“. . .BUT THINE”
Today’s Scripture Reading
3 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”
15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”
Samuel answered, “Here I am.”
17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”
19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.
1 Samuel 3:1-19
In the previous two days, we've been motivated to reflect and take action on who we are and what it means to be no longer our own. Subsequently, let's say that we are ready to fully surrender ourselves to God and God's good, restoring work in the world. To whom and what, then, are we actually surrendering? If we are genuinely ready and willing to confront our own personal interests and desires and do the daily soul work required to make the effort of surrendering realized, then as we put down ourselves, what exactly are we picking up or taking on?
When we lay down our own interests and pick up God's will for the world, we are picking up God's mission. God's mission is God's loving action of restoring the world toward its intended wholeness, as we described in the preceding daily reflection. It is important for me to be clear that my intentional use of the words toward and wholeness is in an effort to make sure that I am not projecting the idea of going back to the way the world was in Eden. Instead, we are moving forward toward, or in the direction of, the way the world should be. This means that God desires for our world to be made whole, as it was at the time if Creation, and that is where God is taking us. God's will is that the world would be made whole. God's way of making that a reality, a peace-filled, harmonious world, is through the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. God's work to make the world whole is done through the universal church living out the practices of Jesus, as empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit.
It might be said that God the Father sends God the Son, God the Son sends God the Spirit, and God the Spirit send the church into the world. Perhaps this is the shortest way to understand and articulate the meta-narrative of the Bible. God is a missionary God, as sending God, who calls the Church, local and global, to participate with God in the mission and then sends the Church to accomplish the work. I believe that acceptance of this mission or to realize that "I am no longer my own, but Thine" requires faithful participation in God's mission to grow toward deep levels of intimacy, vulnerability, and dependency.
To admit that we belong to God (or to say, "but thine") is to declare God as Abba Father. This means that we have a closeness or togetherness, a deep familiarity with God. In the New Testament, Jesus refers to God as "Abba" in Mark 14:36 while praying in the garden of Gethsemane hours before his death. Abba is an Aramaic term meaning "father" that denotes the special intimacy of a father-son relationship. Intimacy means total life-sharing. Intimacy is a closeness or oneness either emotionally, physically, or socially that requires at least two key factors. These two factors are proximity and time. Proximity is nearness to another, and time is, of course, the instances in which we share life with God.
Vulnerability is opening up our lives in such a way as to expose our true self before God and others. To claim, "but thine" is, therefore, to invite God and God's will into our lives, knowing that we are people in need of God's redemption. Said differently, to pray, "but thine", is to admit the need for a redeemer and then living daily knowing that God's gracious gift of God's Son, Jesus, as the Lord and Savior of the world, is where we find abundant life. When we live vulnerable Christian lives, we live knowing that we are opening ourselves up to what we've discovered we need most -- redemption. By being vulnerable in this way, and linking to God's mission, we are also putting ourselves in a position that could create inconvenience or even harder, more difficult positions of pain and suffering for the sake of the world. This is why, I believe, so many people struggle with intimacy with God, because it requires us to be vulnerable. And, in being vulnerable, completely or wholly vulnerable, we'd have to welcome the possibility of unwelcome and unwanted situations and circumstances in our lives.
Finally, as participants with God in God's mission, we strive for a deep level of dependency upon God. Through intimacy and vulnerability, we choose to persistently place our lives in God's hands, trusting God for our every need -- spiritually, emotionally, relationally, financially, and so forth. To depend on God is to live with a bias of hope that God is who God says God is. To live with dependence on God is to trust the mission of God. To live with dependence is to trust that the will, and work of God is true and active. Because of a commitment to those beliefs, it produces within us a confident expectation that in our work, no matter how overwhelming or dauting it may be, God's will for a whole world will prevail and all things will one day be made new.
On a scale of 1 - 10, 10 being no room for improvement, how fully surrendered am I to doing God's good work in the world?
Do I spend daily quality time with God, and do I readily admit that I am grateful for the gift of redemption?
Guide us into holiness as we seek to draw near to you, share our lives with you, and learn to more deeply depend on you for all our needs. Amen.
PROXIMITY AND TIME
Intimacy in any relationship requires proximity and time. Set your alarm on your phone, watch, or other clock at the top of each hour from 9:00 am through 9 pm. At the top of each hour, as the alarm reminds you, spend two minutes talking to God, reading a verse, listening, writing a prayer, or another activity. At the end of the day, take five minutes to journal your experience.
The Wesley Prayer Challenge book is available from these book sellers: