Archive for August 20th, 2012

About Samuel:  Samuel, last of the Old Testament judges and first of the prophets (after Moses), lived during the eleventh century BC. The child of Elkanah, an Ephraimite, and his wife Hannah, Samuel was from early on consecrated by his parents for sacred service and trained in the house of the Lord at Shiloh by Eli the priest. Samuel’s authority as a prophet was established by God (1 Samuel 3:20). He anointed Saul to be Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 10:1). Later, as a result of Saul’s disobedience to God, Samuel repudiated Saul’s leadership and then anointed David to be king in place of Saul (1 Samuel 16:13). Samuel’s loyalty to God, his spiritual insight, and his ability to inspire others made him one of Israel’s great leaders. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House.)

Reflection: I posted the pointed reflection by Lutheran Pastor Murray below for The Commemoration of Robert Barnes, Martyr.  The Old Testament lesson for in the daily lectionary was from 1 Samuel:  Saul sparing the life of King Agag though the Lord told Saul not to spare his life.   Saul did so because of compassion though he had no direct command from God to do so. The Lord told Saul that his life was then forfeit. 

In  seemingly less strenuous circumstances we think it’s all right to do something because we think, “…God will understand.”  Like the businessman on a long trip away from family, a few drinks in the hotel bar, a nice woman with a sad story…God will understand.  He won’t and neither will the man’s wife or his children.  We can build a whole false ethos around under the cloak of  ‘theology’. Pr. Murray points out that we are pretty good at “creating our own righteousness”.  All this points to in Lutheran theology the Third Use of the Law as guide for moral behavior and the litmus test is how does the action fair in way of our commitments and relationships in life:  mother, father, brother, sister, citizen, etc. The way to find out quite easily if what we are doing is actually holy is to ask: Is it conformity to God’s Law?  If not, then pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.”

Samuel’s very name means literally “God hears”.  He was named so because Samuel’s Mother, Hannah was childless and God heard her distress.  “Surely to obey the voice of the Lord is better than sacrifice.”  Samuel heard for the Lord heard him…and us as well. 

For further reflection, Meditation by Pr. Murray, from his A Year with the Church Fathers (CPH): 

There can be no freeform holiness that comes from our own hearts. We often define and act on our own set of pious principles in seeking our own righteousness. This is purely a rebellion against the clear and unchanging will of God in the Law. There can be no holiness apart from the specific commands of a holy God. Our revision of the divine Law arises from seemingly righteous principles. Perhaps Saul spared Agag (1 Samuel 15) out of a desire to be compassionate and gracious, which God Himself claims to be (Psalm 86:15). Why shouldn’t Saul be able to get in on the compassion act? Simply because he had a direct command from God to do otherwise.

A veteran pastor was confronted by two married couples whom he considered pious members of his parish. They announced to him that they were swapping spouses and wondered if he might unite them in a double wedding. They argued that their spouse swap was loving and that, after all, the Holy Spirit had let them know that this was a good thing. He strongly suggested to them that they could not ignore the Sixth Commandment, and that maybe their spouse swap was merely self-serving. Our impieties are often perpetrated for pious reasons; love and compassion being common among those pious reasons. We even argue that God agrees with us. Like Saul, who as a worldly ruler considered it his prerogative to spare Agag, our pieties tend to benefit ourselves. We must flee from creating our own righteousness and remain tied down to the clear Word of God.

“Saul saw fit to use compassion when he spared the king whom God commanded to be slain (1 Samuel 15:9-11). However, he deserved to have his disobedient compassion, or, if you prefer it, his compassionate disobedience, rejected and condemned, that man may be on his guard against extending mercy to his fellow man in opposition to the sentence of Him by whom man was made. Truth, by the mouth of the Incarnate Himself, proclaims as if in a thundering voice, ‘Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). And in order to except martyrs from this sentence, to whose lot it has fallen to be slain for the name of Christ before being washed in the Baptism of Christ, He says in another passage, ‘Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ (Matthew 10:39)” (Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin, 2.17).

Almighty God, in Your mercy You gave Samuel to courage to call Israel to repentance and to renew their dedication to the Lord.  Call us to repentance as Nathan called David to repentance, so by the blood of Jesus, the Son of David,  we may receive the forgiveness of all our sins;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

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About the Rats:  This past Saturday in our fair city of Lexington the Virginia Military Institute had Matriculation.  Freshmen are called “rats” at The Institute.  Yesterday (Sunday)  began ‘hell’ week.  From now till January they will be in the “rat line”:  “straining”, eating at attention, being generally screamed at, but from now on their fellows in their rat class will call each other “BRs”, Brother Rats.  They will have to learn inside and out their “Rat Bible”:  all the rules and regs of The Institute to bark back verbatim when commanded.  VMI is one of the few colleges in the country which has boot camp!  We will see the rats this coming Sunday, Rat Sunday, when all the “religious representatives” will be a Jackson Memorial Hall for the “Rat mass” assembly, in which they will fall out with their church bodies for their first day off post as congregations “adopt a rat”.  

Pray for all campus ministers.  Pray for those who defend our nation.  Pray for the rats.

Reflection:  in the “rat bible”, it is written, Remember:  you will always be a rat.  And as the comedian Lily Tomlin said: “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat”.  Our goal is not win the rat races of this world. I think this fits into Lutheran theology: we are, on this side of death, always sinners…but sinners becoming saints by His grace in His Son Jesus Christ alone.  We are in some ways also brother and sister rats!  

If you want to see a fairly good portrayal of VMI,  get a copy of the movie below:

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