Psalm 106:24-31; 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11; Luke 23:44-56

Psalm 106:24-31: The psalm has now virtually become a catalog of misdeeds against God by Israel. The poet tells us that God “would have wiped them out / were it not for Moses His chosen one—” (23). But even though their leader has saved them, “they muttered in their tents, / they did not heed the voice of the LORD.” (25)

It’s difficult to think of a more apt image for us Christians who constantly find something to complain about at church. The music. The sermon. The people who took our “rightful place” in the pews. The leadership. The lack of leadership. As we pout in out tents we are able to come up with an endless list.

Israel “clung to Baal Peor / and ate sacrifices to the dead” (28). The real question is, what is my Baal Peor? To what “dead” things have I sacrificed my time and my resources? As always, the problem is that I have placed myself above God. In what ways do I “fall in the wilderness” (27) every day? And the infinite grace of God picks me up each time.

1 Samuel 1:1-2:11: Once again, we meet a faithful woman: Hannah. Unlike the custom of the time, which was to pray aloud, Hannah prays silently, her lips moving. This is so unusual that the priest, Eli, who has certainly watched–and heard–a lot of prayers in his time, thinks she is drunk. But Eli blesses her when she explains she has been “pouring out my soul before the Lord.” (1:15). And she returns to her home a happy woman. Her son Samuel is born, and true to her promise to God, she leaves him with Eli, saying, “Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” (1:28)

I am struck by the verb “lent” when it seems like she would have said “given,” which she in fact says later in the verse. The word underscores the sheer willingness of her action. She could take him back at any time, if she wished; she remains his mother with all the rights of motherhood. But her devotion to God and gratitude for this gift of a son is so enormous that the second verb in her sentence is “given” as she willingly hands Samuel to God. Just as Mary, as Jesus’ mother, “lent” her son to all humankind.

The other parallel to Mary is the son Hannah sings (2:1-10). One sees the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in her verses of praise–and Mary’s Magnificat is an echo of this wonderful poem. And as we see so frequently in the OT–and what Jesus does as well–is that God turns the world upside down from what we humans think is proper order:

He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.” (2:8)

The poor and needy are God’s great concern. Are they ours?

Luke 23:44-56: It is Luke, writing to his Gentile audience, who makes it clear that before anyone else, it is a “pagan” Roman soldier who recognizes the enormous injustice that has just been performed: “When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” (47) Outside of the framework of Jewish beliefs of what was heretical and what wasn’t; outside the snare of wrongly interpreting God’s Law; outside of the plotting and political maneuvering, this unnamed Centurion saw Jesus’ innocence.

Everyone goes home except that “all [Jesus’] acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” (49) What were they thinking about as they stood there in the figurative and literal darkness? Did they, like the Centurion, realize that an innocent man had been killed? I think they must have. Did they feel guilt? Remorse? Above all they must have felt loss. Loss of a friend. Loss at the death of the person who had made them realize there was so much more to God than just His law. Above all, loss of something they had come so close to grasping: the Kingdom of God. And in its place: sheer emptiness. Can there be any deeper despair than that?

Speak Your Mind