Sunday, August 30, 2009

eli and samuel: from sunday school to (another) male text of terror

Just back from an (excellent) weekend away with Opawa men. The theme was “We’ll be in the shed” and the focus was being male today. Alongside lots of relaxing, eating, relating, we gathered around themes of being Christian and being male. Everyone was invited to bring something from their shed and in the midst of our uniqueness and passion we honoured the life of Christ.

This morning I led a lectio divina engagement with 1 Samuel 3. We read the text slowly three times. The second time half the room were invited to hear the text as a young boy and to wonder what it would have been like to be Samuel in the story. The third time the other half the room were invited to hear the text as an older man and to wonder what it would have been like to be Eli in the story.

Slowly, reading the text closely, the romantic Sunday school layers many of us had of this text were peeled back. It began a frank and robust discussion of Eli, a prophet of God, who is judged for his parenting. What sort of God would do that? Was this fair? As Eli aged, did he in fact grow further away from God?

These are not abstract questions, for many of us are parents. Having children has changed us. How much guilt do each of us carry over our parenting? How will we cope when our parenting dreams are met by the free will choices of our children?

In that sense, the Eli/Samuel text became a “text of terror” for us as males. (I borrow the term from Phil Culbertson’s New Adam: The Future of Male Spirituality in which he (with a nod to Phyllis Trible’s work on Bible Texts of Terror Paper (Overtures to Biblical Theology) for women) explores Bible texts that challenge men – Abraham’s relationship with his sons, David’s relationship with his sons, Jesus masculinity – and what it means to be male today.) I love it when the Bible gets under our skin. It did that today, holding a mirror to our parenting and our aging.

It helped us face our fears – of growing old, growing bitter, growing passive in our relationship with God. Oddly, in the midst of these questions, there was a growing sense of companionship. I realised I was less alone. I was among those who have gone before me, and others who are coming behind me. Together, there was a shared pain, a shared strength and a growing commitment.

Further links
For more on male spirituality see. For fathers day worship resources see here, for fathers day worship and communion go here. For fathers day preaching resources see here.

Posted by steve at 09:54 PM

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