II Pentecost / The Rev Kevin M Goodman
1 SM 3:1-10, PS 139:1-5, 12-17, 2 CR 4:5-12, MK 2:23-3:6
What voices from the street are you hearing?
How is God calling you to pray in thanksgiving?
How is God calling you to respond to the realities of this world?
It is 6 centuries before the birth of Christ. In the wilderness, a mother walks through the valley of death. She is hungry. She wants a child. She desires to be a caregiver but her surroundings are bleak and she feels God cannot hear her voice. As she prepares for death, she pours out her heart to God one last time. And God hears her. God surrounds her with love. Giving her hope. And giving her son.
In thanksgiving, Hannah prays to God, thanking God for her son Samuel.
Hannah prays, “There is no Holy One like our God... Let not arrogance come from your mouth; for our Lord is a God of knowledge, and by God actions are weighed. The feeble
gird on strength. And those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, and God raises up... God makes poor and makes rich; God brings low, and God exalts... God raises up the poor from the dust;... God lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit seats of honor... God will guard the feet of the faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness.”
Hannah took her son to the temple. Samuel’s life belonged to God. She spoke with Eli, the high priest at the temple of Shiloh. This judge of the people, promised Hannah, that her son would be faithful and true to the covenant established by God. Hannah’s hymn of gratitude, her prayer of thanksgiving, beautifully captures the call for justice from the prophets of Israel.
Hannah’s son grows up. As Samuel begins his life as a teenager, he is suddenly awakened in the middle of the night. He is hearing voices. He is hearing a call. He believes it is Eli. But it is not. He awakens Eli several times to see what Eli needs. Each time, Eli tells Samuel to go back to bed. He had not called him.
But the voice persists.
Suddenly, Eli understands what is going on. Samuel is hearing God’s voice. Eli tells Samuel to go, - to sit quietly and to listen. The only way to hear God’s voice is to sit and listen, and to believe that God has something to say to you.
Samuel feels as if he is living during a very dark time. He looks around and sees the people of God abusing each other. The have forgotten God’s covenant with them. The covenant calls for holy relationships.
The commandments are clear.
Samuel sees what is going on. And in the midst of turmoil, the people continue to murmur.
They want a King. God is too demanding. Give us a King. We want a King like the other nations, like Russia or North Korea. A King can solve all of our problems. A King can set
all of this right. A King will work with and for the people in a way God refuses to.
Yahweh feels rejected by the people. But a King they shall have.
Kings can interpret the laws to tell ell lies, to manipulate the truth, and to steal from the people. Kings are not God, in spite of what they might think about themselves. A King should not abuse the people, taking their belongings, or defrauding them. A King should not take bribes to pervert justice. A King should follow God and interpret the law for the good of the people. God calls on the people to respond truth.
But the people begin to forget God and begin to listen only to their King. Kings often forget God and begin to believe their words are truer than God’s. Any King who takes things into their own hands with little respect for God and country however will ultimately cause the downfall of the kingdom.
Samuel remembers the laws of God. Samuel respects the calls of the prophets for justice. Samuel believes the words of God are true.
Do we believe that the commandments, the laws, the prophets, the Gospel stories,
the teachings of Jesus, - are these things fake news? or - do we believe that the Holy Scriptures are voices that need to be heard and listened to and responded to and acted upon?
A hymn from the Iona Community reminds us that, “Jesus Christ is waiting - Waiting in the street. No one is his neighbor. All alone he eats. Listen Lord Jesus. I am lonely too. Make me friend or stranger. Fit to wait on you.”
What voices from our streets are you hearing?
Beneath the continuous bombardment of fake news and in the midst of all lies being perpetuated by our government and by those in power, I hear the cries of the poor, the overworked, the underpaid, the unemployed, and the immigrant, seeking justice.
It would appear that not much has changed since the times of Samuel but that would be wrong.
We live on the other side of the most significant historic event.
God came among us in the person of Jesus Christ to show us how to love, how to live, how to serve, how to heal, how to feed, how to respond to hunger, how to be human, how to be the person God created us to be so that we could continue the work of the prophets.
Right now, in the midst of all the ugliness, we are hearing God’s voice.
We are being challenged by Jesus to claim what we truly believe.
As Christians, we are being called to act during very challenging times.
Last week, I was in Washington DC participating in the week-long Festival of Homiletics. The title of the festival was "The Politics of Jesus." The festival began with a protest at the Capitol with the Poor People’s Campaign. The festival ended with a gathering at the National City Christian Church, taking to the streets, participating in a candlelight procession and vigil at the steps of the White House.
We were there to reclaim Jesus. We are being called by God to reclaim Jesus. To remember how and why God had come to live among us.
As we prepared to process to the White House, our Presiding Bishop, Michal Curry,
declared, “We are not a partisan group. We are not a left-wing group. We are not a right-wing group. We are a Jesus movement.”
The religious leaders of Reclaiming Jesus state, “We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake. When politics undermines our theology, we must examine that politics. The church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ. When that role is undermined by political leadership, people of faith must stand up and speak out."
The Reclaiming Jesus movement, - established by 25 religious leaders from several different Christian denominations and traditions, - declares six statements of belief:
“WE BELIEVE each human being is made in God’s image and likeness. Racial bigotry is a brutal denial of the image of God in some of the children of God.
“WE BELIEVE we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class.
“WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself.
“WE BELIEVE that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives. Jesus promises, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
“WE BELIEVE that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. We support democracy, not because we believe in human perfection, but because we do not.
“WE BELIEVE Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples. Our churches and our nations are part of an international community whose interests always surpass national boundaries. We in turn should love and serve the world and all its inhabitants
rather than to seek first narrow nationalistic prerogatives.”
With these statements of belief in hand, over 2000 of us processed silently to the White House.
When you are silent on our streets, you hear the cries of immigrant children separated from the parents and caregivers at our nation’s border.
When you are silent on our streets, you hear students and teachers fearful in our nation’s classrooms, scared and discouraged waiting for sensible gun-laws to be enacted.
When you are silent on our streets, you hear the sick and uninsured, locked out of our nation’s hospitals unable to afford care and healing.
When you are silent on our streets, you hear fellow citizens being beaten and shot simply because of the color of their skin.
When you are silent on our streets, you hear the song of Mother Hannah, the concerns of the Judge Samuel, the teachings and call of the Christ Jesus, and the hopes and desires of God for God’s people.
What voices are you hearing?
What are you willing to do about it?
The Iona hymn, “Jesus Christ is Waiting,” concludes, “Jesus Christ is calling. Calling in the street. Come and walk faith’s tightrope. I will guide your feet. Listen Lord Jesus. Let my fears be few. Walk one step before me.
And I will follow you.”