Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B: 1 Samuel 3:1-10: God’s Call

the Book of 1 Samuel Reading The New International Version

Source: iStockphoto.com

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of 1 Samuel.

I particularly like today’s Old Testament story, which is why I’m writing about it instead of my usual interest in the New Testament reading.

Samuel was at the time of the story just a boy serving the priest Eli in the temple. The Jewish historian Josephus says that he was 12, but scholars think he may have been older than that–so not a very young child and perhaps a teen.

The author points out that at that time the Lord did not speak to people often or give them visions.

One night Eli had gone to bed and Samuel lay down in the temple near the Ark of the Covenant. While he lay there, the Lord called him. Samuel responded, “Here I am,” but he thought it was Eli calling him. So he went to Eli to ask what he wanted. Eli told him he didn’t call him and to go back to bed. You can imagine the old, tired priest having his sleep disturbed by the youngster–maybe he was a little crabby about it.

 

Samuel went back to bed, but again the Lord called him by name. And he again ran to see what Eli wanted–and again Eli sent him back to bed.

The Bible says Samuel just didn’t know it was God calling because he hadn’t heard from the Lord like that before.

Samuel did not yet know the Lord because God had not spoken directly to him before.

Again the Lord called Samuel and again Samuel went back to see what Eli wanted. But this time Eli understood what had been happening, so he told Samuel to go to bed again and if he heard the call again to say, Speak, Lord. I am your servant, and I am listening.

 

Samuel went back to bed and again he heard the call. This time he responded, “Speak. I am your servant, and I am listening.”

 

And God spoke to him and from that moment Samuel became a great prophet and the one to anoint two kings over Israel.

This story is simple but beautiful. I can see it in my mind’s eye like a play. The boy waking at the sound of his name and just assuming it’s his master–the priest groggily sending him to bed until he realizes the boy is having a vision–the boy obeying God and responding to the call. It reminds us that we don’t always hear the Lord calling or understand what he wants of us. If we did there wouldn’t be so many disagreements within or among churches and denominations, for one thing. Many people think they hear clearly and that only their church hears clearly. So while we have to be open to God’s call and instruction, we also have to be careful not to mistake it. I think a good start is to consider love. Are you moving toward being more loving and loved, or away from that? Any word from God would move us toward love.

 

Proper 15, Year A: Matthew 15: 10-20, 21-28: Inclusiveness of Jesus

Jesus and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15), published in 1877

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You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 15, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

Today we hear more of Jesus’ teaching. He says,  “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” This is important because of the culture Jesus was within–a culture that had very detailed rules about cleanliness and purity. There were specific rules about what foods were eaten and how to prepare them, etc. 

So his disciples asked him about it, saying that the Pharisees were offended (Pharisees were huge on following those rules). He says they are blind leading the blind. Peter asks for further explanation. Jesus seems incredulous that they still don’t get it. He says that what goes into the mouth, goes to the stomach, and then out to the sewer,  but what comes out comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.”  So what comes out of the heart, which reveals what’s within you, is more important than what goes in. Many Christians today are still obsessed with purity and following rules, usually of a sexual nature–but is it as important as what comes out of their mouths? Is it more important than the fact that these same Christians often condemn others rather than showing love?

In the second part of the reading, Jesus comes across a Canaanite woman (so, a foreigner, not Jewish), who calls out to him to have mercy because her daughter is tormented by a demon. His disciples want him to send her away and he does not answer at first. And then his first response seems harsh: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and when she continues to ask for help he answers, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She says that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table. He then tells her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter is healed. This seems like he is almost testing her, and teaching his disciples at the same time. We know that Jesus came for more than his own Jewish people. He often reaches out beyond them in other interactions (with the Roman centurion who has a sick servant, with the Samaritan woman at the well, for examples.) The Bible is continually about expanding the love of God; it is a story of inclusiveness–as God’s love reaches out to the whole world. Even in the Old Testament, when men try to hold their faith tight, God reaches out to the rest of the world–as with Ruth, as with the people of Nineveh Jonah doesn’t want to save, and in many other stories. Jesus’ love is meant for all. If your faith teaches you to be exclusive and reject others, it’s not really the faith Jesus taught–it’s more like the faith of the Pharisees.