If “visions were not widespread,” then those days are like our days, perhaps like all days. Some folks find that thought disappointing, longing for a miraculous manifestation of God’s power, an instantaneous healing on television. Let’s not be patronizing toward our neighbors who feel this way. In scripture, people constantly ask Jesus to legitimize himself with a “sign.”
We don’t always need drama. Once on a Volunteers in Mission trip, a fellow pilgrim talked about how faith, or being “born again,” can come differently to each of us. Maybe a sudden blinding light—Saul outside Damascus. Or more frequently, a shade opening, light gradually filling the room. The sacred in the ordinary. Verse 7 tells us Samuel lacks direct experience. Nothing has changed. Young people learn from behavior we model; they need to make mistakes without devastating consequences. Once on jury duty, we were brought into a courtroom where the nineteen-year-old defendant was on trial for burglary, with a twenty-seven-year-old prosecutor and a twenty-six-year-old public defender. I asked to be excused—the defendant reminded me of my youngest son and his friends. I couldn’t judge the kid. He should be allowed one mistake. I keep thinking about this ear-tingling news Samuel must bear: Eli’s sons will be killed; Philistines will seize the ark; and Eli himself will die. It’s a lot to lay on a young boy. Children never choose such burdens but still receive them today: family illness, food insecurity, a father’s incarceration, fleeing from war. Maybe this scripture is a call to action, to recognize our obligation not only to our own children and grandchildren but to all God’s children. A call to ease their burdens and provide a worthy model for behavior—in whatever community we live.
Sustainer God, grant us illumination and strength to live up to your call to build up the beloved community. Amen.
The call of Samuel and the intimate language of the psalmist this week reflect God’s knowledge of and care for each individual. God sees each one of us, no matter where we are in life and no matter how far we might feel from God. Paul seeks to encourage the Corinthians with this same truth. Believers may be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, beaten down, even killed; but they are never defeated. The power of a personal God flows through them, even if this is not evident to the eyes of the world. We likewise should be personally caring toward those around us. Jesus models this in Mark, demonstrating that showing mercy is more important than following even religious regulations, for mercy is the heart of God.
• Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. When has a young person in your life or that of someone you know had to face the devastating consequences of a single bad decision? How did that affect your actions and behaviors?
• Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. When have you experienced that life has no guarantees? How did you sense God’s presence in that time?
• Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-12. How do you attempt to be open to seeing Christ in everyone you meet?
• Read Mark 2:23–3:6. When do you, like Jesus, try to be proximate to persons in need? How has that changed your life?
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