Scriptures: 1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20 (11:14-15)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Last week we took a look at the calling of Samuel, a member of his faith community since a very early age, whom at the time had not yet learned how to hear God calling, but then as a boy gets his first experience…which had to be repeated several times before his mentor Eli helped him to see, hear, and respond to God.
Today’s passage, from Samuel’s elderhood, marks the huge shift Israel makes between a nation state of judges to a nation state with a king and prophets. What can contemporary readers glean from today’s passage?
First, this is a story of transformation. God’s heart is transformed to meet the people’s need in their contemporary place and time. The people want a king, they want to conform to the world, they want the visual, indeed visceral stability of a real flesh-and-blood leader. God gives in, albeit with a warning.
Second, Samuel is very much able to listen and hear clearly what it is God is speaking to him – and to Israel, whereas Israel as a whole is deaf to God’s voice.
Third, this story is really a story about rebirth. Israel has clamored for its own death as a theocracy and to be re-born as a kingdom. This third point causes me to pause and deeply reflect. I wonder, do you suppose there are any parallels to contemporary Christianity? What if we overlay this story with the story from Mark’s Gospel?
In the Markan narrative, this is a perplexing piece sandwiched between the Mark’s version of the calling of the 12 disciples and a more familiar teaching parable – the Parable of the Sower.
Here, Jesus pulls apart virtually every aspect of the Biblical social norms of his day: he speaks truth to power – and speaks in parables so they cannot even get a straight sentence out of him. He talks about plundering the strong man’s house. He talks about eternal sin for blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. He declares his own family to be not his family, and those who do the will of God are his family.
Overlay on top of that today’s epistle lesson from 2 Corinthians 4: 16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day… 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
It occurred to me each of these passages are about dying to the old self and being born anew – universally, corporately, and personally.
John Philip Newell illuminates nine elements of rebirth needed for Christianity in our contemporary times. Rebirth will happen, he says, when we:
- Fall in love again with the earth. Taking from the writings of Thomas Berry, he says “what is needed is a conversion to the sacredness of matter and spiritual communion with the earth.”
- Break open the waters of compassion within us. This is a revolution of the spirit wherein we look beyond our own families, nations, and species with eyes of compassion for all life.
- See with radical amazement the unbelievable gift of every moment, seeing the luminosity of each created thing.
- Letting go of the cords of confinement we fit to our own spirit, soul-journeying beyond the artificial boundaries of our faith to embrace and incorporate those things of others that lead to life giving spirit for all. This is a newborn vision indeed.
- Engage “in a depth of spiritual practice that will keep liberating our true nature and the deep passions for transformation that lie within us.”
- Dig deep into our soul to effect real change in the world. Taking from the work of Mahatma Gandhi, embrace a nonviolence that is an outpouring of soul-force rather than the knee-jerk reaction of brute force that so often prevails.
- To dive deeper into the inner life of our soul, letting go of the ways we have been content to stop short at the myths and religious formulations of the past. We are in a position to need to “dream our way forward for us and for the earth.”
- “Die to the narrowness of our self-loves…abandoning the illusions of separateness” and resurrecting love for all things.
- Ultimately, the rebirthing of God means the “coming forth again of what is deepest in us.”
Come, Lord Jesus, for we would hear your voice, become your people, and joyfully go – becoming your hands and feet in the world. Amen? May it be so.
 Jill Dufield, “Looking into the Lectionary,” Presbyterian Outlook, June 4, 2018 (http://pres-outlook.org/category/ministry-resources/looking-into-the-lectionary/).
 John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings (Nashville, TN: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2015) 122
 Ibid. 123
 Ibid. 124
Questions for Reflection
What unseen assurances of God’s eternal glory are given to you this week?
Household Prayer: Morning
God of the morning, awaken us to know that to be resurrected with Jesus means to die with Christ first. May we recognize you in every moment so that whatever we do, we do for your glory, through Jesus Christ, our way, truth, and life. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
God, all through this day you have watched over me on the streets of my busy schedule, nourished me with blessings that I cannot count. And still your faithfulness does not sleep nor slumber, but continues even when the sun goes down. What a blessing to dwell in your presence! In your presence, I lay down today’s burden and take rest. In your presence, may I rise to hear your voice. Amen.