So all over the state of Michigan last week junior high and high school teachers forced their students to take these mind-numbing exams that could end up significantly affecting their grades. Even worse some teenagers had to stay up hours on end to write the dreadful, agonizing, essays and papers. Now I'm sure all of our youth aced absolutely everything that was required of them by their, of course, overly demanding teachers. But I've heard from some of my previous professors that if the Biblical authors handed in their writings for a final grade encapsulating what they learned for grammar and word choice and sentence structure: all of them would most certainly fail!
Their papers would be covered in the deepest globs of red ink, and make every high school student today seem like a genius when it comes to writing. The ones from long ago would lose numerous points just on redundancy alone, because they write the same thing over and over and over again. There would be lines drawn under entire sentences and written in the margin with monstrous bold letters: "AWKWARD WORDING." And that red ink would keep on flowing for run-on sentences, and uninteresting points made that aren't necessary for the story line, or too graphic of details for violent content, all leading to nothing short of an embarrassing failure.
Nevertheless, they don't have it the worst. Instead, that goes to the lectors, who Sunday after Sunday stand in front of all of you and read through that awkward wording, the run-on sentences, and the annoying redundancy, but they still have to read it with the right dose of energy and voice inflection to somehow keep you awake through it all. It wasn't any different this morning as Barb had to tell you about this young Samuel hearing a voice in the middle of the night not just once, not twice, not even three, but four separate times, all written out in step-by-step detail in case you missed the entire previous paragraph. Couldn't the writer have been a little more concise, a little more interesting with the story-telling?
However, I think there's a reason behind the insane madness of the Biblical style. You see, you're supposed to get annoyed. You're supposed to get agitated with how much this God never stops calling us out. The writer of this incredibly-detailed passage isn't just concerned with telling you about Samuel's response or his father being woken up in the middle of the night time and time again. It's about the immaculate redundancy of God's passion, of God's love, of God's most holy persistence to draw us farther into the divine arms of mercy. And no matter how many times we're confused or we even refuse to listen; God is never ever going to stop calling us out.
But it doesn't stop with the readings: it's worship as a whole. In case you haven't noticed we tend to do the same thing Sunday after Sunday, and it's not because we pastors have little to no imagination. However, we have this confession and forgiveness, the readings, the lame sermon you have to sit through, Communion, and some prayers and hymns thrown in for good measure.
For some, it might be a bit redundant, to say the least. Perhaps it will get annoying from time to time. Good! We're supposed to be annoyed with how much this God is willing to forgive us! We're supposed to get agitated with the idea that God loves us so much that God will allow us the sacred privilege to taste and see
the victory of Jesus Christ in holy Communion week after week after week.
Then again the persistent voice of God is by no means limited to inside the walls of a sanctuary. Let us not forget the younger people, some of whom are not quite old enough to take on the dreaded exams and papers just yet. There are times when they get home from school and all they want to do is just be with us, whether it's playing a game or coloring in a book. We'd rather just relax and watch some television. But what if it's not just the children talking. What if God's voice is coming through them too: God calling us out to experience one of the greatest blessings in this life to simply be with family, to stop what we're doing and spend time with the people God has blessed us with to know how much love can change this world?
It might get annoying after awhile, perhaps even agitating, how much this God wants us to shape our life around others as opposed to ourselves, but it's something we'll never regret in the end. Just like God never regrets what was done on the cross and out of an empty tomb for all of us, so that we may be free from worrying about ourselves to instead live for our family, for our friends, for our communities and beyond. It is the story that no matter how many times we hear it, never ever gets old. It is the story that has saved us all for eternity. And thanks be to God for the people who took the time to write it for the countless generations to come thereafter, so that we may forever know that Christ is still risen indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon