By the Rev. Darren Miner
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
In today’s readings from the lectionary, we get a sort of biblical sandwich. The slices of bread are the Old Testament reading and the Gospel, both about being called to God’s service, while the sandwich spread is the reading from 1 Corinthians.
Now, this sandwich spread is a bit too salty to be truly tasty, but it does have nutritional value. So let me say a word or two about St. Paul’s letter before moving on to the more palatable topics in the other two readings. Paul is writing to the church in Corinth. They have got it into their heads that, since they are saved, nothing they do here in the material world really is of ultimate importance. Consequently, the more “advanced” thinkers in the bunch have begun to advocate the complete abandonment of sexual morality. They argue that nothing that they do with their bodies affects their souls. St. Paul thinks otherwise. Now, we may not agree with all Paul’s teachings about gender and sex, but even so, we should pay attention to the theology that underlies today’s reading. The essential idea is that our material bodies are holy, just as the Temple in Jerusalem was holy. And if, as we are taught, we are mystically united with Christ through Baptism, then what we do with our bodies is of ultimate importance. More generally, what we do here in this fallen material world does make a difference, whether for good or for ill.
And now for the sliced bread in today’s biblical sandwich! And the bread is all about God’s call to us, our vocation. In the story from the Hebrew Scriptures, we hear about the calling of Samuel to be a prophet. Recall that Samuel had been dedicated by his mother Hannah to serve in the Temple, in gratitude for his miraculous birth. Today’s story tells how the young boy hears God calling him in the night. Three times, he hears the call, but each time he mistakes it for his master Eli. It is the priest Eli who eventually recognizes the call for what it is and instructs the boy how to respond appropriately: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel does as his master bids him, and the rest is history!
What strikes me in this story is how the discernment of Samuel’s call took place. Samuel was unable to figure out the meaning of his call on his own. He didn’t know how to respond. It took some consultation to make that clear. This community needs to be listening for that call in the night, especially as Fr. David’s retirement draws near. This community needs to discover what God is calling us to do, what God is calling us to be, in new and changed circumstances. And like Samuel, we are going to need all the help we can get to discern that call. Now, Samuel had his master Eli. We have one another, and we have our bishop. There may be some reluctance to draw the bishop into this process of discernment. But in all honesty, we have no choice; the bishop will have his say. So it would behoove us to invite the bishop’s participation in our discernment process sooner, rather than later, praying that our bishop will display the wisdom of Samuel’s master, Eli.