Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, January 14, 2018

My apologies for not getting this posted earlier in the week.  I have been sick since this past weekend, and that has altered my routine and my schedule over the last few days.

You will see in these readings a general theme of what it means to be known by the Lord.  We see the Lord directly addressing Samuel.  We hear reflections of how deeply the Lord knows us because the Lord created us.  We are reminded of the Holy Spirit's presence within us.  And we hear the story of Jesus describing Nathanael to his face before Nathanael has a chance to introduce himself.  It is worth asking whether the fact that the Lord knows us so well gives us comfort and strength or gives us cause for concern, stress, and discomfort.

The readings for Sunday are below.  After each reading, you will find my thoughts and reactions in italics.  I encourage you to leave your thoughts and reactions in the comments below.

1 Samuel 3:1 - 10 [11 - 20]

1Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
  2At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3the 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. 4Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5and 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. 6The 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.” 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The 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. 9Therefore 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.
  10Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [11Then 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. 12On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13For 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. 14Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
  15Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17Eli 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.” 18So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
  19As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.]

Samuel “was ministering to the Lord,” but “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”  This calling from the Lord was Samuel’s first direct interaction with the Lord, even though he had grown up as a part of Israel’s religious structure under the tutelage of Eli.  This was not the ideal first calling for Samuel, to deliver a harsh message from the Lord to Eli.  What’s the good news here?  That the Lord can and does call people to carry the Lord’s messages?  That Samuel is established as a trustworthy prophet?  There’s not much to this story without telling a larger story of Eli and his sons and/or Samuel’s full career.

Psalm 139:1 - 6, 13 - 18

 1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
 3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.
 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

 13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
 16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
 17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
 18 I try to count them-- they are more than the sand; I come to the end-- I am still with you.

Psalm 139 reflects on how deeply we are known by the Lord, our Creator.  The Lord formed every part of our bodies, knows every thought that crosses our minds, and knows every emotion that we experience.  There is nothing that we can hide from the Lord.  This can be a scary thought.  For the psalmist, however, this is a great comfort; therefore, the psalmist invites us to find comfort in this realization.

1 Corinthians 6:12 - 20

12“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

We could spend our time in 1 Corinthians 6 worrying about Christian ideals in regards to sex, tattoos, and other body issues.  However, the passage is prefaced with the discussion of all things being “lawful.”  We see this in society today: we may have the freedom to do something, but that does not mean that it is a good idea to do it or that doing it will actually be good for us.  Martin Luther’s understanding of freedom is that we are freed from justifying ourselves before the Lord so that we are free for service to our neighbor.  Another piece of the puzzle is verse 19 (emphasis added): “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and THAT YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN?”  So often, our discussion of freedom, including the freedom of what we will do with/to our own bodies, assumes that our bodies are our own to do with what we please.  Paul argues that this is not true: our bodies belong to the Lord, our Creator.

A colleague mentioned that she cannot read this passage in worship without commenting upon it because of how the passage has been taught and used against others in the past.  When you hear this passage and its discussion of our bodies as part of our relationship with Christ, what is stirred within your mind?  Do you feel comforted that the Lord knows us so well?  Or do you feel judged, perhaps because someone has used the language of "your body is a temple" to shame you?

John 1:43 - 51

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Sometimes, we cannot truly comprehend something without experiencing it for ourselves.  This is why the invitation to experience it is so critical.  This also goes to how we share our faith with others.  We can talk and talk and talk, but for many, they will not truly understand or comprehend without accepting and invitation to meet Jesus through the Church (both corporate worship including the sacraments and individual members).  Worth noting: Nathanael’s confession comes before Peter’s confession, but it is Peter who identifies Jesus as the Messiah/Christ (Hebrew/Greek terms).  Jesus demonstrates a knowledge of Nathanael that echoes Psalm 139.

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