Is God calling you?
ON THIS fourth Sunday in Lent, the church traditionally takes a brief mid-Lent break from the rigid observances of fasting. It is known as ‘Mothering Sunday’ or ‘Refreshment Sunday’. It was a time when people would return to their mother church or the church of their baptism. It was a way of celebrating mother church.
Returning to visit mother church often coincided with a visit to parents. It therefore became a practice for a simnel cake to be taken on the visit back home. Mothering Sunday also became a time to celebrate mothers. Since mother was traditionally the one who would serve cake, she was also the recipient of the simnel cake. This is a fruit cake that also included a marzipan covering, that is, an iced covering that included almond paste. You may recall some traditional wedding cakes with a layer of almond paste under the royal icing.
The Easter bun does have simnel cake resonance with its use of dried fruits, candied peel and spices. Some churches wait until Easter to celebrate the Resurrection with a full-bodied fruit cake. Whatever the approach, it is a reminder that in Christ there is joy and refreshment. Christians are called to be happy people.
Today’s Old Testament lesson from the Revised Common Lectionary presents us with Samuel in 1st Samuel 16 being called by God to select a replacement for Saul. In the story, one sees that even the priest fears earthly powers from time to time. However, the biblical account shows time and again that when God calls, God empowers and sends.
Last week, the story of Abram and Sarai reminded us that God uses people even when they are in their old age. This week, we see that God also uses those who are young, ruddy, handsome and with beautiful eyes. Most important, David’s heart was in the right place. The word noted earlier, “When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord’. But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’.”
Apparently, God has nothing against good looks, but the heart should also be genuine and clean. And it does not matter what others may think of you. Imagine, when Samuel asked if there were any other sons, Jesse just kind of by the way and noted, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” It is kind of like noting that he is the farmer, the one who ties out the goats and sweeps up the yard. Surely, he could not be the one.
Samuel’s question to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” is a most pertinent one for Jamaica currently. Are all your sons here? We live in a context where increasingly we hear about gender concerns. Understandably, we often hear about the imbalance regarding justice issues for women. Have we, however, forgotten many of Jamaica’s sons? Are all your sons here?
Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah, among seven of Jesse’s sons, passed by Samuel. None was chosen by God. God uses those of mature years. God also uses those of youthful years. David, the youngest, was called and he was the one!
Lest we forget, Samuel, when sent by God to Jesse regarding the selection of a new king for Israel, was grieving over Saul and expressed fear that he might be killed by Saul. Do religious leaders today also avoid God’s call out of fear for earthly leaders?
In recent years, some younger Jamaicans have engaged the noble cause of representational politics. This is encouraging given some of the ugly history in our politics. Contrary to what cynics may believe, it is also true that there are young Jamaicans who genuinely want to serve country. Anyway, a monarch is not selected by vote. And so, if we want to protect our democracy, we in Jamaica will have to place more value on our privilege to vote!
If you were a Samuel, who would you anoint to be prime minister in the next general election? Would this have anything to do with your understanding of God’s will for good governance and justice?
A most pertinent lesson is to be observed re David who, when he was anointed, experienced a mighty outpouring of God’s spirit. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” (1 Samuel 16:13). It is this same David who went on to commit some of the most heinous crimes. Political leaders do well to remember that starting out with wonderful blessings is not a guarantee that you will always serve to the glory of God. To depart from the ways of God is to court disaster.
Who is your favourite politician? In your opinion, in what ways has he or she departed from godly ways? How are you making your voice heard?
If polls were being done by Samuel, I wonder who would have been Jesse’s choice for king? Who would have been Samuel’s choice? Who would have been your choice?
Polls and commentaries will make the rounds as Jamaica moves into election campaign mode. As respondents engage questions, they do well to ask themselves if they, too, are looking at appearances over substance. Sometimes mortals are impressed by those values and attributes which are inconsistent with God’s mission in the world.
Are all of Jamaica’s sons here? Sadly, many have been murdered over the years. Many have also been victims of state abuse. Many have migrated because of stigma and discrimination around gender and sexual identity concerns. Still, many have not had the privilege of an education inclusive of life-coping and employability skills.
This Lent, as we take a deeper look at self and others, may we align with God’s concern for the hearts of people. The true self within is the one who determines our values, worth, and capacity for service to God and fellow human beings.
Finally, may we remember that God’s call to individuals and nations is never based on how special they are. God’s call is always for purpose. God calls you to empower you and use you. Is God calling you? Sometimes the call comes through a Samuel. Sometimes the call comes through a personal experience as in Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Certainly, no one is being called to be king for Jamaica. What are you being called for now?
n Fr Sean Major-Campbell is an Anglican priest and advocate for human rights firstname.lastname@example.org