Friday 12 February 2016

Faithful Lives (Lent 2)

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 1Samuel 1:1

I write this with a wry smile. It can only be me who fails before I even begin. My wanting to blog a little each day through Lent about the story of Hannah hit an obstacle on Wednesday and then again Thursday when the time I had allotted to write in amongst busy days, was taken by phonecalls, that lasted hours rather than minutes, that I wasn’t expecting and that I couldn’t ignore.

On the 6th January as I took down all the decorations of Christmas, I posted a photo on Instagram of the star that was hanging in my kitchen window. Alongside the photograph I wrote the following words of Ann Voskamp:

And once the light of Christ shatters your dark, shadows forever flee your shadowlands. There is no going back and living in the dark; you live in the impenetrable, safe Light of light, and Christmas never ends you. A Christian never stops living Christmas…when you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone. When you get Christmas, people get hope from you.

That momentary Instagram shot and its accompanying words have taken on a deeper meaning to me over these first few weeks of a new year.  My life (our life as a family) is– for the moment – one that unexpectedly finds itself at the mercy of long, un-diary-ed phone conversations; meetings that go on far longer than their allotted times and days that hold situations and conversations that I wasn’t expecting to be having when I began 2016. The words of Ann Voskamp and a small placard, placed in our window represent a privilege and a challenge that we are trying to live up to.

As our thoughts of Christmas, seem so quickly this year, to turn to Easter, I have found the story of Hannah and her family pertinently challenging. Hannah’s story opens up for the reader the books of Samuel. In the Hebrew Bible the books of Samuel come after ‘Judges’ (in our English Bibles, they come after ‘Ruth’.) We know of the book of Judges that it tells the stories of Israel when there was no king and everyone did as they liked. (Judges 21:25). Into this setting comes Hannah and her husband Elkanah. Immediately the narrative makes it clear that they are righteous people. Elkanah is a righteous man, whose heritage is strong. They are good people living in difficult times. Uncompromisingly faithful to God. They stand in contrast to the priest Eli, who initially in Hannah’s story does not recognise a God depending and God seeking woman.

The opening words of 1 Samuel 1, are meant to encourage. With the privilege of hindsight, we can recognise that we are being alerted to the fact that something significant is about to take place with the appearance of Elkanah and Hannah and eventually their son, Samuel. The writer tells us by the way that he constructs his narrative that with the appearance of these godly people, there is hope. Samuel will bring the leadership that the nation of Israel is needing but he will born out of a family that has daily lived lives of quiet devotion and steadfast faithfulness. Salt and light people – if you like.

For me, living in the days that we as a nation find ourselves, I am convinced by the Elkananh’s and Hannah’s, that we need godly people, ‘Christians faithful to God’s word, living devout and godly lifestyles over the long duration in order to reform church and nation.’ [1] Social Change is always something on my heart, and I think that the Bible illustrates that this sort of transformation takes place when individual Christians live lives that – often quiet in their faithfulness – swell to contribute a significant influence on our culture and society.

Last night in a church in Glasgow, my friend Tara Devlin and I, along with the exceptionally beautiful music of our friends Yvonne and David Lyon, had the privilege of sharing the story of Christians in Nepal who are literally standing in the way of child traffickers who are emptying villages of their girls. It will be the last time we tell their story as part of a tour that Tearfund Scotland have been running called, ‘Where Children Sleep’, but their story will live on. Every life they save, every family they keep together, every child they instil with the weight of their worth, will be a story that will last for eternity.

 In the foothills of the Himalaya’s in Nepal, the Kingdom of God is being built faithfully and quietly by godly people who are addressing the needs of their community. This Lent, I am thinking of how in my city, in my part of the world, I live a life that in some way does the same. How will my city, as Yvonne Lyon sang last night, ‘feel the light.’?

[1] Arnold. T 1 and 2 Samuel (NIV Application Commentary)


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