Who wants to hear bad news? A parent finds a child standing in the kitchen next to an empty cookie jar with crumbs on his shirt. The parent asks, “Who ate all the cookies?” Looking bewildered, the child responds, “I don’t know.” Perhaps the parent responds with punishment for lying. Another parent might approach the situation differently by creating a safe place for the child to describe what happened.
Samuel receives bad news about Eli from the Lord, but he avoids interacting with his mentor, Eli. Perhaps he hopes the Lord’s message is not real and that he can forget about it. However, Samuel trusts Eli and has enough confidence and courage to deliver the bad news. He delivers all of it, leaving nothing out. Eli accepts the consequences of what he has heard, saying, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
These verses convey many lessons. Perhaps we learn the importance of creating safe places for people to share bad news. Perhaps we can focus on developing the internal confidence and courage necessary to deliver bad news. Maybe, like Eli, we can learn to ask for the bad news, be strengthened to receive it and gracious enough to acknowledge our identity as God’s children even in the face of such news.
Samuel models responsiveness and obedience to God’s word; Eli submits to that word. May we remain obedient to the message we have heard from the Lord and accept the consequences of acting on it.
O Holy One, who bears all news, good and bad, may we be willing to seek and to deliver bad news when necessary. Teach us to do so with compassion and care. Amen.
We read the stories of Samuel and the calling of Jesus’ disciples in John, and it is easy to feel jealous. God spoke so directly into their lives that they should have had, it seems to us, full and unwavering confidence in their calling. Didn’t they have an unfair spiritual advantage over us? However, the psalmist reminds us that God knows and sees us individually just as well as God knew Samuel and Jesus knew his disciples. God has plans for us, even if they are revealed in less obvious ways. The reading from Corinthians is quite different in its message. Perhaps we can at least recognize that even if we never hear God’s audible voice, through scripture God still provides guidance for our lives.
• Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. In what ways do you remain responsive to hearing God’s voice?
• Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. What sense of God’s involvement in your everyday life do you have?
• Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. How do you remind yourself of the spirit–body connection?
• Read John 1:43-51. When have you allowed prejudice to affect your decision about a person’s competency?
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