Sermon ~ Pastor Annette
How is what we do as disciples of Jesus
different that people who pursue justice and righteousness
but never come anywhere near church?
Two things make discipleship different than morality - I think.
Holiness . . . . And grace.
The value of creation, of people, of existence itself -
lies in our capacity to know and be known
by the loving force that created it.
Holiness, then, refers to the sacredness
of all that lives and breathes and is created by God.
And grace -
the creator has chosen life over holiness.
The love of the creator we called God
exceeds God's want of holiness
Evil is disruptive and grievous to God,
but evil does break God's commitment
I am an element of creation . . . .
You are an element of creation . . .
capable of knowing and choosing
to put our lives into the flow
of holiness and grace
Disciples do what we do out of a longing
to be part of God's design for holiness and grace
where we live.
Sometimes that means
Jesus will want us to do stuff we'd rather not do -
or think we aren't capable of doing.
Jesus asks anyway.
Just like God asked Eli and Samuel to do stuff they didn't want to -
or didn't think they could.
Samuel’s calling began with his mother's faithfulness.
Her name was Hannah.
His daddy was Elkanah . . . a truly lovely husband & I mean it.
He was so kind to Hannah when she was so sad.
When she finally got pregnant
she gave the baby boy to God, the bible says,
which is how he ended up in Shiloh with Eli.
This is long before there was Jerusalem.
Israel's 40 years in the wilderness is over and Israel has come to the Promised Land.
Mostly they have tribal wars.
Insofar as they are ruled,
they are ruled by God-called
of whom Eli is next to last.
Eli had two boys -
both of them priests; called and ordained . . .
Just like Eli.
Because that was how the priesthood worked;
Sons inherited the calling from fathers . . .
Their names were Phineas and Hophni.
But the bible calls them scoundrels -
because being called and ordained
didn't keep their sticky fingers out of the offering plate . . .
And it didn’t keep their other parts away from the women
to whom they were called to minister
the rites and duties of their office.
And as bad as that was . . .
just as bad to God, it seems,
Eli, their father and the senior prophet of the organization -
knew about it ~ and did nothing.
"Your slimy sons, will die on the same day and you will live to hear of it,"
God tells Eli in chapter 2.
I want to tease three meanings from the text - beginning here:
What God told Samuel to tell Eli in the vision of chapter 3 -
Eli already knew.
Eli had already heard from God's own self directly.
And, apparently, still done nothing.
What these 2nd tier prophets were up to
may have been a secret among Eli and his cohort,
but others knew.
Which is the second meaning I want to make of the passage - the most important really:
Eli already knew and God has always known.
God knew about it.
All of it.
The whole time.
Dr. King was fond of saying No lie lives forever.
Dr. King was talking about this world.
In the presence of the Lord ~ no lie exists ever.
Victims - we need to know that.
There are no secrets from the eyes and ears of God.
God made and called us to live
in peaceful, holy, just relationships with one another.
Some of us are ordained to teach the way holiness.
Which is not to say we are perfect . . .
But we are judged more closely . . .
(as per Luke, chapter 12)
To use that power to take advantage -
ANY kind of advantage . . . .
as Phineas and Hophni have . . .
as Eli has allowed . . .
was precisely the injustice that God's priests and prophets
were supposed to be sniffing out and judging in Israel . . .
That all of Israel might live in peaceful, holy just community.
Is it any wonder the word of God was rare and visions hardly ever seen?
If the senior priest and prophet
had his eyes closed and his ears covered
to deny what was happening in his own house -
Is it any wonder he didn't know the voice of God
when it came from room next door?
No lie lives forever,
even if the Lord has to start over with a walk on players . . .
As God does in chapter 1 with Hannah and Samuel.
I imagine Samuel as a not so little tyke - about 11 years old -
as he knew enough to be afraid
of what the Lord told him to preach.
A kid much younger would not have understood what he was saying.
Whatever Samuel understood or didn't
the day he preached it first -
He came to understand the story better than he'd ever want to.
Do you know why?
Can you imagine why?
Because Samuel also was a dad.
He also had two sons - Joel and Abidjah.
Samuel was the very last priest of Israel.
When he had ruled a good long time the people came to him
and begged him to anoint a king over them.
Samuel told them no.
God told them no.
But do you know why they asked in the first place?
Because he had made his sons judges over Israel
but they took bribes and perverted justice.
Go figure . . .
Please, the elders of Israel said to Samuel,
we fear what your sons might do to us.
Apparently their corruption wasn’t a secret to anyone.
And thus the end
of prophet-priest-judges over Israel
And the beginning of monarchy -
King Saul was first. Then David.
We know how peaceful, holy and just that was.
The story of Samuel and Eli
is among the first we learn in Sunday School.
God calling little kids to big jobs.
And it works so long as we lift it up and out with no context.
But I can't preach that way.
We don't live that way.
God clearly doesn't work that way.
God does everything in context right?
And this is the third meaning I want to pull forward . . . Context.
God treats the dedication of Samuel by Hannah
in the context of malfeasance and misconduct of Eli's house.
The context of all the scriptures is what -
The context of our life in God and our lives together as disciples is what?
What makes this life different than a life well-live apart from God?
holiness and grace.
Holiness & Grace is the context.
We must find this story in the context of holiness and grace.
Samuel woke that morning with a message on his heart,
the power and full meaning of which he had no idea.
This is what it means to be a prophet.
I have this image of Eli never going back to sleep
once he sent Samuel to his room the third time.
Sitting at his kitchen table . . . . drinking coffee . . . smoking cigarettes. . . Whatever . . .
The long night of his soul . . . .
When the sun comes up the eyes of his heart are no longer dim
and his ears are unstopped.
Also what it means to be a prophet.
Meanwhile, Samuel . . . . .
who had skipped out to see Eli three times overnight -
is now too scared to come out of his room.
But Eli speaks first.
16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.”
He said, “Here I am.”
17 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.”
See how Eli makes it harder for Samuel
NOT to tell him than to tell him . . .
Eli sounds mean but he is actually full of grace and mercy here.
18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him.
Then Eli said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
I rather wish I'd titled this Eli's Redemption.
Because he's changed.
He's a different kind of father to Samuel than to Phineas & Hophni.
He knew what his other boys were up to - of course he did.
But pretended he didn't because he didn't want to deal with the grief.
Friends, with a word he could have ruined Samuel.
In fact, without a word.
Anybody else ever been in a household or a relationship
that simply doesn't speak of uncomfortable things?
Mary Chapin Carpenter song about her childhood,
But oh how our dreams went bump in the night
And the voices downstairs getting into a fight
And the next day a silence you could cut with a knife
And feel like a blade at your throat…
If Samuel had come out of his room and Eli said, "Want breakfast?"
If Eli had pretended the night had never happened . . .
Samuel probably would have too.
After all, he's learning prophecy and discipleship
from the master of the trade.
He might have learned
the art of keeping secrets . . .
He might have learned the art
Of tenderizing the word so as not to cause any grief or discomfort.
He might have learned
that grief and discomfort are worse to God than injustice.
And in the process -
Samuel might have become another worthless prophet.
But for the sake of all that was good and holy . . . .
Eli was done pretending . . .
He was ready for the grief . . .
He chose to listen and when he'd heard it all
He didn't correct, complain or argue.
“It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
And if you’ve read ahead - a bit - you know what seemed good to the Lord.
It was as Eli heard - in chapters 2 and 3.
How this doesn't make it into kids' Sunday School
I don't know
because it's hilarious.
Israel was at war with the Philistines and being slaughtered right and left.
the Philistines killed 30,000 Israelites . . .
And they stole the ark of the covenant
So Eli is sitting on a stool at the wall of the city of Shiloh
waiting for news of the battle when
A man ran from the battle line, and came to Shiloh the same day,
with his clothes torn and with earth upon his head.
When the man came into the city and told the news,
all the city cried out.
When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?”
Then the man came quickly and told Eli,
“I have just come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.”
He said, “How did it go, my son?”
"There has also been a great slaughter among the troops; your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead,
and the ark of God has been captured.”
When he mentioned the ark of God,
(Not the sons, notice)
Eli fell over backward from his seat
and broke his neck and died because he was old and very fat.
“It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
Falling off a chair and breaking his neck because he was so old and fat -
is probably NOT what NOT imagined would happen to him.
That what people would remember best about him
was hilarious way he died.
This week and for the next three -
we are looking at stories of God calling people to do things
they either don't want to do or don't think they can do.
Eli was called -
He was inconsistently faithful to that calling.
On a day it really really counted -
when he was handing the work to the next prophet -
Eli was amazing.
And Israel benefited, hugely.
The bible says the Lord was with Samuel and let none of his words fall to the ground . . .
That all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew
that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.
What a good word to have said about one's ministry and calling.
Whatever we are called to do with our lives in this time and place.