The theological and literary jottings of a Deacon and novelist. Writing ersatz Victorian fiction in the age of the e-book, and trying to walk the Way.




You are watching: When the fall is all that is left

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In the name of the Father, and also of the Son, and also of the Divine Spirit.Today’s reading from the First Book of Samuel is usually a good chance for a rallying sermon around God’s speak to to us. And we might gain there yet. But, I confess, my attention was diverted from the story of the recurring call of God to the young boy Samuel. Because now, I am drawn to the tragedy interwrange through the cevery one of Samuel, the first of the great prophets.It’s a tragedy that reminds me of a great minute in The Lion in Winter, the film that pits Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine versus Peter O’Toole as Henry II, and Anthony Hopkins (Ricdifficult the Lionheart, of course), John Castle as an oilily plotting Geoofrey, and Nigel Terry (A particularly feckmuch less John) versus each various other and their parental fees.Near the finish of the film, the young princes have actually temporarily banded together, under Eleanor’s direction, in an effort to rebel versus their father. Henry outwits them, and also has actually them immured in the wine cellar—“the royal boys are aging via the royal port,” he declintends, while he tries to figure out what to do via them.As they huddle in the darkening cellar, cooperating for the first time in their lives—it takes participation to break via a port barrel and jerry-rig a spiacquired via only a dagger--and John lastly mirrors he’s good for something.But then they hear footmeasures approaching, and also fear that their father is approaching, with revenge on his mind.Richard refprovides to be cowed. “He"s right here,” he states. “He"ll acquire no satisfactivity out of me. He isn"t going to watch me beg.”Geoffery scorncompletely answers him, “you chivalric fool... as if the means one dropped down mattered.”Richard replies, “When the loss is all tright here is, it matters.”But ago to Samuel, that continuously hears God’s call, but who continuously mistakes that voice for Eli. Eli , is ultimately instructed by his mentor, Eli the priest to, on hearing the voice Samuel keeps mistaking for Eli’s, to answer ssuggest, “Soptimal, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel obeys Eli, and once he answers, God says to him: See, I am around to carry out somepoint in Israel that will certainly make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.On that day I will certainly satisfy against Eli all that I have actually spoken concerning his home, from start to end.For I have told him that I am around to punish his residence forever, for the iniquity that he kbrand-new, bereason his sons were blaspheming God, and also he did not restrain them.Therefore I swear to the residence of Eli that the iniquity of Eli"s residence shall not be expiated by sacrifice or supplying forever.The following morning, Eli confronts a nervous Samuel, and commands the boy to tell him what the Lord has actually said.And, on hearing the doom of his residence and household claimed, Eli answers simply, “It is the LORD; let him execute what appears good to him.”When the autumn is all there is, it matters.Now, Eli has actually already been warned. His two sons have treated the meat offerings of worshippers to the Lord through contempt, the author tells us, by utilizing them as, fundamentally, their very own exclusive resource of well-off food. And if any type of worshippers at the temple refsupplied to give them the meat fresh and also unburnt, they took it by pressure. Eli, who was already old once this took area, remonstprices via his sons, that, predictably, ignore him. A man of God comes and tells Eli that his whole house will quickly be punished—that they will certainly all die, other than for one survivor, left behind to weep in despair. So Eli is not surprised. Yet he continues to serve in the holy place, continues to instruct Samuel, who grows right into adulthood, and also, on the day that the long-back promised fall takes place, the now blind ninety-eight year old priest Eli topples to his death upon hearing that the Ark of the Agreement has actually been taken by the Philistines.In other words, he drops bereason the the majority of holy relics of God gathered by Moses have been profaned.He dies for horror and shame that the holy place he—unchoose his sons—has actually offered faithfully has actually itself fallen. His fatality is quick, and also seemingly painmuch less, and he dies of his great love for the God that he offered to the finish, knowing that the loss would certainly come in retribution for his failures as a parent, not as a priest.When the autumn is all tbelow is, it matters.Eli serves in the holy place for an unstated variety of years from his first warning (once Samuel is a very young child) until his death. But we recognize that Samuel is an adult at the time of Eli’s fatality, and yet Samuel’s prophecy that Eli’s residence was about to fall had not yet occurred. It’s so easy to view this story through the lens of contemporary principles of justice, and involved the conclusion that God punishes His faithful servant for the acts of his sons, that God is cruel to Eli.But is that really what happens in the story?Two weeks ago, I had actually the privilege of pgetting to at this business about Romans chapter 8, where St. Paul tells us that all things intermingle for great to those who love God, to those who are the dubbed according to his purpose. I reminded you that this saying of St. Paul suggests that the tragic facets of life remajor tragic, the losses are genuine, and that pain does not simply cease bereason we are followers of the Jesus Movement. Rather, exactly how we, the dubbed, according to God’s function, play a part in developing the pattern of light and dark in our very own resides, and also those stays we touch. And it is in our response to the contact that we acquire to be active participants in God’s unfinishing, unceasing, untiring initiatives to redeem this divided, broken civilization, which groans in pain. Witness Eli.Told that he and also his whole family—except for one broken-hearted survivor—will autumn, Eli does not respond through bitterness against either his sons or the young prophet he is rearing as much as relocation him. He does not abandon the temple, does not, as Job’s wife advises him, “curse God, and die.”No, Eli answers simply "It is the LORD; let him perform what appears great to him."And he proceeds his company, educating Samuel, praying, percreating his priestly duties, also as time robs him of his sight, his body of its toughness, and on the darkest day, once the Israelites are moved before the Philistines, he finally drops, drops and dies, his last believed his grieving the loss of the Ark, that many potent of all symbols of the covenant between the Israelites and God.He dedicates his long life, every day of it, to a life of service, silently rebuking the crimes of his sons, their faithlessness and also their selfish, mercenary ways. And his days are lengthy in the land also.Eli, complicit in the sins of his sons bereason he did not proccasion them, or restrain them, lives a life of love to the God that he has actually failed as a father. But not as a priest. He proceeds in that role until his body fairly ssuggest provides out.And he atones for his failures as a parent by raising Samuel, whose fame will certainly totally eclipse his very own reputation, and also who is the first of the line of the excellent prophets, but that learned exactly how to hear the call from Eli, and learned likewise from Eli to sheight the reality, without are afraid.Eli’s response—to not refuse the God who has told him that he and also his household will not, after all, be the channel of revelation, instead selflessly assists in the education and learning, training and also development of the prophet who will rearea him.And in so doing, a dramatic amount of redemption is accomplished. Eli is not forobtained. We can’t forobtain him—without him, Samuel could not identify God’s contact to his very own destiny, and so once we enrespond to Eli it is in that role—the male that, upon discovering that he himself will autumn, renders the many of the unknown amount of time he has left. Thousands of years have passed, and also we are still reading around Samuel—and we can’t check out about Samuel without reading about Eli. His alternative helped the light to blaze up, and also overcome the darker components of the pattern of his flawed fallible life.When the loss is all there is, it matters.We will each and also eincredibly among us loss at some point. We’re mortal, and also we, favor Eli, are flawed and fallible. Our lives are finite, oh, so finite, and also prefer Eli prior to us, we have no idea as soon as that last fall will come. So, choose Eli, we have to make a decision. Not a decision to be cost-free of sin—of failure, or regret.

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We can’t attain that.Not a decision to leave behind us good achievements that will fade with the memories of those who knew us, loved us, or not, as the case might be.No, I can’t assist however think that for us below now, an initial step in answering the call while recognizing our own weaknesses and failings, is uncovered in the words of Henri Frédéric Amiel, as my very own mentor Bill Tully offered to quote to us so often:Life is brief and we execute not have a lot time to gladden the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey through us. So be swift to love, make haste to be type.After all, when the fall is all tbelow is, it matters.In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.