Bread – Hiding

June 29, 2009

Readings for Friday, June 26
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Sam. 9:1-14; Acts 7:17-29; Luke 22:31-38
    Psalms 102, 107:1-32

The donkeys are lost!  Knowing what we know about the average Christian, we might conclude that this exclamation refers to us, but it does not.  Instead, it refers to actual donkeys and it is the setting of our reading today from Samuel.

In Samuel 9:1, Kish’ donkeys had run away and were lost and, since these were valuable, he needed to find them and get them back.  So he did what we might do when our dog has run away, he sent one of his sons, Saul, to go find them.  We don’t know whether Saul embraced this project as an adventure or was peeved about it as a bother (probably being a teenager, either is a possibility), but in any event he obeyed his father and went.

And he went everywhere. He went through the neighborhood, through the neighboring vicinity, and even through entire "territory" of Benjamin.  1 Sam. 9:4  After a while with no results, Saul said to his accompanying servant "Let’s go home."  Now Saul gave as his excuse for wanting to go home his fear that his father would worry about him (1 Sam. 9:5), but the real reason was probably that the food was gone (1 Sam. 9:7) and he was hungry.  In any event, the servant suggested that they go ask a prophet, a man of God, where the donkeys were.

Doesn’t this scene, if we strip the location from it, sound like a lot of our lives.  We seem to always find ourselves being asked to fix someone else’s problem.  We chase after donkeys with little to no guidance about where they may be.  We wander around trying to find the donkeys, expending our resources chasing after the stupid.  Sometimes we have a friend or co-worker with us, but they are no better off than we are.  They are chasing the same donkeys with no idea about where to find them, running out of food, money, hope, and steam along the way.

Once we get tired of chasing after our (or someone else’s) donkeys, we generally do one of three things – (a) we find a "good" excuse to quit ("my father will worry about me"), (b) we just quit (the "food ran out"), (c) or we seek out the Wizard of Oz [a consultant].  Often the consultant is the church or someone in the church, someone who we think has got God’s ear so they can help us by, maybe, give us a little "godly" wisdom so that we can find the donkeys more efficiently or have an even better excuse to quit looking.

This is what Saul and his servant did.  They gathered up a dab of silver so that the prophet-seer might tell them where to go find the donkeys and embarked on a short journey into the city to go meet the wizard, obtain their information, and achieve their objectives.

Little did they know that they were entering into a pre-arranged meeting with God’s messenger who had something to say to Saul, something that would change his life forever.  Little did they know that it was God who pre-arranged the meeting.

Saul’s purpose in wandering around to find lost donkeys was nothing more than doing his job, doing what he was told to do by his boss.  Saul’s stated purpose in wanting to go home was one thing; his real purpose was probably another.  Saul’s purpose in going to church (to see the man of God) was to help him live his life better — to find the donkeys faster and then to go home.  Saul could have cared less about his sins, having a good relationship between he and God, or doing God’s will.  He was using the church (Samuel) as a convenience, as a source of another idea, as an alternative.  You notice that he also used the church as the final straw, when his own efforts to find the donkeys had not worked.

But we see that, within a few sentences, there was nothing casual about any of these events.  Saul’s purpose may have been one thing, but God’s purpose was another and God’s purpose one.  Saul thought he was chasing after donkeys, but God thought he was coming to meet Samuel and, sure enough, Samuel he met.  Saul thought he was obeying his father, but instead he was obeying his Father.  Saul thought that he had randomly run out of food, but in fact he had run out of food in front of the town where God wanted him to meet Samuel.  Saul thought that the next stage of his life would be returning to his father empty-handed, when God intended that Saul would, at that moment, be made a king.

At the very moment when Saul’s purpose (to find the donkeys) appeared to be at a dead end, God’s purpose became apparent.

When we say "God has a plan for your life," we like to focus on God’s plan to make Saul a king, and that is the way many sermons would end.  But this Bread will end differently, because we need to focus on the entire plan of God in this situation.  Isn’t it true that God planned that Saul would hunt for donkeys all over the place without finding them?  And isn’t it also true that God planned that Saul would run out of food?

Do you find yourself chasing donkeys in the wilderness with no food?  Then look around.  Somewhere close to you there is a man of God who is also part of God’s purpose and plan for you.  Go find him (or her), listen to what they say, and be thankful.

Lord, help us to wisely answer the question, "Will you really lay down your life for Me?"  Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture, and to solely rely upon them as our source of information about how we should live.  Help us Lord to come to You, and once having come to You to become closer to You and to preach the Gospel to all people in all circumstances, in and out of season, as You have commanded.  Help us know that You are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be willing and obedient servants.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank You and praise You!  Amen.


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