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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Readings – I Samuel 8: 4-20, 11: 14-15; Psalm 138; II Corinthians 4: 13-5:1; Mark 3: 20-35

Last week we learned of Eli, priest of the temple in Shechem, whose sons had abandoned faithful living.  This week we learn of his successor, Samuel, as the text states, “your sons do not follow in your ways”.  So, the people cry out to Samuel, give us a king!  As in Aesop’s fables, they are about “to jump from the frying pan and into the fire”.  They wish to escape from a rough situation only to jump into one that proves in the long run to be worse. 

According to Samuel the prophet, the Lord God shares with them the following:

a king will take “your sons and appoint them to his chariots”,
a king will take “your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers”,
a king will take “one tenth of your grain, and vineyards and olive orchards”,
and a king will take “one tenth of your flocks and you shall be his slaves”.

Take! Take! Take! This the way of kings, of dictators, of autocrats, and this description has not changed much.  Still, the people of ancient Israel cried out for a king…so that they may be like other nations”. 

Three chapters later, following the weaving together episodes of warrior Saul’s victories, Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel.  And he took, he took, and he took, and then he was followed by King David, King Solomon, and others. 

Take, Take, Take is counter to the God we have come to know through much of scripture, and especially through the servant leadership of Jesus. 

The Psalmist wrote of God’s love and faithfulness.  138: 2

The Psalmist wrote of God caring for the lowly.  138: 7

St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians notes how God raises up and renews. 

We know our God is a giving God; our God is a generous God.  As we read in John 3:16, God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus.  And Jesus lived life giving, not taking.  Jesus gave to the undeserving.  Jesus gave to the rejected.  Jesus gave to the sick.  Jesus gave to those who had not earned love.  Jesus gave to friend and foe alike. 

So, we have quite the contrast, quite the divergent paths, set before us in scripture, and in our daily living.  Yes, we continue to be a “house divided” with takers and with givers. 

Are we takers with closed fists that beat others away, like the kings of ancient times?  Or are we givers like the one who hung on the cross?  Are we open handed toward all? 

Today we gather to honor, we gather to praise, we gather to pledge ourselves anew to follow the one who have his “last full measure” so that we might live as he lived—with open hands, with open arms, generous, self-giving and ready to love and embrace all. 

The people of ancient Israel in the time of Samuel made a choice, they chose to be like the other nations and they chose to be led by a taker. 

We, the people, have that same choice always before us.  Do we pledge our lives to taking, to accumulating sheep, goats, vineyards, grain, cattle, donkeys and flocks?

Or do we pledge our lives to the one who offers us his body, the bread of heaven, who offers us his blood, the cup of salvation given for us?

And he invites us to do the same, to do the same.

Amen

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