*A message inspired by 1 Samuel 3: 1-10 (CEB)
Okay, let’s try this again.
When I was in seminary, I learned the “old school” preachers wrote and memorized a script to preach on Sunday. And I may be imagining this part, but I feel like I remember someone asking what these preplanned preachers did when a current event walloped their message before the week’s end.
Rarely did their message change, “because,” they said, “even when the world changes the Word stays the same.”
I wonder if they were on to something or if the world was just changing at a digestible rate at that time or if the change they lived through didn’t have some predictable arc and meaningful direction. These seem to be the missing ingredients for me right now. A predictable arc and a meaningful direction.
I never stay up to watch the ball drop, but I did stay up to watch over five hundred houses burn to the ground in less than a few hours on Thursday night.
At 12:15 am I resisted crying to the scene of trailers lined up waiting to rescue animals who had somehow managed to break free and escape the flames. The reporter hoped they would be able to find the animals. Hoped they ran in the right direction. Hoped that they were able to run at all.
These were also my hopes which, once publicly announced, granted me permission to sleep.
It’s hard to keep listening.
This was the first line of my original message, followed by…
Maybe it’s just me but it is hard to pay attention when the news hits so hard and so often…most of us seem to find ourselves choosing between two options: checking out of the news cycle or checking in to a mental institution.
Then I went on and on about things that don’t seem to matter now.
Stuff about separation as a coping mechanism has its downsides…because itrequires difference to serve as the starting place. Requires us to ignore the realities of our interconnectedness at the risk of our own demise.
Skip ahead to…In a time when God’s word is rare, and visions aren’t widely known, our eyes have grown so weak we are unable to see our role in the chaotic tragedies unfolding around us. We feel we must do something, or we believe we are capable of nothing…but we were not created to live as though we were playing a game forcing us to fix or fold.
This still stands true, albeit less relevant, which equates to being less helpful in the current circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Now, these are the words that read like salve on an open wound;
Samuel lays down on God’s chest. And listens.
This is where hope relocated to in the scripture after hundreds of homes burnt to the ground. Because it isn’t just the houses destroyed that feel exhausting but the relentless tragedy that has become unbearable to hold and intolerable to hear without turning some part of ourselves off or tuning some piece of the story out.
Now, these are the words that grab us and hold us close and ask us to listen.
“God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet,
and Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s temple,
where God’s chest was.”
It’s hard to keep listening. What we are listening for never seems to be what we want or need or hope to hear which suggests that perhaps what we are hearing isn’t connecting to the reason God is asking us to listen.
We were created to listen and learn and love in ever-widening circles of hope planted in a future where the direction of the divine is heard, and wholeness is visible throughout all of creation. To hear God Samuel lays down on God’s chest and listens until he learns what God desires for him to hear.
Three words saying simply, “I am here.”
Here when the guns fire and the flames convulse, when the winds ravage and a virus pulses through every inch of our lives.
Here when our skin crawls and our heartaches and our mind insists there must be something we can manufacture to make the story stop short of where we know it is going.
Here when we mistake sending stuff for seeking salvation, when we misinterpret directives as deliverance, when we react by building back what we need to be risking to start over, God calls us by name and says, “I am here.”
Three words saying simply, “I am here,” meaning, “I love you,” …meaning we never hold any of the horrors we hear on our own …meaning light finds us when we listen for what God needs us to hear.
“I love you forever,” meaning, “I will always be here.”
A predictable arc and a meaningful direction that I neither predicted nor created but stumbled upon because in some shape or form these are the words waiting for me at the end of every message.
The same words memorized on Monday for the message on Sunday because they remain unchanged regardless of what happens that week.
The same words, I imagine, one should listen for when the world shakes so loudly that we lay awake waiting for permission to fall asleep.
“I am here,”
“I love you,”
“Rest well, my Child, it’s time to sleep.”