From Pastor Kenny's Desk
January 20, 2019
Now young Samuel was in the service of Yhwh under Eli. In those days, the voice of Yhwh was rarely heard – prophesy was uncommon. One night Eli, whose eyes had grown so weak that he could no longer see, was sleeping in his bed. The lamp of God had not gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tent of Meeting, near the Ark of the Covenant.
Then Yhwh called to Sameul. Samuel answered, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli saying, “You called. Here I am!” Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Now go back to sleep.” He went back to sleep. A second time, Yhwh called Samuel, and he got up and went to Eli. “Here I am!” Samuel said, “You called me.” Eli repeated, “I did not call you. Go back to sleep.”
At that time Samuel had not yet encountered Yhwh, and the word of Yhwh had not yet been revealed to him. Yhwh called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said once more, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli realized that Yhwh was calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go back and go to sleep, and if you are called, say ‘Speak, Yhwh, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to sleep.
And Yhwh called, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Yes, Yhwh, I am listening.”
Then Yhwh said to Samuel, “I am going to do things in Israel that will make the ears of all who hear about them ring. I am going to fulfill all the dreadful things I told Eli I would do against his family – from the beginning to the end. You are to tell Eli that I condemn his family forever because he knew of the blasphemies of his sons against God which he ignored. Therefore, I swear it to the house of Eli, neither sacrifice nor offering will ever expiate the guilt of the House of Eli.”
Samuel lay down to rest till morning, when he opened the doors of the Tent of Meeting. He feared to tell Eli about the vision, but Eli called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” “Samuel, come here, what did God say to you? Don’t hide it from me. May Yhwh curse you if you conceal from me one word of what you were told.”
Then Samuel told Eli everything, concealing nothing. Eli said, “Yhwh reigns. Yhwh will do what must be done.” As Samuel grew, Yhwh was with him. None of Samuel’s words remained unfulfilled. From Dan to Beersheba, all Israel recognized that Samuel was a prophet of Yhwh.
~ 1 Samuel 3:1-20
This Sunday we honor the ministry and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We remember that Dr. King did not bow down to the voices that wanted to silence him, nor did he hide with the threat of death. Dr. King stands in the legacy of the prophets, incapable of holding back the voice of justice from God.
A prophet is someone who is regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God. In the sacred text above … the Call of the Prophet Samuel … we can find the story of all prophets who have been called to speak out for God’s ways of justice and righteousness. We find the story of many who have heard the call of God but have had that call questioned by others. In this story, Eli questions the call … but not God … and when Eli is certain it is God calling Samuel he encourages Samuel to listen to God. God calls Samuel to do something that is not easy: to speak out against Eli’s own sons, that they can’t get away with doing whatever they want to by offering sacrifices afterwards, that they can’t get off because their father is a priest. Samuel has to stand up to the family of the very person who has taken him in and cared for him … the very person who has instructed him how to listen to God’s ways. It is not easy to follow the call of the prophet.
As people of faith … in the past and present … we are called to speak out for God’s ways of righteousness and justice … and sometimes we have to speak out against the very institutions that have nurtured us in our call. We have had to overcome the voices of fear inside us or the voices of doubt outside of us that tell us we haven’t heard God’s call and we should go lie back down. It’s not an easy call to follow.
As we honor and remember Rev., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we remember King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail, in which he writes to some of the very clergy who have supported him but have also tried to stop him in an attempt to avoid conflict. Prophets are called to speak to conflict, to address it and not run from it, to speak and act despite their fears and the fears of others. Dr. King certainly did this in his life and ministry. While one can argue for or against calling Dr. King a prophet, it is clear … Dr. King lived his life as many of the Biblical prophets did … speaking and acting out for God’s ways of justice and righteousness for ALL people. I call Dr. King a modern day prophet.
As we celebrate Dr. King’s ministry and legacy, we remember Dr. King’s dream. We celebrate our diversity, that we need each other to be part of the kin-dom … here and now … the reign of God. We celebrate the diversity of our gifts, our cultures, our languages, our abilities, our very selves … proclaiming, celebrating and remembering that God has created us ALL. We proclaim that God has chosen to participate in our lives through Jesus, to see our need to love our neighbor as ourselves, and in that love, to seek justice … God’s justice … which restores and heals. For God is not passive, standing by, but God is active in our world and in our lives.
Through the examples of Jesus, we know that God works in us for justice, for reconciliation, and for peace. May we strive and do our very best to live into God’s ways of love, justice and righteousness for ALL people … standing with and proclaiming God’s justice for ALL people. I personally cannot wait for the day when ALL people really means ALL people and I don’t have to list out age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, political persuasion, or any other category that has been used to keep people out.
What will MCC Richmond do as a congregation and what will you do personally to follow the example of Dr.King who prophetically witnessed to God’s radical inclusive love? How will we (you) make a difference in your families, neighborhood, community and the world by living and sharing’s God’s justice and love with others? How is God equipping, empowering and encouraging us to serve and love others as prophetic witnesses to God’s radical inclusive love, grace, and justice in this world?
I believe each of us is called to find and experience the courage of Dr. King to stand with the oppressed, to care for the poor, to live into God’s ways of peace demonstrated by Jesus. May our actions, behavior and relationship with the Divine give us the courage, strength and wisdom to build a better future for ALL of our children … the next generation and generations to come. May we be challenged by this call … by the example of Dr. King … to live into Jesus’ ways of love, justice, and peace for ALL people … celebrating ALL people … just the way they are!