank you for people who reach out and call us by name, so that we may reach out and call others. In your name we pray,


Benediction: Go now into the world and listen when God calls your name,

And be ready to call the names of others to the Body of Christ in this place. May the peace and grace of or Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

"Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus: 6.Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. 7.But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, 8.he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. 9.And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names; that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus 11.and that every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

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