Friday, February 27

1 Samuel 3: 11-21 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 for ever, 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.’  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.’ 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. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.

Checking Up On My Spiritual Practices

Eli was by all counts a good and faithful priest of the Lord’s house. But he has one great failure.  He is never able to control his two sons who are, to say the least, corrupt.  But you would think that this good priest would have gotten off a bit easier. God’s judgment was harsh. God tells the boy Samuel to relay to Eli the harsh vision of the future. No one in Eli’s family would live to old age.  His two sons, and all of his other family members, would die by the sword.  In fact, as a sure sign of God’s judgment, Eli’s two sons would both die on the same day.

How can this be?  Eli had been such a faithful servant, a good priest for his people and upheld the laws and ordinances of the God of Israel. It doesn’t seem fair. I am challenged by this story to realize that the words others may speak in criticism of my vocational practices could be a word of God’s judgment.

Years ago a couple in a church I was serving came to my home. They told me that my sermons were lacking because I was not preaching the word of God. As best I could understand their concerns, they wanted me to have a preaching style closer to the style they had grown up with in their family church. Our conversation did not resolve the issue and they eventually left the church.  But we remained community friends.

After prayer and reflection, I dug out my sermons for the past year.  There were sermons I probably should have reworked…or….maybe never gave. I remember thinking to myself that their criticism just might be God’s direction to me.  It was a good lesson for me.

In this Lenten season I am reminded that as I serve within God’ mission in the world, my concrete practices will always be done within a community setting, and I need to remain open to corrective but loving input from others.

Don MacNicholl

Prayer:  Lord, grant me the wisdom to know when I am failing to faithfully live out my calling in working in your mission for this world.