This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
1 Samuel 9:1-14
9There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish son of Abiel son of Zeror son of Becorath son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2He had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else.
3 Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, had strayed. So Kish said to his son Saul, ‘Take one of the boys with you; go and look for the donkeys.’ 4He passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then he passed through the land of Benjamin, but they did not find them.
5 When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to the boy who was with him, ‘Let us turn back, or my father will stop worrying about the donkeys and worry about us.’ 6But he said to him, ‘There is a man of God in this town; he is a man held in honour. Whatever he says always comes true. Let us go there now; perhaps he will tell us about the journey on which we have set out.’ 7Then Saul replied to the boy, ‘But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What have we?’ 8The boy answered Saul again, ‘Here, I have with me a quarter-shekel of silver; I will give it to the man of God, to tell us our way.’ 9(Formerly in Israel, anyone who went to inquire of God would say, ‘Come, let us go to the seer’; for the one who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.) 10Saul said to the boy, ‘Good; come, let us go.’ So they went to the town where the man of God was.
11 As they went up the hill to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water, and said to them, ‘Is the seer here?’ 12They answered, ‘Yes, there he is just ahead of you. Hurry; he has come just now to the town, because the people have a sacrifice today at the shrine. 13As soon as you enter the town, you will find him, before he goes up to the shrine to eat. For the people will not eat until he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterwards those eat who are invited. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.’ 14So they went up to the town. As they were entering the town, they saw Samuel coming out towards them on his way up to the shrine.
This is the introduction to the story of how Saul is chosen as the first King of Israel. The storyteller seems to be taking his/ her time but is using traditional means to tell the reader that what seems haphazard to the participants is prompted by the wisdom of God. The boy’s words are prophetic, “There is man of God in this town; perhaps he will tell us about the journey on which we have set out.”
For biblical faith every journey has a point on intersection with the purposes of God. Every day and any day I should be looking for the meaning of the journey on which I’ve set out, this day’s journey, the journey of all my days. It’s not that I can’t take the initiative; it’s not that accidents (lost donkeys) don’t happen. Rather it is through the tissue of personal will and random occurrence that the goodness of God awaits discovery. Perhaps you have donkeys to chase today. Your journey, like Saul’s or that of the Egyptian democrats, may be important for your society or for the world.
31 ‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ 33And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ 34Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’
35 He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ 36He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ 38They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’
Simon doesn’t know which way his feet will take him, and when he finds himself running away from Jesus, he is first of all consumed with self-loathing. Luke tells us that Jesus predicted Peter’s journey of betrayal and that his “turning back (to the risen Jesus) would enable him to strengthen his brothers. In end his faith does not fail him, although he must learn about weakness, fear, and self-preservation on the way.
Jesus’ own journey, he intimates, will put him in the category of those outside the law, into the darkness beyond the providence of God which they had enjoyed in their missionary days. Perhaps they’ll need the worldly protection they had previously done without. But even as they take him literally and count their swords, he quietens them. He trusts that the meaning of his journey will be revealed.