August 20, 2015
Grace, Mankato, MN
1 Samuel 3.1-20
"I, the Lord of sea and sky… 
Most of us know these words to Daniel Schutte’s hymn, Here I Am, Lord if not by heart then by spiritual osmosis. Schutte is an accomplished American composer of Catholic liturgical music and a contemporary Christian music best known for this hymn but has composed others. Born in 1947, he was one of the founding members of the St. Louis Jesuits who popularized a contemporary style of church music set to sacred texts sung in English. Although his compositions are mostly for Catholic liturgical use, his works have found their way into Protestant worship. For us, Here I Am, Lord first appeared in the blue hymnal supplement, With One Voice and, of course, is in our newish cranberry hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Not surprisingly, various polls among musicians cite Here I Am, Lord at or near the top as favorites. Schutte is presently Composer-in-Residence at the University of San Francisco.
Jill Helling, in nominating this hymn for our sermon series, “Singing Our Faith,” gives one reason why it is so meaningful:
I have been fortunate to have parents, grandparents, mother-in-law, relatives (etc.) that were examples of people who were strong faithful followers of their Christian faith. From the time I can remember church/Sunday school was part of our daily life. At many of the family funerals this hymn was sung reminding me and our family that if we listen and pray God is always there, even when we have lost someone we love.“Strong, faithful followers of their Christian faith”; indeed, if we aren’t already people such as this we certainly aspire to become such. Here I Am, Lord has long been a favorite of mine. We sung it at my ordination service and it is on my short list of songs I want at my own funeral.
It’s a powerful song from a powerful story of how the boy Samuel hears and responds to God’s call. What’s also important is how Samuel came to be in the service of God with Eli. Earlier in 1 Samuel we read how his mother Hannah was unable to conceive and how in a moment of fervent prayer at the temple at Shiloh, Eli thought her drunk. Hannah actually promised that if God would give her a son she would make him a Nazarite and give him back to God. Though he wasn’t aware of her promise, Eli told Hannah to go in peace, that God would grant her petition. Hannah did indeed conceive and give Samuel back to God.
"I, the Lord of snow and rain … 
As I thought about this story in 1 Samuel and the song, I couldn’t help also thinking about Kenneth’s baptism here today. I thought about how his mother trusted him to Marty and Amanda, and how all three of them have answered God’s calling in the night. I don’t think any of them think they are doing holy and heroic work, but they are. God calls to each of us in the midst of our lives, disrupting us to bring healing and wholeness.
This past week at a pastor’s gathering, a pastor read the following blog as a devotional. It’s from Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog “Momastery” and is a letter to her son, Chase in 2011 as he enters the third grade. It’s titled, “The One Letter to Read Before Sending Your Child to School.” 
Tomorrow is a big day. Third Grade – wow.
Chase – When I was in third grade, there was a little boy in my class named Adam.
Adam looked a little different and he wore funny clothes and sometimes he even smelled a little bit. Adam didn’t smile. He hung his head low and he never looked at anyone at all. Adam never did his homework. I don’t think his parents reminded him like yours do. The other kids teased Adam a lot. Whenever they did, his head hung lower and lower and lower. I never teased him, but I never told the other kids to stop, either.
And I never talked to Adam, not once. I never invited him to sit next to me at lunch, or to play with me at recess. Instead, he sat and played by himself. He must have been very lonely.
I still think about Adam every day. I wonder if Adam remembers me? Probably not. I bet if I’d asked him to play, just once, he’d still remember me.
I think that God puts people in our lives as gifts to us. The children in your class this year, they are some of God’s gifts to you.
So please treat each one like a gift from God. Every single one.
Baby, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a little part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart- ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion – be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means He trusts you and needs you.
Sometimes the magic of compassion will make you step into the middle of a bad situation right away.
Compassion might lead you to tell a teaser to stop it and then ask the teased kid to play. You might invite a left-out kid to sit next to you at lunch. You might choose a kid for your team first who usually gets chosen last. These things will be hard to do, but you can do hard things.
Sometimes you will feel compassion but you won’t step in right away. That’s okay, too. You might choose instead to tell your teacher and then tell us. We are on your team – we are on your whole class’ team. Asking for help for someone who is hurting is not tattling, it is doing the right thing. If someone in your class needs help, please tell me, baby. We will make a plan to help together.
When God speaks to you by making your heart hurt for another, by giving you compassion, just do something. Please do not ignore God whispering to you. I so wish I had not ignored God when He spoke to me about Adam. I remember Him trying, I remember feeling compassion, but I chose fear over compassion. I wish I hadn’t. Adam could have used a friend and I could have, too.
Chase – We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight As. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or not. We don’t care if you have the best clothes or most Pokemon cards or coolest gadgets. We just don’t care.
We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
Kind people are brave people. Because brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.
Trust me, baby, it is. It is more important.
Don’t try to be the best this year, honey.
Just be grateful and kind and brave. That’s all you ever need to be.
Take care of those classmates of yours, and your teacher, too. You Belong to Each Other. You are one lucky boy . . . with all of these new gifts to unwrap this year.
I love you so much that my heart might explode.
Enjoy and cherish your gifts.
And thank you for being my favorite gift of all time.
Melton gives permission on her blog for anyone to use this by substituting your child’s name for hers. It also works if you peg the writer as God, our heavenly parent.
So, I end with an invitation for you to hear God’s voice calling to you. There is a call already out there asking you to step up in various ways, to help with Faith Night meals, worship and especially teaching. Please respond, not because John or I need you, but because God is calling and placing a burden on your heart for those that need you to be brave. Please don’t tell us that you are too old, because if 90 year old Jimmy Carter can teach Sunday School following a cancer treatment, you can do something here. Besides, just as there is no expiration date on Kenneth’s baptismal certificate I doubt there is one on yours, either. Yes, it’s scary, but the same God who answered the call, who took on human flesh, and who went to the cross and answered the call to die for us, gives us everything we need.
"I, the Lord of wind and flame … 
Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. Amen.
 Due to copyright limitations, reprinting of the lyrics to Here I Am, Lord is prohibited. Please see verse 1 in your favorite hymnal.
 Please see verse 2.
 See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/08/21/the-one-letter-to-read/#sthash.iKyYp8iv.dpuf
 Please see verse 3 and refrain.