Who are you?

Lessons of the Day: 1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20); Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 4:5-12; Mark 2:23-3:6

It’s a familiar scene: parents and grandparents lingering in conversation on the steps of the parish hall after coffee hour, as their children and grandchildren make the most of the beautiful early summer day. They scamper through the churchyard with cheerful squeals and, after a few moments of frolic, they decide to organize a game of hide and seek.

One little girl volunteers to be the “seeker,” and the other children scatter, searching out the perfect hiding place. The seeker begins her count: “Twenty… nineteen…eighteen…” One child scampers behind the bushes; another under the stairs… “thirteen…twelve…eleven…” Time is running short, and all the good hiding places have been snatched up! Quick! Behind the recycling bins! “Three…two…one…Ready or not, here I come!”

The seeker gleefully stomps around, looking under bushes and behind trees, calling out, “Where are you?”

No Reservations
Anthony Bourdain died in during the night on Friday, June 8, found dead from an apparent suicide in a hotel room in Kaysersberg, France. Do know who Anthony Bourdain is…

Godfather of food journalism…poet and storyteller, potty mouth with the acerbic wit of an Oscar Wilde protagonist. Author and chef. Anthony Bourdain was not a saint. He once quipped, “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”  Bourdain was no saint so why use him in a homily; well, it’s probably because he was clearly no saint – at least not in this life – that his story resonates. He was an eternal student, hungry to absorb the essence of that which was placed before him, to consume it and translate its essence back to us. He loved the world, its people, and its food. At least that’s the persona he developed on page and on screen.

There is one theme that strikes me in his work and a quote to match from his book “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach”

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

Bourdain always seemed to be asking a simple question, “Where are you? and Where are you going?” Those are the same questions brought out in today’s lessons. 

Where are you?

OT lesson this morning, we hear a conversation between God and Samuel, in which God relates Israel’s history of turning away from God. Samuel had presented God with the people’s desire to have a king, a desire the Lord sees as just another case of misplaced allegiance and a quest to be like the other nations, instead of living as an alternative community under God’s Reign. 

The Psalm is a lament but a trusting lament – showing an attitude of supplication for God’s grace to rescue the Psalmist in time of trouble. The attitude is clear: No matter what life may throw at us, our faith needs to remain in God, for with the Lord there is mercy and plenteous redemption.

In the lesson from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the apostle describes the troubles that we experience in life as small compared to the glory we have in Christ. It is this hope that enables the follower of Jesus to stay faithful, and to share the message of God’s grace, even as in the face of suffering, hardship, uncertainty, and change. 

Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus faces persecution of his own, both from his family who call him crazy, and from the religious leaders who claim that he is possessed. His response is decisive though, as he reveals the absurdity in claiming that his power to defeat the devil comes from the devil, and as he embraces all who obey God, who give their hearts in allegiance to God’s Reign as he has done. 

The message that I am face with this week, then, is that confrontational questions from Mark’s Gospel:

“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35)

This theme, overarching from Genesis to Revelation, is clear: When our allegiance with God is kept (read that as covenant, obedience, faith)

  • there is God’s promise secured – that God will sustain us
  • there is our hope to be found – in life eternal
  • there is our joy – in the faith with whom we can share our tears and our laughter, helping one another to stay faithful to the call.

May our worship this week empower us to give our allegiance alone to Christ and the Reign of God that he lived and preached.

Examining Our Hearts
Connecting again back to last week’s affirmation of human dignity, one of the reasons that human dignity is too often not honored and respected is that we are constantly being called to give allegiance to things that do not bring justice, peace, life, and equality. While there is more than enough wealth in our world to provide for everyone, we choose rather to give our allegiance to consumerism, materialism, selfish corruption, and unnecessarily costly budgets for everything from elections to state celebration of weaponry. Where we could find security and peace through collaboration, mutual understanding, creative resource sharing, and acceptance of differences, we prefer to give our allegiance to divisive exclusivity, factionalism, stereotyping, blaming, self-protectiveness, and power games. 

The list goes on – we continue to fall for the same temptations to power, wealth, and lust that have always tempted humanity and were a constant temptation to Israel. For those who would name themselves Christian – that is, followers of Jesus the Christ – the challenge is to shift the allegiance away from the “kingdoms of this world” unto the kingdom of God. We hold on to our hope in Christ – for justice, peace, and life – remaining strong against the repercussions that will come, staying faithful and refusing to “buy in” to values that don’t demonstrate love. After all, if its not about love, its not about God.

And, as more and more people shift their allegiance to the kingdom of God – and they will if they see us and hear us and know us. As more and more people shift their allegiance to the kingdom of God the reality of justice, peace, and love will spread. and gains ground in our world. I think that we can already see this happening, even in small ways, at work with us, in us, and through us. We can already see this happening, and it gives us hope to be able to commit to a promise of a new world that we may never see fully realized, but for which we know we must give our lives if it is ever to happen.

We all know that each day brings with it myriad challenges to our allegiance to the kingdom of God: over-sexualization, consumerism, the glorification of passivity. And then there is the growing trend to create – in the world, in the nation, and in our neighborhoods – an us and a them. Even in our faith communities, we easily turn away from the tough inclusivity and love that the Gospel demands in favor of exclusivity, legalism, hypocrisy, and judgment.

This week we face an invitation to examine our hearts, to be honest about where our allegiance is to be found. We are invited to turn soundly back to God, favoring God’s kingdom over our own.

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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