Monday, April 15, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 99: I Samuel 7-9; Psalm 82; John 17

A Question of Authority...
Who is to rule over us? Quite a simple question, and yet when asked life becomes so complicated. First on the list of complications is, of course, WHO...If the first portion of the Hebrew scriptures that we have read so far means anything, then there can only be one authority in our lives and that authority flows from God. God may from time to time choose an agent-be they prophet or judge-to mediate authority-but there can be no doubt that God is the one in charge.

That first answer begs the next question: who mediates God's authority? When humanity's relationship with God enters corporate life and moves away from individual encounters (from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to, say, Moses, Joshua, Deborah and Samuel), then mediation becomes increasingly complicated. Being a human being in relationship with the "I AM," who was, and is and is to come is hard enough. Now, go get someone else to live in alignment with what God is telling you--without God necessarily being there to back you up with a column of smoke, a pillar of fire or a peal of thunder.

Finally, once the mediating presence is determined, how do we maintain and support that person's credibility and fidelity to God AND their relationships with everyone else in the world? The Judges had a hard enough time managing that challenge. Israel as a nation could only just barely hold it together while any one judge lived and witnessed during their respective tenure among the people. Now, with the impending anointing of Saul as king over Israel, mediation is becoming more explicit and the burden of it is becoming more profound.

Israel's desire to "be like the other nations" is a difficult knot to untangle as Samuel brings their request before the Most High. Is it a rejection of God being in authority over them? Yes, a bit...but it is also a recognition by Israel that they lack the ability to maintain fidelity to God in the face of interregna between judges and the pressures of dealing with other nations (who have kings, who possess centralized authority over their peoples). A king solves a multitude of problems, and settles quite a few questions of authority. Yes, and it also begs a whole new set of problems. Instead of settling the issue, it opens up new ones...but that experience some later. :) Right now, finding a king for Israel is the point....
the son of Kish is given the seat of honor
Samuel is obedient to God, and accepts God's choice of Saul to be king. At this point, everything is vested in the potential of Saul to lead and in Israel's willingness to be obedient to God and open to submitting to the king. Everything is hope and anticipation....

....and in John's Gospel, the opposite is resolving itself into Jesus' impending Passion. We come to the close of the Jesus farewell discourse with today's chapter, what is more appropriately called "the Lord's Prayer." He prays to the Father for the well-being of those who follow him. As his tenure in this life draws to a close, he knows that his mediation amongst them is ending. His prayer? That God will not only remember the disciples, but that remembrance will lead to a primary, really and unmediated relationship between the Father and the community Jesus has founded. No more kings, no more judges...what matters most is that the primary relationship that Jesus experiences with the Father be the same now with the assembly of his followers.

Are we ready to life that unmediated life in God, in Christ? That is the last, remaining BIG question. Stay tuned for the answer....but, here is a hint: not quite yet....

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