Second Sunday after Epiphany: The Old Testament Passage – Doing what had been done, but doing it better!

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.” 1 Samuel 3:1-3

I remember this passage from three years ago. I remember how unsure I was about using the Revised Common Lectionary as the source of my comments and writing. Unsure how to format and stylize the posts, what titles to use, how much explanation to give – just unsure and trying to figure out how to do things. I imagine young Samuel felt the same way, learning how to “minister” to the Lord and work in the temple. And, it seems, how to recognize the voice of the Lord. It was not often heard in the days of young Samuel and aging Eli.

Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.” (Verses 4 – 8)

Last time, three years ago, I was critical of the fact that it took Eli three time to realize that the Lord was speaking to Samuel. But . . . if I give myself grace and mercy in coming to feel comfortable using the RCL on a weekly basis, I should extend the same grace and mercy to Eli. He did come to realize what was happening, and in a relatively short time actually. And he knew too how to advise Samuel as to how to respond to the Lord.

Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (Verses 9 – 10)

I want to tell you, beloved reader, that a few months after I started using the RCL readership started to increase. Slowly at first but as the months went on readership spread from the 100’s to over a 1000. Small I am sure in comparison to other blogs, but to me it was a sure sign that I was tapping into an interest. Over time the numbers became less important and what I started to value was the spiritual discipline it became for me. And I came to the point where I wanted to be accountable what what I had written. So I switched posting from one blog site to another. And, the numbers are small again. But that is okay; whether the site grows in readership is less important now than what it brings me personally and spiritually.

Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.” (Verses 11 – 14)

Going from a readership of over 1200 to a readership of 200 was quite a change. But it was never about gathering people who liked to read what I wrote, and even less so now. Why am I raising this issue now? Well, I am assuming that Eli’s sons decided to do the popular thing and the easy thing when representing the temple; or maybe more accurately pleasing themselves instead of God. It would have been easy to just continue posting on the original site. There was nothing wrong with the site or the premise it was started on. But there is more to me than quoting scripture and writing about it. Scripture does no one any good if it is not put to use and work in our daily lives. And that is what I try to do. So I felt that it was better for me to post from a place where that was the focus. And like Samuel, I was afraid for a while to speak up about it.

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.” (Verses 15 – 18)

From the moment I started writing and commenting on the RCL, I have felt a source spring up in me prompting and inspiring me what to say. I knew that changing the site I posted on was not going to that. But I have digressed enough – let us move back to considering this scripture passage.

Eli did not reign in his sons. Maybe he tried to. Maybe when his sons were young they listened to their father better and followed in his footsteps. Maybe it was in his advanced age that controlling his sons and guiding the people in worshiping God became harder for him. Remember, he did not recognize the religious fervor of Samuel’s mother. The era of the judges was inconsistent in guiding the people of God. Something needed to change, and Samuel became the instrument of that change. However, as the two books of Samuel show, some change was good and some change was not so good.

As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.” (Verses 19 – 20)

That might be what inspired me to talk more clearly (and again) about the change I made fall of 2017. And it could be why this passage is one of the first after the New Year; starting anew. And in this lectionary year, year B. This lectionary year has the underlying theme of renewal and re-committing one’s faith. In other words, doing what had been done last year in a better way. Last year we looked at coming to new faith. This year we look at doing a better job of living out our faith. I hope, beloved reader, you will continue to follow along as I consider scripture passages, ponder how they relate to that theme and to the larger theme of living out an accountable and authentic Christian life. Selah!

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