“Where We’ve Been” 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26. Donald W. Dotterer, PhD, 12/30/18. December 30, 2018.
1 Samuel 2:18-20 New International Version (NIV)
18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to[a] the Lord.” Then they would go home.
26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.
Let me begin with an update. A number of you heard the sermon from a few weeks ago that I began with a story about the man in the Netherlands who in November petitioned a court to allow him to change his legal age from age 69 to age 49.
I’ve heard of people changing their name. But this is the first time I’ve heard of someone petitioning a court to change their age. Emile Ratelband argued that he felt discriminated against in his career and on dating sites because of his age. He said that he felt like “a young god,” not a 69 year-old man. When we left this story Mr. Ratelband’s case was being deliberated upon by a panel of judges.
Well, I have an update and the decision. On December 3 the Dutch court rejected Mr. Ratelband’s plea to erase 20 years of his life and become 49 years old again. The court said that he had not convinced the judges that he had been discriminated against because of his age. The judges’ opinion said that “Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel twenty years younger than his real age and to act accordingly. But, they noted, changing his age would nullify any number of records from public registers, and thus his age change could not be allowed. Mr. Ratelband hopes to appeal.[i]
Well, the point is that we can’t go backwards in time, even though there are times that we would like to do that. How many times have you and I said, “Well, if I could take that back . . . ,”--or “if I could do that over again I would . . . .”?
But we can’t do that. We can’t go back. Time, like God himself, is always moving forward, always moving ahead, not backwards.
But what we can do is this. We can look back to see where we’ve been. We can look back and consider how we can do better in the future.
That is what we call history. And history, even the history of one year, has much to teach us. Experience, as they say, is the best teacher of all.
Our Old Testament lesson from the book of Samuel affirms this way of looking at the New Year. Many of us know the story of Samuel and his mother from Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.
We remember that Samuel’s mother Hannah could not conceive a child. So she went to the sanctuary to pray. That is, Hannah went to church. That is, of course, the place to go when you’re not feeling good about yourself and your life. And that is what just Hannah did. So Hannah goes to the sanctuary and she prays. She prays so hard that tears stream down her face. Hannah promises God that if he answers her prayer and gives her a child, she would dedicate that child to God’s work. And that is exactly what happens. Hannah conceives the child Samuel and dedicates him to God’s work. Samuel is left in the house of God for the priest Eli to raise. Samuel would be a fully dedicated servant of the Lord. It is important to note that Hannah kept her promise to God.
And we need to keep our promises as well. The promises we make are part of our history. The promises made in the past, such as promises made when we marry, or the promises we make when we baptize our children, or when we join the church, those promises are part of our history, and they shape who we and others are today. And the promises made in the past determine to a large extent who and what we will be in the future.
In today’s episode of the life and times of the prophet Samuel we see Hannah and her husband Elkana visiting Samuel in the sanctuary. Samuel is growing up. There is no going back with children, of course. We remember what they’ve been as little ones that bring us joy, while at the same time we anticipate what they will become with some fear and trepidation.
In this story we see that Samuel is growing up, physically as well as spiritually. That is what children do. We are told that Samuel, as he grows taller, also grows in favor with God.
Every year Hannah brings to her son a new robe. Why? Because he’s growing up. He’s getting bigger and better. He’s not the little boy he once was. He needs a larger robe. He will never be a size 10 again.
We don’t grow backwards. God is always pulling us forward from the past into the future. Children as they grow teach us that. And hopefully all of us, no matter what age we are, as we grow older are growing as Samuel did, “in favor with the Lord.”
The Roman god Janus is the god of open doors and new beginnings. Tradition says that the month of January is named after Janus. Images of Janus show him looking both backwards and forwards at the same time. That is because we need to look backwards so that we can figure out where we need to go in the future.
That, I think, is what we are called to do every New Year.
There’s been a lot happen in the past year, much of it good, some of it bad. We all have our own personal history of 2018.
May God help us to remember this year and learn from it as we embrace the opportunities that lie ahead of us in 2019.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
[i] BBC News
Pastor Donna Doutt - What Is Forgotten – 12-30-18
The Boy Jesus in the Temple
41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents[a] saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[b]50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years,[c] and in divine and human favor.
Let me introduce you to the Morfords.My cousins, Steve, Terry, Shawn, Kevin, Kim, Daryl, Bradley, Lance & Janine. That’s their parents, my Uncle Harry over there on the right, my aunt Vera over there on the left. They are a big family. They are the equivalent of the Beightleys or the Hogues to my family tree. One Sunday afternoon, back about 1960, when most of us were all still little kids, after a visit to our house in Beaver, they loaded up the car to head to their home up in Warrendale.
About 15 minutes after they left, my cousin Darryl came wandering into our kitchen (he’s the guy with the cast on his arm). He’d been playing down in the woods, and had missed the Morford “bus” home. Now remember this was back in the days before cellphones and answering machines or voicemail. We had no way of contacting them enroute to let them know who they had forgotten.
Apparently, about a half-hour into the trip home, Uncle Harry looked in the rear view mirror, started counting heads and shouted, “Oh my gosh! Where’s Darryl?” sure enough…Darryl was left behind. My cousin, Kevin, tells me that after that incident, they had to do a roll call before they left anywhere to make sure everyone was on board.
While it was embarrassing and distressing to my aunt and uncle, Darryl was only missing from the family about two hours before they retrieved him. No harm. No foul.
Imagine if you were Mary and Joseph and lost your child but didn’t notice for three days that he was gone! Geez! If that happened today, they’d be bringing you up on charges as a negligent parent FOR SURE!
But that was a different time. In Jesus’ boyhood days children were literally being raised by a village. We have to remember that in this scripture, this family was traveling as a caravan. Mary probably had no worries that Jesus was probably somewhere amongst the caravan, goofing around and playing with the other boys his age. So they get home, unpack, and say UH OH! Where’s that boy Jesus?! They immediately turn around and go back to find him.
Mary was a good mother. Little did she realize that when they left with this caravan to go to Jerusalem for this festival that the next few days would be a tipping point in her life and that of her blessed son, Jesus.
So they return to the temple to find their little boy Jesus there…and he’s teaching! Teaching the elders! And what mom or dad hasn’t faced the moment when in an exchange of terse words a child might dare to insinuate they know more than their parent? That is exactly what we’re seeing here. We have Jesus, who has deliberately stayed behind because he KNOWS his place is in the temple, challenging his earthly parents.
Mary asks him, “Child why have you treated us like this? We’ve been so worried about you?” But Jesus is real casual. He seems stunned that they are even questioning him! He says, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I MUST be in my Father’s house?”
In this tense and sharp exchange between parent and child, we see Jesus, at the age of 12, emerge and take his first steps towards becoming the great Teacher.
Did Mary forget what happened when the angel Gabriel came to her and blessed her with the words of assurance that she would conceive the son of God? Almost 13 years had passed. A few things had happened pointing the way to Jesus inauguration as King of Kings, but nothing truly notable. Life was just going on….
Did she forget what happened when the shepherds were led to the manger by the heralding angels. The shepherds were glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen at this birth site. Mary was sort of stunned by all this notoriety.
Yes, it is true that the angel had told her she would be blessed, but not one person or angel or heavenly voice explained how life would work when you had the responsibility of raising God’s son. Mary was just playing it by ear, but we know it affected her because we hear in Luke 2: 19, “…Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
Now, in this scripture reading today, we have this stunning revelation that all of a sudden, their little boy Jesus, unexpectedly recognized for himself that he is the Son of God. Jesus seems baffled that they didn’t know this. “Did you not know that I MUST be in my Father’s house?” Mary was stunned into silence. Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “The boy who was filled with wisdom as a child will increase in wisdom as he grows.”
But once again, Mary “treasured” all this things in her heart.
It was almost 13 years since her encounter with the angel Gabriel, and it seems she DID forget that she was called to be the mother of God’s only son. Now she’s beginning to see the meaning of Gabriel’s words and of God’s place in her life and that of her son.
So what about you? Have you forgotten what is YOUR place in God’s life? Or is it about HIS life in YOU? Did you even know you have one? Well, sure you do.
As we continue on the journey through this life, let’s not forget where God has been in our life. There may be times when you question, or feel forgotten, but remember He cares deeply for all people…for you and for me. He has done wonderous things for each of us. Your presence here is proof of that.
As you go from here today, please take some time this week to reflect on your life and where you have seen God in it. We may think that our lives just happen as they happen…”it is what it is.” But let’s not forget that God never loses YOU. You are never mislaid like a wallet, a cellphone, my cousin Darryl, or like Mary who lost track of the young Jesus. His eye is on the sparrow. God has never forgotten YOU. He’s been with you…is with you… and will be with you, now and forever more.
Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word Advent Companion, (John Knox Press: Louiseville, 2014), 169
PASTOR BAY ALLEN – Where We’re Going: Something New! December 30, 2018
Revelation 21:1-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The New Heaven and the New Earth
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home[a] of God is among mortals.
He will dwell[b] with them;
they will be his peoples,[c]
and God himself will be with them;[d]
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;mourning and crying and pain will be no more,for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
You ever watch those TV shows, you know the ones I’m talking about, those shows where they take someone who looks normal, or ordinary, perhaps extremely unkempt, OK… sometimes completely a mess! I mean, bad hair, bad taste in clothes, bad make-up… well, these shows take these people, and the experts step in, transforming them into someone entirely new! It doesn’t even look like them! They take them away. And they come back…New!
These shows intrigue us, that is why they exist. I look at the entertainment world sometimes and wonder, “how is that even a thing?” YouTube has taken our entertainment industry in a different direction, too. It’s like, now the people get to say what is popular. The old entertainment world…they called the shots, it all looked the same…it was predictable…but now…this is new.
Just like a makeover, you don’t know what it will look like until you see it, not exactly, but you know it will be new! All across America people want this newness. Every December 31 you hear this! You see it online, you see it on the streets, in the workplace… people want NEW!
What does it take to bring about something new?
Repeat after me: “God is doing a new thing!”
Today’s scripture says "I saw a new heaven a new earth…”
So you want to enter into something new, in 2019? Today’s scripture gives us a glimpse at what it means to view newness in an eternal sense, but let’s unpack it and see if there is something we can grab a hold of today, as we strive for newness in our lives. "I saw a new heaven a new earth…”
What I am seeing here is that we need to be able to see something new when we see it. to recognize. Some of us turn a blind eye to anything that is even remotely different than what we are used to. When we do this, however, we may be closing our eyes to that which we should be doing, moving into. This is a big step in newness, having eyes to see something new in the midst of the old. But it doesn’t stop there…we also need the
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” So when we see that new thing taking place, today’s scripture shows us a difficult piece of the puzzle. The puzzle of newness. The old…the first heaven…the first earth…were passed away! Even something as vast as the ocean, was no more! These are not our favorite meal that is no longer on the menu…these are not a discontinued television show…we see heaven…earth…the ocean…things that have always been a constant…have always been a grounding of reality for us…no more!
When God shows you something new on the horizon, are you willing to travel, far away from where you are right, knowing that you may never return to where you have been? In other words, are you willing to let go, in order to grab ahold of the new thing God has for you?
LET GO, AND LET GOD… For those of you who are relatively new to the church, I gotta tell you, this is quite a Christian cliché. You hear from time to time, especially from motivationally millennial ministers…but it is exactly what we see here, in Revelation 21.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
If we were to get into to deep philosophical conversations in the line of Soren Kierkegaard, we would see lived out on display that something new doesn’t come from something old…seems basic, but there’s a lot packed in. If something new came from something old…it would not be new…because it still has that old in there…if you can reference it as something old…something we used to do…etc., it isn’t new…it’s just a new old, and that is an oxymoron…they are two entirely different things. We need to let go and let God, because we ourselves can’t do a new thing apart from God…our old is still mixed in there!
And some would argue, “But God is old…how can God do a new thing?”
Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
God is not old…God is eternal…God is both beginning and end, which means that in the end is a beginning…in the beginning there was an end…that end that we saw at the beginning wasn't the beginning of God, it was the beginning of our opening our eyes to God’s existence, once we were created…God is a God of Creation, a God of Newness! once we were created we looked to heavens…to earth…to the ocean…things that God created…we looked to them like they would last forever…
What if the things we look to as if they will last forever are the very things holding us back from what God has planned for us?
When we let go and let God, we live into “your kingdom come, your will be done…on earth as it is in heaven” we set aside our own agendas and ideas of what it means to exist, and allow God to rewrite that in our lives. It could be that God is making new what we have thought would always be there…if God can allow heaven and earth to pass away, for newness, anything is game. It is scary sometimes to let go…but it is the only way we can embrace the new.
These people on the televisions…with the makeovers…they don’t get a say in how the new them turns out…they just let go…and receive the new. I pray that you place your trust in God, he says, “behold, I am making all things new.” Have eyes to see it. Have the courage to let go of the way you have always done things, a willingness to let go and let God bring about a newness that can only come from God, no matter how hard you may try to do it alone.
If the First Heaven, First Earth, and even the Sea are passed away…what things that you have once held dear, or as a constant in your life, do you need to let go of before you can receive the newness God offers? As we move into 2019, I pray that you find the things God is calling you to allow to pass away, so that you may welcome in the New thing that God is already doing!