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Lectionary Living

New Direction

6/13: 1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13 and Psalm 20  •  Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15  •  2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17  •  Mark 4:26-34


In last week's reading from 1 Samuel 11, Samuel had anointed Saul as king, in a public ceremony with much rejoicing from the people. Already, just a few chapters later, God has rejected Saul as king, based on his inability to follow guidance from above. Samuel, although unhappy with Saul's performance, is also unhappy with God's instruction to find a new leader for the people. Saul, after all, had been Samuel's guy from the beginning. God confronts him in a most un-empathic way: how long will you go on grieving? Do you not see the new direction this is going in?


All of us, I think, have trouble letting go of feelings; whether mad, sad, or glad, emotions can flood neural pathways. The vicissitudes of life – and what a great word for it, one can hardly say it – are a challenge. Changes in circumstances, fortunes and misfortunes, all these things come at us quickly. Covid was a case in point. There were drastic changes over the last year, and, at least for me, it took time to take it all in and figure out what to do next. I see that I just wrote "take it all in," but I don't think that's accurate, either. I'm still taking in what happened! 


Reality, though, allows no such luxury. Although human beings take time to process things, life does not take this into consideration. Emotions may interfere with clear thinking; getting time and distance from a situation can help one to manage one's feelings about it. In today's story, time and distance from the situation is what Samuel lacked. He knew things weren't going well with Saul, but couldn't Saul eventually learn the job? The idea of replacing him with another, well, this was going to be complicated! There were political considerations, for Saul had a loyal army. And practical problems, too, for apparently, in Samuel's mind, there was no one else to take Saul's place.


To make the challenge even more difficult, Samuel's hunt for a new king involves a family with many sons. Six are presented to Samuel, but (having recovered some reasoning capacity), he sees that none of these will do. He asks if there are any more – and it turns out that the youngest was out tending sheep. No one had even thought of him. This child, David, was selected to be the next king.


The child who is overlooked may feel left out. But he has a distinct advantage over the other kids, with a little more room to become a self. David apparently had many days alone with the sheep, days where he apparently practiced music and developed an ability to defend the herd from predators. His skills with both the lyre and the slingshot show up in the stories ahead; the task of caring for livestock had developed in him both autonomy and competency.


As human creatures, practical realities can save us. In my case, I'm reminded of a death in my family. Like Samuel, I would have given myself over to grief, if not for three kids who had to be fed, dressed, and sent to school. Motivated by emotional reason, I got out of bed each morning. My heart stirred my mind, so to speak; my love for my family reminded me that I could not lose myself in my feelings; I had children to think about. In Samuel's case, he had his loyalty to God and to his own principles to consider. Moving on in a new direction, letting the past go, begins here.



Morning: Where am I at risk of losing myself in my feelings? How can I begin to move on?

Evening: What new direction might I want to take with my life?    

Psalm 20:7 Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God.

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