4.30.2008

Fourth Sunday in Lent

1 Samuel 16: 1 - 3
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5: 8 - 14
John 9: 1 - 41

How many times do we feel a nudge in a direction that seems impossible? Our response is usually something like, "Surely, God, you cannot mean that I should do that???" or "I've never done anything like that." Or our personal favorite, "What would the (neighbors, boss, family, fill in the blank) say / think?" Sometimes it is a dramatic - job change, a geographic change, or a lifestyle change. Sometimes it is more mundane - saying no to the kids, stopping to talk to a stranger, taking a different route home from work.

The texts this week point to the experience of being nudged (sometimes pushed) in dramatic directions, of heeding call even when it seems unbelievable, of accepting the unexpected, and allowing that God leads people into amazing places.

Samuel is called to anoint a king, and has to rely on God to point to the right one. Now Samuel had already done this once, and it is easy to imagine he hoped he was done with that task, especially since anointing a new King would mean Dethroning Saul, the first King. Picture the scene, Samuel sort of hesitating as each of Jesse's sons pass before him, waiting for a poke or a prod or a whisper in his ear, "This is the One." And imagine how his expectations are uprooted as each son passes and God says, "Nope." But Samuel hangs in there, and he keeps listening to God even though the message is counterintuitive. It's interesting to remember Samuel's humble beginning: he was born in answer to Hannah's deeply faithful prayers. Hannah promised that if she can only have a son, he will be set aside and raised is strict observance of the law, consecrated. Samuel is a part of a line of people that learned in different ways what it meant to follow the Movement of God. This is God - Yaweh - a tangible voice to be heeded.

The psalmist comforts the reader with words that many of us know by heart. God is leading me in right places and when I know that and accept that and lean into that, I am OK. These are such beautiful and comforting images. Imagine for a moment what it feels like to have your Soul comforted while laying in Green Pastures by Still Waters.imagine what it feels like to know you are under the complete protection of Someone who is watching over you. This is a different view on the same idea of trusting God. Whereas Samuel is trusting God from a place of uncertainty, the Psalmist is describing what it might mean to trust someone from a place of complete and overt Protection. This is certainly a world-view and a theology of God as Superhero and Great Protector..however you might feel about that personally.

In the gospel this week, so much is unexpected. So much is God-given. (This is a great passage to discuss with children, because it is ripe for their imaginations.from mixing mud with spit to Arguing with Authority...WOW.) We are introduced to a man, who, for some reason or another, has no vision. In his culture and tradition, such a condition would have been a reflection on previous generation's sins. His community might have passed Judgments on what he or his parents had done wrong to "deserve" such an affliction. Along comes Jesus, who with some spit and some mud wipes away this man's blindness. And on the Sabbath, of all days. Essentially, Jesus wipes away the burden of this man's life. And in their society, his doing so is a sin because of the day of the week. The Pharisees are stunned. Here is a man born blind whose sight is restored (a sinner whose sins are "wiped away?") by a man who is saying outrageous, counter cultural things...and doing it on the holiest of days. At the end of the story we see the man saying, "I don't know what happened or how it happened.I just know that before I could not see and now I can." He did not expect it, work for it, and maybe he didn't deserve it..however, before he could not see, and now he could.

The letter to the church in Ephesus takes the concept of following God in to unexpected places and turns it in to a bit of a coaching session. Rather than giving an example of what it looks like to take chances and follow God, in this instance scripture offers us some direct encouragement and commentary of why it is a good idea. The fruit of light is found in all that is "good and right and true." Now, we just learned in the Hebrew text and in the gospel that what is good and right and true might NOT be apparent to us in our context. Hmm.if we are attuned to God, the light exposes the Truth with a capital "T."

Those nudges can make us uneasy. It may help to know how man go before us, nudged and prodded in directions they never imagined. And when we open ourselves up to the experiences into which we are nudged, we grow and stretch and become. We participate in ongoing creation if we have faith or if we dare.

+It is easy to find folks willing to offer advice like "Let Go and LetGod" or "It is All in God's Hands"; however, how do we prepareourselves to really live in to this lifestyle of following God where we feel God is calling us?
+How does that make our lives look different?
+Does it free up emotional space for us or does it create more anxiety?

I give myself completely to you, God.
Assign me a place in your creation.
Let me suffer for you.

Give me the work you would have me do.
Give me many tasks,
Or have me step aside while you call others.

Put me forward or humble me.
Give me riches or let me live in poverty.
I freely give all that I am and all that I have to you.

And now, holy God - Father, Son and Holy Sprit -
You are mine and I am yours. So be it.

(A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition
Adapted from The United Methodist Hymnal, #607 )

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