The Revised Common Lectionary in June takes us to the first book of Samuel and in particular to the story of Samuel.

We read that Samuel’s mother Hannah gave him back to God, as a small child, in thanksgiving for his birth. So Samuel grew up in the Temple at Shiloh where he ‘ministered to the Lord, in the presence of the priest Eli’ (1 Samuel 2:11).

It was here one night that Samuel heard a voice calling him. He thought it was the priest Eli, but Eli told him ‘I did not call; lie down again.’  It was when this happened for a third time that Eli realised the voice was from God and sent Samuel back, telling him to respond next time with the words, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

And indeed this was God, who had a tough task for Samuel. Read the story for yourself in I Samuel 3:1-20.

This was Samuel’s first experience of listening for, and discerning, God’s voice. A lovely story we may think, an innocent young boy discovering and responding to God. But of course there is more to it – this is just the beginning.

Samuel grew up in the dark times of the judges when life was uncertain and many were fearful – clearly resonating with today’s world. We know Samuel best as a prophet bringing God’s word to the people but he was also a wise and careful judge and indeed a king-maker – guiding the people when they persisted in their request for a king. It was Samuel who anointed Saul and later the boy David.

Samuel was pivotal in the life of the people at that time. And I wonder what was key to his role?

Perhaps today’s lection gives us the clue we need – that first call in the Temple – a first lesson in listening. Listening to Eli but also learning to discern what was of God. And over many years listening to the people, paying attention to the voices in the world and learning to discern God’s voice among the cacophony. A life-long process of listening and learning.

As Christians today – as today’s disciples – in a rapidly changing world, how important that we too listen to one another and listen for God’s word to us. We may not all be prophets but we do all have a part to play. How important that we pay attention to the voices in the world but also find the time and space to pay attention to God. It is so easy in the chaos of our world, the busyness of our own lives and preoccupation with our own agendas, to miss or ‘put aside for later’ that nudge or niggle within us. Could that be of God?

As we consider how to vote, as we explore new ways of being Church, as we work out our own priorities, may we listen well, learn discernment and then not be afraid to act in love.

Rev Angela Hughes, serving the Leeds URC Partnership