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Proper 4
1 Samuel 3.1-10
2 Corinthians 4.5-12
Mark 2.23-3.6

Like a cathedral chorister, Samuel has been brought to live and work in the atmosphere of prayer, worship and pilgrimage. Considering the lively human interest, it’s surprising this story didn’t entice the great classical artists; there is one painting of it, by the seventeenth-century Gerbrand van den Eekhout, in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

As so often in biblical ‘call’ narratives (Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6, Revelation 1), there is a darker side; again as usual, the lectionary misses it out. The previous chapter introduced Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of the ageing priest Eli. Eli has been warned about their cynical corruption, but he seems incapable of putting things right. Now God chooses young Samuel, wide-eyed and eager, to declare the word of judgement. When he says ‘Speak, your servant is listening,’ what follows is enough to make him wish his parents had never brought him in the first place. Samuel has the unenviable task of telling his guardian the news of imminent judgement. His fearless later ministry was rooted in his earliest experiences of hearing, and then speaking, God’s word...

Taken from Twelve Months of Sundays Year B by N T Wright


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