This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news.
1 Samuel 12:1-6,16-25
12Samuel said to all Israel, ‘I have listened to you in all that you have said to me, and have set a king over you. 2See, it is the king who leads you now; I am old and grey, but my sons are with you. I have led you from my youth until this day. 3Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.’ 4They said, ‘You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from the hand of anyone.’ 5He said to them, ‘The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.’ And they said, ‘He is witness.’
6 Samuel said to the people, ‘The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of the land of Egypt. 16Now therefore take your stand and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 17Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain; and you shall know and see that the wickedness that you have done in the sight of the Lord is great in demanding a king for yourselves.’ 18So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.
19 All the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray to the Lord your God for your servants, so that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of demanding a king for ourselves.’ 20And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; 21and do not turn aside after useless things that cannot profit or save, for they are useless. 22For the Lord will not cast away his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. 23Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 24Only fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things he has done for you. 25But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.’
The people are judged to have insulted and forsaken the Lord by their decision to be a secular nation with a king, but the prophet announces that neither he nor the Lord will forsake the people if they hold faith.. One of the great Zadiks quotes a saying, “He dwells with us in our uncleanness.” The presence of the Holy One with people who are wilful sinners is not a discovery of Christianity but of Jewish faith, although the concept of God’s dwelling is radicalised by Christian faith in Jesus: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” The theology of God’s patience deserves greater exploration than it currently gets; and the virtue of patience in human character deserves a higher place. So much evil is done in both the personal and political spheres by people who have never learned to be patient. Especially in politics the public expectation of more or less instant response from government is profoundly corrupting and encourages demagogues to achieve high office. Patience however doesn’t sell newspapers.
23Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.’ 3Then Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered, ‘You say so.’ 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no basis for an accusation against this man.’ 5But they were insistent and said, ‘He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.’
6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
The suffering patience of Jesus is in contrast to the impatience of politicians pressed for an immediate judgement: Pilate ducks and dives by sending Jesus to Herod, who in turn rids himself an awkward problem by sending him back. This exchange of politically motivated courtesies is enough to reconcile the two politicans, who may sympathise with each other’s dilemma. In a kind of parody of the gospel they are reconciled through Jesus’ suffering. The triviality of these political rulers is thrown into relief by the seriousness and dignity of Jesus. Today, the poor of many nations,including some of the wealthiest, play the role of Jesus, while trivial governments play politics and the dissidents of many nations including some of the most powerful play the role of Jesus while governments twist and turn to preserve their privilege.