In the havoc of the past week, the temporal world conspired to frighten and scandalize, threaten and undermine all that the US holds sacred. Fractured and violent actions allowed political posturing to steal the stage from the cadence of tradition. There have been frantic searches to resonate with righteousness, to claim victory. The ordinary citizen is left processing what would have seemed all but impossible a generation ago. The United States struggles to find footing in the midst of a global pandemic, philosophical divergence, racial dichotomies and economic collapse. Not yet chastened by the visible issues, even deeper bunkers are being dug. Words are now the tools for labelling and vilifying; only limited glimmers of common ground are visible. And so everywhere people search for ways to grasp the situation, to determine how to live and what to do. Turn off the news, separate from social media, practice acts of kindness, take walks….perhaps there is more.
In this very extraordinary time, the liturgical calendar ironically points to the beginning of Ordinary time. It is the voice from 1 Samuel 3: 3b-10, 19 that speaks to the complexiy of this moment: “Here I am, Lord.” Anchored in the quiet and the familiar, the story itself overflows with a profoundly timely message.
“Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you, “ Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, “ he said. “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”
At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.“
Perhaps, in this moment, listening for the voice of God, responding to God, matters more than we realize. Maybe in the midst of all the churning tumult, there is a message being overlooked: maybe this is an opportunity to listen for the deeper meanings, to stand willing to serve with all the learning that implies. It is a moment to step beyond the familiar, to risk believing in something far greater than self. Maybe it is a moment to re-discover what it means to be here, to realize limits and to trust in the wealth of what it is to truly listen to one another.