Anointing

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S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 16:1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found my next king among his sons.”…

5b Samuel made Jesse and his sons holy and invited them to the sacrifice as well.

6 When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, That must be the Lord’s anointed right in front.

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

8 Next Jesse called for Abinadab, who presented himself to Samuel, but he said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen this one either.” 9 So Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen this one.” 10 Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord hasn’t picked any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Is that all of your boys?”

“There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”

“Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”

12 So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.

O (Observation): Anointing. That’s a really big deal in the Old Testament! That means you are selected by God to lead God’s people. The anointing with oil is an outward expression of God’s Spirit moving into someone’s heart, mind, and soul. It’s like a baptism. The Spirit “moves in,” so to speak.

And note that God looks upon the heart, not just outward appearance. To some, that inward look brings fear; to others, that bring hope : )

A (Application): So it’s no secret that I’m not the wisest or best looking or most charismatic member of the body of Christ. (Shocking revelation, I know.)

So to hear that God looks upon the heart is both a joy and a fear, with the joy WAY outweighing my fears.

As I discern my place in God’s Kingdom, I see lots of ways that I fail. Yet, the failures are a mix of things: failure to God, failure to self, failure to family, failure to congregation I serve. And yet, more often than not, those fears are unfounded. And as God’s Spirit dwells within me, and as I think back to the fact that I was once marked with oil on my head, I am given all the grace I need.

I know that in my baptism God started a calling in me to love God and neighbor. I will rest in that assurance, and do my best to let God take away my fears. I will lean into my anointing.

P (Prayer): Moving Spirit, guide me…point out the grade all around me. Amen.

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Grace Through Ritual

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S (Scripture): Today, two of the lessons I read come together nicely to make one point: following God’s call supersedes even the most sacred of rituals.

1 Samuel 15:19 (Samuel said to Saul…) “Why didn’t you obey the Lord? You did evil in the Lord’s eyes when you tore into the plunder!”

20 “But I did obey the Lord!” Saul protested to Samuel. “I went on the mission the Lord sent me on. I captured Agag the Amalekite king, and I put the Amalekites under the ban. 21 Yes, the troops took sheep and cattle from the plunder—the very best items placed under the ban—but in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

22 Then Samuel replied,

“Does the Lord want entirely burned offerings and sacrifices

as much as obedience to the Lord?

Listen to this: obeying is better than sacrificing,

paying attention is better than fat from rams,

23

because rebellion is as bad as the sin of divination;

arrogance is like the evil of idolatry.

Because you have rejected what the Lord said,

he has rejected you as king.”

————-

John 2:13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currency sitting there. 15 He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency. 16 He said to the dove sellers, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written, Passion for your house consumes me.[a]

18 Then the Jewish leaders asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things? What miraculous sign will you show us?”

19 Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.”

20 The Jewish leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” 21 But the temple Jesus was talking about was his body.

O (Observation): In the Gospel of John, Jesus turns water into wine…but not just any water. Jesus takes the water used for ceremonial cleansing and turns THAT water into wine. Jesus points out that those jars of water will not be necessary for cleansing anymore.

And on the heals of that story, we get today’s text of Jesus overturning tables and cleansing the Temple. And Jesus promising that the Temple will be torn down and raised in 3 days. Why? The whole sacred system is about to be turned upside down, right along with those tables Jesus flipped.

Now, in Jesus, the world has its path towards forgiveness and love for God and neighbor. Rituals don’t rule – God does.

Saul, trying to honor God with animal sacrifices, moves away from the Lord’s calling. The Lord calls on Saul to destroy the Amalekite people and their livestock. Saul disobeys, thinking his plan is above God’s. I think not.

What is more important? Samuel – God’s prophet – points out that following God and God’s commands is more important than tradition or ritual…even if it means changing the whole system. Even if it makes you looks unpopular.

A (Application): Ok, ok. Take a deep breath. I don’t propose we throw out ANY rituals at this point. I personally believe that the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are chock full of God’s grace and are a means through which God speaks to us. So…ok.

As we use these rituals to point out that God is reaching us through these means of grace, we continue to embrace them. Jesus calls us to these sacred gifts, and so we call others to the waters in which we are spiritually bathed and to the tables around which we commune.

Let us never use these gifts as tools for leverage or as a means for holding power over one another. Let these gifts always point us to God, and not to ourselves. Let these gifts be blessed and let us use them as God does – for reaching out with a hand of mercy, grace, and compassion for others.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to use these means of grace well. Amen.

I Want an Oompa Loompa Now, Daddy!

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S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 8:4 So all the Israelite elders got together and went to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Listen. You are old now, and your sons don’t follow in your footsteps. So appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” 6 It seemed very bad to Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to the Lord.

7 The Lord answered Samuel, “Comply with the people’s request—everything they ask of you—because they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them. 8 They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshipping other gods. 9 So comply with their request, but give them a clear warning, telling them how the king will rule over them.”

10 Then Samuel explained everything the Lord had said to the people who were asking for a king. 11 “This is how the king will rule over you,” Samuel said:

“He will take your sons, and will use them for his chariots and his cavalry and as runners for his chariot. 12 He will use them as his commanders of troops of one thousand and troops of fifty, or to do his plowing and his harvesting, or to make his weapons or parts for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, or bakers. 14 He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 He will give one-tenth of your grain and your vineyards to his officials and servants. 16 He will take your male and female servants, along with the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys, and make them do his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and then you yourselves will become his slaves! 18 When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you chose for yourselves, but on that day the Lord won’t answer you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel and said, “No! There must be a king over us 20 so we can be like all the other nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles.”

21 Samuel listened to everything the people said and repeated it directly to the Lord. 22 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Comply with their request. Give them a king.”

O (Observation): I want an oompa-lumpa now, daddy! You want it? You got it.

Oh, did we explain the ramifications???

Yikes! God’s people are so ungrateful! And yet, God still finds a way for grace. God’s grace is that no coercion will take place. God does not want followers who HAVE to follow…just those who are called to follow.

In the meantime…good luck with that king you want, people of Israel…

A (Application): I cannot explain to you how many times I’ve insisted my way was / is the right way. Sometimes I let God speak. : (

Notice Samuel’s first reaction to the desire for folks to have a king? What is the life-giving action that invites God into the picture?

Samuel prays! He prays…

Tapping into our source of hope and light, God speaks and we listen and discern and share this discernment with others. In so doing, we share the burden of God’s message for all people.

May we embrace God’s grace and share the burden of discernment this day.

P (Prayer): Lord, you guide us and love us through our failures. For this, we give you thanks. Amen.

Hello? Are You There?

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S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 3:1 Now the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under Eli. The Lord’s word was rare at that time, and visions weren’t widely known. 2 One day Eli, whose eyes had grown so weak he was unable to see, was lying down in his room. 3 God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet, and Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s temple, where God’s chest[a] was.

4 The Lord called to Samuel. “I’m here,” he said.

5 Samuel hurried to Eli and said, “I’m here. You called me?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go lie down.” So he did.

6 Again the Lord called Samuel, so Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”

“I didn’t call, my son,” Eli replied. “Go and lie down.”

(7 Now Samuel didn’t yet know the Lord, and the Lord’s word hadn’t yet been revealed to him.)

8 A third time the Lord called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”

Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So Eli said to Samuel, “Go and lie down. If he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down where he’d been.

10 Then the Lord came and stood there, calling just as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”

Samuel said, “Speak. Your servant is listening.”

O (Observation): Samuel is called by God. Wow! How special is this! Hearing a calling was rare back then. Even more so today.

Samuel wasn’t really ready for his call. He was young. He didn’t understand. He wasn’t yet equipped. But he was called.

And that makes all the difference.

A (Application): God doesn’t call the equipped. God equips those who are called.

We never know when or how we will be called, but we all can listen. We can ignore the call, but God will persist. We can step out in faith, knowing that the call means God is supporting us along the way.

The form of God supporting us might look like friends or loved one’s loving us or challenging us. The call may be short-term or long-term, easily discernible or complicated.

In any form, the call is true and present. In my baptism, I believe that God is calling me in many ways.

How is God calling you?

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to discern your call. Amen.

Adopted by God

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S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 1:24 When [Samuel] had been weaned and was still very young, Hannah took him, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a jar of wine, and brought him to the Lord’s house at Shiloh. 25 They slaughtered the bull, then brought the boy to Eli [the priest].

26 “Excuse me, sir!” Hannah said. “As surely as you live, sir, I am the woman who stood here next to you, praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this boy, and the Lord gave me what I asked from him. 28 So now I give this boy back to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.”

O (Observation): What a tough spot to be in. Hannah was unable to have a child for so long and so desperate to have a child. As a

As a show of thankfulness to the Lord, Hannah – once she has weaned Samuel – dedicates the child to the service of the Lord.

Doesn’t always work out, but this time it did. Hannah is overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.

A (Application): Look, not everyone who prays for a child will receive one. Not being able to bear a child is no reflection on God’s presence (or lack thereof). It just is.

Part of our calling is to create offspring, yes. But that does not completely define us. In fact, that is only one part of the gift of relationships.

This text reminds me that we are all called to serve the Lord and one another. I don’t know the statistics, but caring for babies and children with no parents is a HUGE need. I know it doesn’t replace any desire or feeling as having one’s own flesh and blood to hold onto, but perhaps the child that is cared for will appreciate and love his or her adoptive parents. Through the adopted child’s eyes…you are their whole world.

Maybe we can see our adoption by God – through baptism – as our hope and stay.

May you hold tightly to your loved ones this day. Give thanks to God. And seek solace for the sadness that may linger in your heart.

P (Prayer): Gracious God, give us hope and guidance this day. Amen.

Getting Out Ahead of God


S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 13:7 Some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan River to the land of Gad and Gilead. But Saul stayed at Gilgal; the entire army that was with him was terrified. 8 He waited for seven days, the time period indicated by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the army began to abandon Saul.

9 So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” Then he offered a burnt offering. 10 Just when he had finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel appeared on the scene. Saul went out to meet him and to greet him.

11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul replied, “When I saw that the army had started to abandon me and that you didn’t come at the appointed time and that the Philistines had assembled at Micmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down on me at Gilgal and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt obligated to offer the burnt offering.”

13 Then Samuel said to Saul, “You have made a foolish choice! You have not obeyed the commandment that the Lord your God gave you. Had you done that, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever! 14 But now your kingdom will not continue! The Lord has sought out for himself a man who is loyal to him and the Lord has appointed him to be leader over his people, for you have not obeyed what the Lord commanded you.”

O (Observation):  Saul got out ahead of God.  In 1 Samuel 10:8, Samuel instructs Saul that when Saul gets to Gilgal, Saul is to wait for Samuel to offer burnt offerings to God.  Saul’s army starts to abandon him, and Saul gets a bit nervous.   So, instead of waiting on Samuel to offer up an offering to God, Saul takes action into his own hands.  Saul offers the offerings to God, because he’s afraid if he doesn’t, then his army will leave him and he won’t be victorious.   Saul puts no trust in the Lord.   That is his main error in this episode.  This error will ultimately cause him to lose his throne.  

A (Application):  Have you ever gotten out ahead of God?   Too worried about allowing God to take control?   Too sensible to see what God can do?   Too reasonable to see God establish abundant blessing in the midst of your scarce resources?

I’ve been worried about securing my future.   I’ve taken steps to secure my own future, while forgetting to ask God for help…sometimes choosing not to let God help.  

And yet in times of trusting in God, I’ve seen blessing.  Ever since my wife and I shifted to giving 10% of our income as a tithe to God, we have been blessed.   We didn’t come into a huge sum of money, but instead our attitude towards money and worries over money have shifted.  We see that God will provide, and we are teaching our children that the love of money is not something to get caught up in.   We will still seek ways to earn our income using the gifts we’ve been given, but our efforts are not in isolation.  God blesses us in what we do with what we have.  

Give some, save some, spend some.  In all, trust the Lord.  

You are not alone on this journey.  God is there.  Trust.  Believe. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to see that you provide for us in times of plenty and in times of want.   Make your presence known on this journey. Amen.  

God Won’t Give Up On You

S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 12:12 Samuel says to the people of God: “When you saw that King Nahash of the Ammonites was advancing against you, you said to me, ‘No! A king will rule over us’ – even though the Lord your God is your king! 13 Now look! Here is the king you have chosen – the one that you asked for! Look, the Lord has given you a king! 14 If you fear the Lord, serving him and obeying him and not rebelling against what he says, and if both you and the king who rules over you follow the Lord your God, all will be well. 15 But if you don’t obey the Lord and rebel against what the Lord says, the hand of the Lord will be against both you and your king.

16 “So now, take your positions and watch this great thing that the Lord is about to do in your sight. 17 Is this not the time of the wheat harvest? I will call on the Lord so that he makes it thunder and rain. Realize and see what a great sin you have committed before the Lord by asking for a king for yourselves.”

18 So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord made it thunder and rain that day. All the people were very afraid of both the Lord and Samuel. 19 All the people said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God on behalf of us – your servants – so we won’t die, for we have added to all our sins by asking for a king.”

20 Then Samuel said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. You have indeed sinned. However, don’t turn aside from the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 You should not turn aside after empty things that can’t profit and can’t deliver, since they are empty. 22 The Lord will not abandon his people because he wants to uphold his great reputation. The Lord was pleased to make you his own people. 23 As far as I am concerned, far be it from me to sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you! I will instruct you in the way that is good and upright. 24 However, fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Just look at the great things he has done for you! 25 But if you continue to do evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

O (Observation): God’s people have to be reminded – AGAIN – that God is their king.   And to ask for an earthly king is to shift allegiance from GOD to an earthly ruler.  Now…God is NOT about to go against his promise to be with His people forever and to see his people through thick and thin…but this sure does test the limit, no?  God is saving His people NOT because they are good and holy, but to keep God’s reputation pure…to show that God will NOT go against His promise to keep the Hebrew people. 

Samuel calls out to God to bring thunder and rain as a sign AGAINST God’s people, and they start shakin’ in their boots and ask Samuel to hold off God’s anger.  They want to live!  This sign helps them to put their choice into perspective.  Samuel holds up the mirror to the people, and they are ashamed of what they see.  

And to Samuel’s credit, he keeps praying for the very people who have slighted God.  Samuel says he will continue to pray for God’s people, for to NOT pray for them would be a lack of grace…and Samuel knows…we all need a bit of grace.

A (Application):  I relate to Samuel AND the people.  I relate to Samuel, because at times I feel confident that God wants one thing, and the church / individual people of faith choose the opposite.  And yet, as certain as I am of being like Samuel, I then find myself on the other side…being blind to God’s will and choosing out of selfish, worldly desire.  

The deeper point in this text is that God does NOT give up on God’s people.   God corrects and chastises the people, but then also backs it up with a chance to show them grace and mercy.   Boy, do I need God!

As I struggle through the daily Moravian texts every Monday-Friday, I become more and more humbled at the grace and mercy of God.  Even in times when we are chastised by God for stumbling off the path, I still am drawn in by the promise of God, made clear here by Samuel:

1 Samuel 12:21 You should not turn aside after empty things that can’t profit and can’t deliver, since they are empty. 22 The Lord will not abandon his people because he wants to uphold his great reputation. The Lord was pleased to make you his own people.

I pray that you may come to know God more dearly…and realize that you need not be perfect, just believe that God wants you to be a part of shared journey called Life.  

P (Prayer): Lord, you are great and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Wow!  We don’t deserve you, and yet are very grateful for you this day.  Amen.