Living is vulnerable business. We want to know if we are doing it right. Is that why “fitting in” has such a powerful pull on us? We steal glances to see how others are living their lives. It starts young and continues through adulthood—what kind of car, what brand of clothes? The questions become more serious: Should I get married if everyone else is? What’s wrong with me if I don’t want kids?
It makes sense to learn from our neighbors and to mine their experiences for lessons that might apply to us. How did you get your baby to sleep through the night? When did you know it was the right time to ask for a raise? The problem in this story of Samuel and the people of God is that the people forget what God has done for them. They forget that God led them out of slavery in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. They forget that God fed them manna in the desert and provided quail in the wilderness. Instead of trusting God, they choose to be like the other nations.
We fall prey to the same temptation when we let our neighbors’ choices become our plumb line. When the fear-
mongers convince us that the stranger is our enemy and that persons different from us are potential threats, we reject God. When we believe that we come first and allow the poor to fend for themselves, we reject God. When we believe that forgiveness is naïve and mercy is for fools, we reject God. We reject God because we forget what God has done for us. We reject God because we forget that our very existence is divine gift.
Remind us of your love, O God. Give us courage to rely only on you. Amen.
We sometimes struggle to believe in the power of a God we cannot see. The psalmist declares that God is greater than any earthly king and will preserve us in the face of our enemies. However, in the time of Samuel, the Israelites demanded a human king to lead them into battle, as other nations had. God was not enough for them. Paul admonishes the Corinthians not to repeat this mistake. We should not think that what we can see is the ultimate reality. What we see is temporary; what cannot be seen is eternal. Perhaps Jesus is teaching a similar idea in this somewhat troubling passage in Mark. Jesus is not against family, but he is emphasizing that human families are temporary; spiritual family is eternal.
• Read 1 Samuel 8:4-20. How influenced by culture and neigh-
bors are you? How do you attempt to keep your priorities aligned with God’s reign?
• Read Psalm 138. How do you evaluate the “gods” in your life? How do you recognize when those gods have gained control of your life?
• Read 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1. When life’s circumstances over-
whelm you, how do you avoid losing heart?
• Read Mark 3:20-35. Who is your spiritual family? Whom do you identify as your brothers, sisters, mother and father?
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