Summer Reading: Trinity 3

I think I might be the only person between the 2 congregations doing the ‘Summer Reading’ but I am really enjoying it. I don’t have anything for Trinity 2 as I got a week off! More on 1 Samuel and the exploits of the great prophet and the anointing of Saul as God gives in to human demands; 2 Corinthians and Paul and Mark’s continuation of Jesus’ early days…

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Mark 4:26-34

How is the summer reading going? Hope you didn’t think I would forget!

Samuel – our hero Samuel is getting on pretty well. He remains faithful to the things that God has called him to do – mostly warning the Israelites of the doom that is about to befall them if they don’t get their act together.

Samuel is an excellent study about what the OT is really all about – God calling his people – Israel – to fear him, serve him, listen to him and follow him and it will be well! God will ensure their safety and survival, they will prosper and live in peace.

But they can’t seem to do it. Israel acts out of turn, making bad decisions, do the things that God has expressly told them not to do. The whole of the OT is the story of a people who messed up and the God who wanted them to do better.

Part of the problem with the Israelites is that they keep worshipping other gods along with God. They make some decisions that they did not consult big G God on and they are punished. Samuel pleads with Israel to return to God with all their hearts and put away the foreign gods and God will deliver them from the Philistines. The Philistines are one of the biggest and most troubling enemies of Israel. Goliath was one of them.

Israel’s second problem is that it wants to be like the neighbours – they want a king. By doing this they are rejecting God. He gives in – gives them want they want – with a full warning of what the human king will do to them.

Samuel has the job of anointing that first king – Saul. Saul is handsome, he is from the right family – wealthy father. From the outside he is the ideal king. You know what he did at his coronation?

Saul hid! Samuel has to go and find him to present him to his people!

Saul tries at the beginning – he is given two jobs – reign over the people of Israel and save them from their enemies. Yet Saul acts out of turn, doesn’t obey God, makes his own decisions. God would have established Saul’s kingdom forever – but doesn’t. We pick up the reading this morning where God has finally had enough – He is sorry that he made Saul king over Israel. Samuel and Saul part company too.

Why is this good for summer reading? If we are feeling frustrated at the state of this country or community – Israel provides an excellent example of what it is to get what it wants – and then realize it isn’t that great. The story may have been totally different if Israel had sought out what God wanted for them.

How often do we do that in our own lives? Demand things of God – want him to do things our way? Sometimes he will give us want we want – and we learn the hard way! God wants our obedience, we are to listen and follow him – not the other way around.

In the end God will get his way – it is a new day for Samuel at the start of chapter 16. He is to put Saul and the past behind him so that he can anoint the next king – one of the sons of Jesse. David. The ruddy faced and beautiful boy.

We do well to remember that God does not look on outward appearances, but on the heart.

2 Corinthians – we haven’t moved too far forward you jars of clay! I hope that you have not been crushed, driven to despair or struck down in the last two weeks.

You are light that shines in the darkness! Have you been shining?

Do not lose heart – you can be renewed day by day.

At the beginning of Ch 5, Paul talks about the earthly tents that we live in. I think this is a great analogy of our bodies. They are temporary. When I look in the mirror – this is not the stuff of forever.

Many of us here have faced and continue to face health issues – it can be scary, uncertain, frustrating – crushing, despairing to be unwell or disabled.

We know that Paul suffered in his body as well – he had a thorn in the flesh – not sure what it was – eye sight or kidney issues. Paul talks about our eternal home – in the heavens that God is preparing for us. We are to be forward-looking people. We have the Spirit as a guarantee. This is where our confidence should be.

How is your confidence this morning? What are you confident in?

Paul is calling us to be confident in Christ. Probably one of the hardest things to do is to ‘walk by faith, not by sight’. Psalm 119 – your word is a lamp unto my feet and and light to my path. The light is on the feet – we get enough vision for the next step – not the whole journey. Walking by faith in all the life throws at us.

Mark – Jesus is still going strong! He remains in Galilee and has recently appointed his 12 apostles who are sent out to proclaim the good news. The crowds are growing.

Jesus also has some family troubles! In the early days of his ministry they do not come across particularly well. His family – Mary and his brothers (Joseph is assumed to have died by this point – message for us on Father’s Day – Jesus would have experienced the death of his own earthly father as many of have) have tried to restrain him – he is out of his mind!

This is the biological, earthly family of Jesus. They grew up under the same roof – ate, drink, slept, played, worked and worshipped together for 30 years and they think Jesus is crazy. Mark is a good read for anyone who has a complicated family! Jesus gets that! Happy Father’s Day!

Jesus begins teaching in parables about the kingdom of God. He uses analogies of the seed and sower, lamps under bushel baskets, more scattered seed and the mustard seed.

Why these things? Well – lamps and mustard seeds represent everyday miracles. We all know how they work. The kingdom of God is in the everyday stuff of life. This is drastically different from the kingdom of military power that many people thought Jesus would bring – including the disciples.

Jesus is saying nope – this Kingdom of God starts small and grows large – much larger than we can ever imagine. Once a mustard seed start growing they need very little care and not much water. And they grow! They spread quickly – not exactly something you would want in a well-tended garden! Mustard seeds have small beginnings. They also make a delicious mustard – my favourite of all the condiments!

The kingdom of God starts small and grows – spreading out and changes the taste of the world around it.

As a church – and I mean as a parish – we need to spread out and change the taste of the world around us. Church is not contained to these four walls, this hour on a Sunday and only the people sitting here. Lord help us if that ever becomes our view of His church!

What we do as a church may feel small – but it will grow like a mustard seed if we let it. If like Paul we walk by faith and refuse to let circumstances crush or perplex us. If we choose to learn from the example in Israel as Samuel pleaded with them to serve God and follow him. It we focus more on our hearts, and the hearts of others and not on outside appearances – then we live in obedience and it will be well.

So there you go – caught up once again with the summer reading!

Author: Sue Lepp

Newly appointed Priest-in-Charge of the Hambleden Valley Group of Churches and will start later in January 2021. Time for a new start at the beginning of a new year. I served my curacy in the Parish of Langley Marish and trained at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Former Nurse in both Canada and the UK. Specialised in Palliative Care, Gynaecology-Oncology and a bit of Orthopaedics (just to keep me travelling). Worked as a MacMillan Nurse Specialist in a few specialities in London.

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