Into the Unknown
June 03, 2018
By John Partridge*
[Note: This is my last Sunday at Trinity United Methodist Church in Massillon (Perry Heights), Ohio. There will be no new messages for the next three weeks while we relocate to our new appointment at Christ United Methodist Church in Alliance, Ohio. Your prayers for both churches, and their new pastors, are appreciated.]
1 Samuel 3:1-20 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
In1803, President Thomas Jefferson, having secured congressional approval, sent a small expeditionary group to explore the uncharted Louisiana Purchase and points farther to the west. Jefferson called the group the Corps of Discovery. It would be led by Jefferson’s secretary, Meriwether Lewis, and Lewis’ friend, William Clark.
For four years, the Corps of Discovery would travel thousands of miles, experiencing lands, rivers and peoples that no Americans ever had before. But on April 7, 1805, as this small group of explorers left Fort Mandan, their maps were of no use to them because everything to the west of where they stood, the maps simply said, “Unknown.” From that point on, every river that they crossed, every trail that they followed, every mountain, and every rock, had never before been seen by white men. They had no idea what Indian tribes lived there, or how many there might be. And so, justifiably, when Ken Burns created a documentary about the journey of the Corps of Discovery, the title of his story became, “Into the Unknown.”
Many of us have experienced a period of our lives when we launched out into new and, at least for us, uncharted waters. We graduated from school, moved out of our parents’ house, got a job, sometimes many miles away or even across the country from where we grew up. And in those moments, we faced the unknown. Some of you went with us to Kentucky to see for yourselves what you had only read about, or heard from missionaries, or from your pastor. In your own way, you faced the unknown. Travel is almost always like that. You never know exactly what’s going to happen.
We see the same thing in scripture.
In 1 Samuel 3:1-20 God calls the prophet Samuel for the first time when he is still just a young boy and Samuel’s whole world changes.
3:1The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 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. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 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.
6 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.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
8 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 realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 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.
10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”
15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”
Samuel answered, “Here I am.”
17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”
19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.
Samuel had no idea what was going to happen but by trusting his mentor Eli, and by listening to, and trusting God, Samuel began a new life that would change him, and all of Israel, for decades as they walked with God together.
Samuel had the courage to leap into the unknown because he knew something about God that Paul describes to the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 4:5-12 where he says:
5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Paul says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” We have these ordinary looking clay pots, things that are usually full of ordinary stuff, like water, or grain, or yeast, or even wine, but instead of being ordinary, they are full of treasure. Ordinary clay pots become extraordinary clay pots, not because the pots are different, but because the thing that fills them is different. But just in case you missed the analogy, we are those ordinary pots. There is nothing particularly notable about us. But we have become filled with treasure because the Spirit of God has come to live inside of us. We have become extraordinary, not because we are different, but because what fills us is different. And, because God has chosen to live within us, Paul says, we are pressed, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We live so that Jesus may be revealed in us and through us.
It is because of the Spirit that lives within us that we can have the courage that Samuel and Paul had, as well as all the other disciples, teachers, pastors, missionaries, mentors, friends, and so many others who have gone before us.
We are all, once again, launching out into a new unknown. My family and I are going to Alliance and whatever the future may hold for us there, and all of you will enter into a new ministry with Pastor Tina and whatever new places God will lead you together.
May all of us, like Samuel, have the faith, and the courage to listen to the voice of God…
…and do his will.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.