Why then do you kick my sacrifices and my offerings—the very ones I commanded for my dwelling place? Why do you respect your sons more than me, getting fat off the best parts of every offering from my people Israel? Because of all that, this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: I had promised that your household and your father’s household would serve me forever. But now—this is what the LORD declares: I’ll do no such thing! No. I honor those who honor me, and whoever despises me will be cursed. (1 Samuel 2:29, 30 CEB)
I’ve been in the very difficult position of having to tell someone who believed with all his heart that God was calling him to ordained ministry that I would not support him. He required my support to move forward in the discernment process. Trust me, it would have been much easier on me to let him go through. I feared for my safety, and that takes a lot. If only I was confident that those in the discernment process more qualified than I would find the specific reasons why I just didn’t think he would make a good priest. In the end, I withheld my support. I checked my rear view mirror for months afterwards to see if I was being followed. I had nothing tangible, except for my fear because of rumours I had heard. I found out after the fact those in the process drew a collective sigh of relief at my refusal, as their fear of him was as real as my own, and they knew much more than I did.
So, I know how Eli feels. Eli tried to convince his sons to repent and stop their corruption. I counselled this man, hoping beyond hope he would come to the conclusion on his own. He didn’t. Nor did Eli’s sons. I was sorely tempted to let the bishops and “the process” sort him out. Perhaps Eli left his sons to God to handle. But the LORD is clear. That’s just not good enough. It’s a cop out. It was within Eli’s power to remove his sons from their positions. His hopes and dreams for them exceeded his devotion to God and to God’s people.
In the end, I was motivated, I hope, by my dedication to ministry and to God’s people. If I didn’t stop him, and he made it through, could I live with myself if he did some serious damage? I could have said, “I didn’t know. I didn’t have any facts.” But I would have known that was only a cover up. I knew in my gut I couldn’t support him, and I had a strong feeling he would do harm.
This makes me think of those times when I have tried to pass a difficult action on to someone else. I’ll let the next generation occupy our financial sector. I’ll blame my bishops for the the canon laws that I promised to follow. I’ll lie in wait for the next election and hopefully elect a government I can have faith in. I shudder as I write, “That’s not good enough”.
Day 28: 1 Samuel 1-3
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