Our first reading today is a comfort for two types of people; those who never seem to learn from their past experiences but keep making the same mistake and those who are overlooked and ignored. Samuel, even after his having chosen Saul on the back of his physical magnificence and had seen this choice ‘go to the bad’ still homes in on Eliab, seeing, in his height and musculature, the next King. Yet the comfort is, even when he keeps making this same mistake, God does not give up on him and continues to use him until finally the penny drops and Samuel, listening to God, makes the right decision and chooses the ‘runt of the litter’, David. This same David who becomes such a force and pivot in the history of Israel and indeed our salvation that it is from the House of David that the Messiah comes.
Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind is another wonderful example of the Lord’s at work. His gentle encouragement and healing of the man enables him to not only gain his independence but gain a confidence and self respect which someone in his situation in C1st Palestine would probably not normally have had. He speaks before the Jewish Authorities with confidence and courage, he defends Christ against his attackers and is belittled and rejected for his pains.
Compare him to the three other ‘types’ we encounter in the story. Firstly the observers of the newly healed man. They do not want to face up to the reality of the situation, this would necessarily involve them making changes in their own lives. If this man now seeing is the one who was blind and begging then something amazing must have happened and that would demand a response. So they obfuscate or argue about details rather than looking deeply at the thing. As CS Lewis once put it, they spend their time straining out fernseeds and swallowing elephants.
Secondly we have the Authorities, arrogant and in control. When something happens which does not tie in with their normal way of thinking, their accepted view of the world…then rather than reflecting on what it might have to say, allowing it to speak to them and transform them and make them look at their place in the world or their understanding of that world, they attack . Can that be me? Losing the argument I shout, or insult or belittle and thus miss the lesson there may be waiting for me
The third type are the parents, not indifferent or disinterested, not arrogant and controlling but afraid. Unwilling to raise their heads above the parapet. Instead of standing up with their son they leave him to fend for himself, casting him adrift. ‘He is old enough, let him speak for himself’. This is the coward’s way. All his life he would have relied upon their support and help and suddenly he is left to speak for himself and defend a man he knows nothing about before people who would be far more articulate and powerful than himself. Is this my way sometimes, preferring to keep quiet and unnoticed whilst injustice grows ?
All his life he will have been overlooked and dismissed yet he rises to the occasion magnificently. He is the ‘runt of the litter’ writ large and yet shows himself to be a man of courage, nobility and, at the end, faith and that is rewarded. The Lord Jesus very rarely reveals His fullness to anyone and yet here, in the climax of the story He does just that.
The Lord Jesus came, in part, so that we might see the world, our role and those around us more clearly. Through His grace, it is our choice whose example we will follow. The indifferent bystander, the arrogant bully, the coward or the person of courage although, if you are like me, it could well be an assortment of all four but whatever and whichever one it is…remember Samuel. He kept getting his choice wrong but God simply gave him another chance and finally, because Samuel kept trying to listen…he got it right.
Over these weeks and perhaps months there will be all kinds of opportunities to help and encourage each other, to be alert to the most vulnerable and needy. With God’s help we will not miss those opportunities but will respond with the generosity and joy with which He responds to us.
God bless you and all whom you love and indeed all who love you.