Magazine article The Christian Century

Move On

Magazine article The Christian Century

Move On

Article excerpt

Sunday, March 6

1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

SAMUEL, THE Billy Graham of his day, was adviser to the political leader Saul, the Pete Rose of ancient Israel. Samuel anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel. But soon (to quote James Thurber), "confusion got its foot in the door" and went through the entire "symptom." Samuel observed Saul disobeying the explicit word of God, and it became Samuel's job to inform Saul that God had rejected him as king.

The Bible tells us that Samuel "grieved" (abal) over Saul. But Yahweh told Samuel that the time for grieving was over, and that it was time to appoint a new king.

Sometimes we just need to move on.

The Amish resist certain aspects of "moving on." I appreciate the Anabaptist resistance to the inhumane features of "progress," the Anabaptist call to simplicity and fidelity to ancient traditions. But why stop with the 19th century? Why not go to a period prior to buggies, ovens, cupboards and battery-operated adding machines? The operative word here, as Donald Kraybill so ably demonstrates, is the German word Gelassenheit, or "yieldedness"--to God's loving, providing and guiding will. But sometimes what is perceived as Gelassenheit is actually a stubborn resistance to the inevitability of change.

The gospel proclaims an alarming fact about historical movement--it is what God is all about. The entire Bible hinges on one undeniable reality: reality is God's workshop. God doesn't give Abraham a set of beliefs but an event (a smoking fire pot) and a rite (circumcision). And God gives the Christian church a son--a child born of a woman whose reputation was stained, and reared by a father who surrendered his status as a tsadiq or "righteous man." Yet this son does not just teach the gospel: he embodies it.

In acting this way God sanctifies history, making it something to embrace instead of resist. When Samuel resists he hears the voice of God directing him to a future that will be better. That future will include David the shepherd boy. Like all shepherds, he is often on the move. As the author of Psalm 23, David the shepherd lies down, is led beside still waters, walks through the shadow of death and sits in the presence of his enemies. David will do whatever it takes to guide his sheep even as he remembers that Yahweh is his shepherd, guiding him.

Then another shepherd will arrive. Jesus the Good Shepherd will be the Light of the World, removing darkness and trumping, for example, the darkness of the man born blind. Like Samuel, the disciples will "get stuck" because they'll wonder whose sins have made the man blind. But Jesus, pushing them into the "Shepherd's era," will lead them to see that simplistic correlations from the past (sin leads to curse, obedience leads to blessing) do not always work. …

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