Proper 4- Fr. Chris Duncan- June 3, 2018

It often begins with a still small voice – a whisper in the very soul of our being. At least that is how it began for Samuel in a case of what psychologists call “the cocktail party effect.” That is where your brain will hear your name being spoken even when it is uttered from across a crowded room. In other words, our brains are hardwire to be on point for the slightest mentioning of our name. In this case, Samuel’s room was filled only with sleep and possibly snoring… and then came that still small voice.

Samuel’s story comes to us in an unusual time and setting. The Israelites have fled from Egypt, made their way through the desert, and are now settled in the Promised Land. In fact, they have been there for quite some time by now, but the people are not united. The people are broken into clans that are organized by a tribal city-state where leadership has devolved more and more out of control. And when it came to their religion… They just weren’t felling it at all. And so we are told “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” All in all, Samuel was born into tumultuous times.

To add to the story, we have Samuel’s mother, Hannah, who was barren well into her older age when low and behold she becomes pregnant. Then Samuel’s mom dedicated him to the Lord for she knew he belonged to God. Yes, the story of Samuel begins in a peculiar fashion in chaotic times during which a boy is known and called by God before he is even born. And then… it truly began with a still small voice.

Samuel hears this voice calling out his name: “Samuel, Samuel.” The first two times he responds saying “Here I am” to Eli the priest, but Eli responds saying “I did not call; lie down again.” Finally after being awakened a third time, Eli realizes it was the Lord calling the boy and he directed Samuel on how to respond. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel would go on to be a great priest and prophet. He was not perfect, but he was great. He grew in his trust of the Lord and he would even crown the first kings of the Israelites and help unite the people. However, his work was not easy and the message was often burdensome, but Samuel played his part in the kingdom of God by listening to that still small voice and responding.

Discerning God’s call is often a hard thing to do and is only made harder when we live in a world so full of noise and distractions and anxieties. Where is the Lord and what are we to do?

Yes, it often begins with a still small voice. In late 2011, Canon Ann Normand, the then Canon to the Ordinary for the diocese, came to me and said “I have two churches that I want you to interview with this coming spring and if those are right, then we have a few other options as well.” When I shared the two churches with Casey, we both thought we would be going to “the other one.” However, when I interviewed with them, there was a still small voice inside that said “this is not where you are called.” And so I withdrew my name and waited as this little church in Katy was getting everything organized. Finally, I received the invitation to interview with them. They were going to come to Austin on April 29th, 2012. The group would split into two with half coming to the 9 o’clock service and the other half to the 11:30. The 9am service came and went and I didn’t see anyone that stood out as “guests.” Then the 11:30 service started and upon looking out, I didn’t see anyone there either. It appeared I was stood up.

Then fifteen minutes into the service, a group of 8 meekly walked through the doors and sat in the back. It turned out the MS 150 bike race from Houston to Austin was that weekend and they had been stuck in all the traffic surrounding the event. What should have been a two-hour drive turned into a four-hour drive. But now we were back on track…

After the service, we went out to lunch. Casey and our new baby Carolena came along as well. Immediately there was a comfort that was like a still small voice that said, “these are your people.” As I shared in my letter this past week, I walked Casey and Carolena to their car and said “you know we are moving to Katy don’t you?” And Casey had heard and felt it too… She said “Yes, I know.” What proceeded was not as much an interview as an opportunity to get to know my new parish better. For six-years, I have been guided by this very strong sense of calling and it all began with a still small voice.

I love St. Paul’s and over the last six-years our family has put down roots here. Now we are following a new call. The still small voice has spoken again and the Holy Spirit has a new plan for St. Paul’s as well. Carolena put it best when we told her about the upcoming move. She said, “I have two very strong emotions, Daddy. I am really sad and I am also excited.”

Because here is the thing… callings are not just for prophets of old or clergy today. We all play a role in the building up of the kingdom of God. In fact, we proclaim and renew this fact each and every baptism with the baptismal covenant. But what we find is that discerning God’s call can be a hard thing when we live in a world so full of noise and distractions and anxieties. Where is the Lord and what are we called to do? And so I say again…

It often begins with a still small voice and God is calling you… You the people of St. Paul’s, where the kingdom of God converges on the corner of Franz and Drexel. God is calling you to “love the Lord and our neighbors” in that unique way that is St. Paul’s. There is outreach where the homeless are fed at the Beacon, food is collected for the food bank, Christmas gifts donated, school supplies given away, and those with dementia are comforted at the Gathering Place. There is formation through a rejuvenated Sunday School, VBS, Tuesday Morning Bible Studies, and many other opportunities. There is fellowship in the Fall Festival, Pancake Supper, Parish Christmas Party, and dinner groups. There is worship and sacraments in Holy Communion, Baptisms, Confirmations, weddings, and burials. Yes, there is the Great Commission where St. Paul’s goes forth into all the world, but especially west of Houston in the Katy area, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching in Christ’s name… and doing it all unabashedly as Episcopalians There is being St. Paul’s in new and wonderful ways that have not yet been discovered. Yes, there is a still small voice and God is calling St. Paul’s.

Yes, it often begins with a still small voice when God is calling you… You a child of God, for we each play a role in the larger body of Christ and each member is vital to that ministry. We are all ministers of God’s Church. And so where do your passions intersect with the church’s and world’s needs? Can you hear the still small voice? And will you answer…

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Service Schedule

Sunday Services
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite I
9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Weekday Services
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist


St. Paul's Episcopal Church
5373 Franz Rd
Katy, Texas 77493
(281) 391-2785

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