Scripture for the week: 1 Samuel 3.1–10; Psalm 139.1–5, 12–18; Revelation 5.1–10; John 1.43–51
A touching voice comes from the radio: a young girl, orphaned, but a survivor of Ebola in West Africa: “I wish to serve others.”
This is discipleship, whether or not the girl has been schooled to know it. It is what Jesus invited Philip and Nathanael, two of his early followers, to embrace.
To serve others was not the role expected for the Messiah, and for those unprepared, the message of Christ could not be heard – much as the voice of God seemed to have gone silent in the time of Eli and his sons in the temple. Silence often comes when we fail to listen.
However, nobody told Samuel not to listen, and he actually heard the voice of God – and in it a difficult message of condemnation to deliver to Eli.
Yet Samuel was nurtured to become a great leader and prophet for the people of Israel, and who else but Eli could have helped him to grow? Would we be as graceful as Eli in accepting a fateful message, yet still accepting our role? Or would we be resentful – or reluctant to listen in the first place, because we might hear something unpalatable?
The discipleship to which Jesus invited Philip and Nathanael is the same discipleship to which we are invited, to serve others. It was a new thing then, and it’s still new now, insofar as it runs as counter to our culture as it did to Nathanael’s. Jesus promises his disciples that they will see “greater things than these:” heaven opened, angels ascending and descending.
The greater things are waiting to be unveiled, but first we have to listen and look.
But be careful: in listening, we may hear a voice from West Africa saying, “I wish to serve others,” that may either shame us, or encourage us, or perhaps both.