…I once was lost…

Sometimes we lose are way –

that is the understanding at the outset of Samuel’s story. Eli has lost his way

The people of God cannot be far behind, for Eli is their Spiritual guide.

Eli’s eyes are dim, his apprentice did not yet know the Lord –

in fact, the word of the Lord was rare in those days.

God’s people had lost their way.

So what does it take to get back on track?

An act of God would do nicely, thank you – a little smoke and fire –

a well placed plague or two (just like the good old days)

and everyone will jump right back on board…

And of course, God chooses something completely different.

This call to Samuel is a study in new direction –

calling one with no experience – calling one with no bad habits – calling the young to judge the old –

all these are things we would reject as impractical, or hurtful,

or disrespectful of the legacy of our ancestors…

but these are the things of God, and all is not always as we think it should be.

But Eli knows how it must be.

Eli has lost his touch, and his connection to the almighty.

He is not bitter, or even surprised when God’s word proposes a new (and difficult) direction –

one that does not include Eli or his sons.

The word given to Samuel soon comes to pass.

Eli’s sons go with the ark into battle – the sons are killed and the ark is captured.

The news of this causes Eli to fall in fright and he too is killed (1 Samuel 4: 5-18)

The arrogance of the sons of Eli results in their death and in Israel’s shame.

There clearly needs to be a new direction,

and the continuing story of Eli and his family suggests

that there is no room for arrogance in this new God-thing…

Samuel is one of many new starts that God makes with Israel

as they struggle to find their place in the promised land.

There are some false starts – some total flops – but always there is God seeking new life and new ideas from the wreckage of our arrogance and pride. Eli sums up the reality for us:

“It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him…”

Samuel’s solution was not perfect – the pride of an entire people is difficult to overcome.

More change is necessary, kings will come and go –

the strength of Israel will fade and grow and fade again

before Jesus comes and offers a similarly disturbing word from God.

Jesus offers a truly remarkable vision of the way of God among God’s people –

not just a prophet – not merely gifted with divine insight

(you saw me under the fig tree??? You must be the son of God, the King of Israel!) –

Jesus promises greater things than this mysterious identification of Nathaniel.

You will see heaven opened, and angels coming and going.

In short, Jesus promises that the boundaries between the holy and the earthly will be blurred –

the boundary lines of the kingdom of God,

once drawn very rigidly, will become permeable.

Nothing will be as we imagined – it is the Lord, after all –

so are we willing to say with Eli “Let God do as seems good to God?”

we are not ready for that – let’s face it.

We are not able to grasp the importance of the time we live in –

our eyes are dimmed and the word of God is not so common,

yet we are not ready to hear from new voices, nor to see with clear eyes.

Everything has changed but the church –

and the church is going to be left behind.

–we have been living in an incredible misunderstanding,

imagining that unchangeable somehow meant stationary.

The thing is, God doesn’t often remain still.

God may occasionally slow down – but most often, God races ahead –

planting visions and offering glimpses of glory –

all designed to fuel the curiosity of people longing for liberation.

Jesus promise of heaven on earth – the angels ascending and descending – J

and Jesus claims of the immanence of the reign of God – the justice of God – the peace of God –

are meant to urge us forward into a new reality –

that we have chosen to settle into a holding pattern is unfortunate –

and we will pay the price for it.

Not in such spectacular fashion as Eli and his family, perhaps –

but we will lose sight of the promise, and that is spiritual death.

All is not lost however – all is never lost –

it is the Lord, after all; doing what seems good –

and in Christ, we discover that what seems good to God is to extend grace –

to once more inspire in us the curiosity that welcomes change –

to bless us with vision that sees opportunities for faith – that hope is still mine in my vocation

it is still our hope as a community of faith – as followers of Christ.

Our challenge is to accept the gift that God has placed before us –

to open ourselves to that life-changing notion

that God would work with us, in us and through us to bring God’s kingdom to light.

Christ is calling – God is moving – the kingdom is just around the corner.

Are you ready?

 

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