1 Samuel 3:1-20 & Mark 2:23-3:6 (NIV)
Loving God, as we open your word to our hearts, we pray that you open our hearts to your word. Amen.
Both of these readings talk of healers and prophets and the words and the tasks performed by each are very much interlinked. To heal someone essentially is not to cure them or fix them, it is to make them whole.
It is about restoration yes, but also about a newness. When we talk of healing – we talk of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing (again the restoration of one facet can lead to another type of healing).
To prophesy is not just about seeing the future (as in fore-telling) but it is about discerning and preaching God’s will (forth-telling). I like the image of the prophet who stands on the city wall – looking into the situation and seeing the bigger picture – and then looking outward from the wall to see the new opportunities that lie beyond – new opportunities for wholeness and restoration.
But this week, and next, through our lectionary readings from both the New and the Old Testaments, we focus on seven difficulties. Jesus and other healer/prophets faced and what you and I face as well if we wish to exercise these gifts.
In our first reading we come across the young boy, Samuel, the only son of Hannah and Elkanoh. The boy who was offered to Eli, the Temple and to God as a return blessing for the blessing upon Hannah. This is the very same child who would grow up to become Israel’s great prophet, healer, judge and kingmaker (of Saul and then David).
But here in this passage, we hear God’s call to the boy. A call is initiated by God, not men, so it is not to be taken lightly.
Will Samuel heed the call to be God’s prophet? This is the prophet healer’s first difficulty.
The role and path of the prophet is never an easy one. Most end up despised, chased down or dead at the hands of others.
This is not just the case in the Bible. We think of latter-day prophets like Joan of Arc, Sir Thomas Moore, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero and their fates.
But Samuel steps up to take the call and then perseveres in it (we will hear more about the importance of perseverance next week).
The second difficulty for the would-be prophet/healer is that you sometimes have to pass on bad news. You don’t know how the recipient will take that news.
- Saul doesn’t take it well from David
- Pharaoh doesn’t take it well from Moses
- Jezebal doesn’t take it well from Elijah
- Zedekiah doesn’t take it well from Jeremiah and
- The Romans and the Pharisees don’t take it well from Jesus.
Eli, however, shows some wisdom and discerns God’s will – so doesn’t try to do harm to the messenger, when Samuel tells him about the doom to befall Eli’s family.
When something or someone is sick – something needs to change in our behaviour or the change will happen to us without our input.
But simply doing the same things ends up with the same outcomes.
If I ask – ‘Who wants this church to grow?’ I would follow it up with the question – ‘Who is going to do something new?’
Our New Testament reading shows us two more difficulties in being the prophet/healer.
The first is that you have to break the rules.
Sabbath, was from the earliest times in Israeli society a day of rest. At an extreme end, it meant not only you couldn’t work, but you couldn’t walk, pick grain for eating, you couldn’t even do the healing work on others, for the benefit of others.
The keepers of the rules were also the police officers enforcing the rules. Jesus reminds the Pharisees that the rules were made for the benefit of man, not man made to benefit the rules.
When David and his men were hungry, the entered the temple and ate the consecrated bread for their benefit and revitalisation.
When Jesus heals the man with the withered hand, in the Synagogue (the law place and the religious space) on the Sabbath, he says it becomes lawful because it is about doing good (our politicians and law makers could learn much from following these words).
So breaking the prescribed rules leads to a fourth difficulty for the prophet/healer. As it says in the final verse – it may lead to others to want to destroy you – if they can’t make you conform.
I’m sure you, like me, have been in situations where we should have been the prophet and stood up and stood out and we haven’t. And I’m sure, like me, when you have stood up and stood out, that others have besmirched you, lied about you, spoken behind your back or set out to bring you down. I’m afraid, it comes with the territory.
Prophet healers are around us to bring about and proclaim the need to refocus on Jesus, to see that healing and growth only occur when change occurs.
I’d like to finish this talk with some words from another modern day prophet/healer, who a few weeks ago, brought much controversy to a wedding service in a church, by talking about God, love and justice.
He did this to the bemusement of the old order / the establishment / the privileged / the entitled / the humanists and the atheists alike.
Watch the faces of the ‘audience’ congregation as he applied a healing balm called love – that had it been in a packet, instructions may have said something like ‘application of this may sting a little at first.’