Devotion for Thursday Before the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Eli and Samuel

Above:  Eli and Samuel, by John Singleton Copley

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part I

JANUARY 4, 2018

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The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Psalm 29

Acts 9:10-19a

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Pay tribute to Yahweh, you sons of God,

tribute to Yahweh of glory and power,

tribute to Yahweh of the glory of his name,

worship Yahweh in his sacred court.

–Psalm 29:1-3, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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The readings for today tell stories of God calling people to pursue a faithful and risky path.  This command to embark upon a new course was for the benefit of others and the glory of God.  If any of the three people on whom these lessons focus had refused to obey and not recanted, God could have found someone else willing to obey, but he who would have refused in such a counterfactual situation would have been worse off spiritually.

We begin in 1 Samuel 3, the account of God’s call to the young Samuel.  The boy was living at Shiloh, with the priest Eli as his guardian.  Paula J. Bowes, author of the Collegeville Bible Commentary volume (1985) on the books of Samuel, noticed the literal and metaphorical levels of meaning in the text:

The picture of Eli as asleep and practically blind describes Israel’s state in relation to the Lord.  The lamp of God, that is, God’s word, is almost extinguished through the unworthiness of the officiating priests.  The Lord ignores Eli and calls directly to the boy Samuel to receive this divine word….Samuel is the faithful, chosen priest who will soon replace the unfaithful and rejected house of Eli.

–Page 15

Eli had the spiritual maturity to accept the verdict of God.  Repeating that judgment was obviously uncomfortable for the boy, who might have been uncertain of how the priest would take the news.

Acts 9 contains an account of the transformation of Saul of Tarsus into St. Paul the Apostle.  Saul, unlike young Samuel, understood immediately who was speaking to him.  Ananias of Damascus also heard from God and, after a brief protest, obeyed.  Thus Ananias abetted the spiritual transformation of Saul into one of the most influential men in Christian history.  The summons to do so met with reasonable fear, however, for Saul had been a notorious persecutor of earliest Christianity.  How was Ananias supposed to know beforehand that Saul had changed?  Ananias had to trust God.  And St. Paul suffered greatly for his obedience to God; he became a martyr after a series of imprisonments, beatings, and even a shipwreck.

Gerhard Krodel, author of the Proclamation Commentaries volume (1981) on the Acts of the Apostles, wrote that Chapter 8 ends with an account of the breaking down of a barrier and that Chapter 9 opens with another such story.  Acts 8 closes with the story of St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle) converting the Ethiopian eunuch, a Gentile.  St. Paul had to deal with understandable suspicion of his bona fides after his conversion in Acts 9.  Later in the book he inaugurated his mission to the Gentiles–the breaking down of another barrier.

I have never heard the voice of God.  On occasion I have noticed a thought I have determined to be of outside origin, however.  Usually these messages have been practical, not theological.  For example, about fourteen years ago, I knew in an instant that I should put down the mundane task I was completing and move my car.  I had parked it under a tree, as I had on many previous days, but something was different that day.  So I moved my car to a spot where only open sky covered it.  Slightly later that day I looked at the spot where my car had been and noticed a large tree limb on the ground.  Last year I knew that I should drive the route from Americus, Georgia, back to Athens, Georgia, without stopping.  So I did.  I parked the car at my front door and proceeded to unload the vehicle.  When I went outside to move the car to the back parking lot, the vehicle would not start, for my ignition switch needed work.  But I was home, safe.  Yes, God has spoken to me, but not audibly and not to tell me to become a great priest or evangelist.

My experience of God has been subtle most of the time.  At some time during my childhood God entered my life.  This happened quietly, without any dramatic event or “born again” experience.  God has been present, shaping me over time.  At traumatic times I have felt grace more strongly than the rest of the time, but light is more noticeable amid darkness than other light.  Grace has been present during the good times also.  Not everybody who follows God will have a dramatic experience of the divine.  So be it.  May nobody who has had a dramatic experience of the divine insist that others must have one too.

Yet God does call all the faithful to leave behind much that is comfortable and safe.  Breaking down human-created barriers to God is certain to make one unpopular and others uncomfortable, is it not?  It contradicts “received wisdom” as well as psychological and theological categories.  Anger and fear are predictable reactions which often lead to violence and other unfortunate actions.  Frequently people commit these sins in the name of God.

The call of God is to take risks, break down artificial barriers, and trust God for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  Along the way one will reap spiritual benefits, of course.  Wherever God leads you, O reader, to proceed, may you go there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOBB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT BUILDER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVINA COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MEAD, ANTHROPOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF PHILIP WILLIAM OTTERBEIN, COFOUNDER OF THE CHURCH OF THE UNITED BRETHREN IN CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/the-call-of-god-part-i/

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One response to “Devotion for Thursday Before the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)

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  1. Pingback: The Call of God, Part I | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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