One of the hardest things in prayer is to listen. It is really easy to tell God what we want and what we think God should do but it is really hard to listen to what God might be saying to us. In today’s reading Samuel hears the call of God but mistakes it for his master Eli.
It can be hard to know how to listen to and make sense of the news let alone to God in prayer! An increasingly digital world should have given us access to so much information from so many viewpoints yet it seems that we mostly live in our echo chambers listening to the views that reflect our own. It can be hard work to hear the views of others. This week I have found myself reading a lot of commentary on the events in the Capitol Building in the USA on the 6th January. The raw footage of what happened is available on the net. The opinions of those who truly believe that the election of Joe Biden was fraudulent can be read or viewed. It is easy to dismiss others as wrong before we start to listen and that frames what we hear.
There is a great deal of wisdom in our reading for today when faced with uncertainty. Eli is a flawed man. His time as a leader is not covered in glory yet he recognises that God is speaking to Samuel. It would have been so easy to ignore the child who was kept waking him up. Although the word of God is rare at this time Eli trusts that it is God speaking and he encourages the child to listen. That takes humility and courage.
God could have had a message for Samuel about how Eli had failed yet Eli gives the child the permission to listen and the freedom to do that without someone else getting in the way. Flawed as he was Eli was a man of prayer and able to put his agenda to one side so that young Samuel could become the prophet who would speak truth to power.
Can we be more Eli?
There is hope that our current lockdown will be eased with the roll out of the vaccine. The world has changed. What will our calling be in this new world and how do we hear it? Time to look to our listening? Who knows where it will lead…
Revd Karen’s reflection on Mark 1 4-11 is below the video
This week’s gospel tells of how John baptises Jesus in the river Jordan. The text is at the end of this blog past.
John calls for repentance and the forgiveness of sins and this is done with water. Washing is a very powerful metaphor in 2021. There is clean water. There is soap. There is time spent pausing to do something routine and simple. The miracle is that this act breaks down the surface of the virus that has killed so many people and destroys it. Washing is a powerful symbol in the Christian faith and a very effective tool in the fight against the Corona virus.
In the Church of England, we often baptise babies so the sense that in baptism is about washing away sin makes no sense as babies are not yet able to make decisions about what they do or what they don’t do. This is why some parts of the church only baptise adults. In the gospel John is calling for repentance and it is following that repentance that baptism can take place – the past is washed away and there is a new start. Of course we are only human and we make mistakes again but the important part is that we acknowledge that we are at fault.
In this week where we have seen deaths from CV19 hit record highs in the UK and the storming of the centre of democracy in the USA something as simple as admitting that we can be wrong, repentance seems to be in short supply. To be fair we are in the middle of a global pandemic and it is easy to see faults in a country other than your own. The ability to blame the other and deny fault over the storming of the Capitol Building is astonishing yet how often do we do the same thing ourselves? Do we listen to all sides of an argument before we do something or just the people in our echo chamber? Do we do what we want because we can or do we consider the impact on our neighbours?
In baptism the symbolism of washing away sin is profound. We know that something as simple as washing our hands whilst singing happy birthday twice or a couple of verses of your favourite hymn will reduce the spread of the virus. Can we take the simple act of washing and wonder what difference that would make in our lives if we could wash away all those little acts of unkindness and selfishness? How might we change if we could admit that we were wrong? That the decision we took yesterday was right in the context of the information we had then but the world has changed and now it is not the right thing to do? Just as washing is part of the armoury of our fight against the virus so repentance is part of the Christian way of life. It is a simple start. But in that simple start Jesus heard a voice from heaven say “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Keep washing those hands.
Remember that we make mistakes because we are human but we can ask for forgiveness.
Mark 1:4-11John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Photo credit Geetanjal Khanna at www.freelyphotos.com