in Hebrew (pronounced Hin-NEIGH-nee), one of the most impactful responses in scripture. Here I am. The root appears 318 times in the bible, this compound response about 30 times. In variant forms Abraham, Moses, Samuel (today’s Old Testament reading), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Amos and perhaps Elijah are just a few of the famous personages of those who uttered this word to God or one of God’s angelic messengers. Why is this word such a powerful Epiphany vocabulary word?
All these biblical heroes, and so many more, share one common experience….they were called by God to a specific task at a specific place and time to further God’s salvific plans, to speak His divine Word, to represent God to their generation. But they all began with a personal encounter of God’s design. A call. Hin-ne-ni was their reply. The elderly priest Eli schools his padawa…uh, er, oops I mean his young ward Samuel, to reply to God with this word, followed by Speak Lord, your servant is listening. Isaiah adds Send me as God asks whom He can send to speak His message. Many add their own touch to hin-ne-ni.
Not quite Hebraic, but still carrying the sense of this beautiful response to God, is how many gospel personages reply to Jesus. Today is Nathanael’s dramatic You are the Son of God, You are Israel’s King! Later, the Samaritan woman at the well, excitedly telling her friends Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done. Zacchaeus promising to repay anyone he defrauded with interest. The Roman soldier leading Jesus’ execution detail. The man demonically possessed who follows Jesus after being exorcised. Mary’s May it be to me as you say! (Wow!) Mary Magdalene. The poor man born blind. The Apostle Paul. Over, over and over again God calls, Jesus engages, and our reply changes our lives forever. No one is ever the same after meeting Jesus, after hearing God’s call. Never.
- Today is the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, and the young priestly ward Samuel we meet today will become one of Israel’s most significant leaders. But it all began, after his dramatic birth, right here, with his beloved master and mentor. So…who is your Eli please? Who taught you to reply to God when God called you?
- Oh, I can hear your thoughts even now….yes, you have! God calls all of us to a specific task at a specific place and specific time to cooperate with His salvific plans. God has called you to. Yes, yes, we are all called in Christian baptism to ministry, an observable service in Jesus’ name. So, what is your call? To what ministry have you been called?
- When was the last time you said Yes to God? Have you ever, or recently, said to God hin-ne-ni, here I am Lord? If not, may I suggest a good old fashioned prayer throw-down with the Almighty? After your hin-ne-ni, what more customized reply will you say to Jesus?