“The people became impatient on the road. The people spoke against God and Moses . . .” (Numbers 21:4-5)
The people spoke against God and Moses . . .
I didn’t have to read too many verses (though I did!) to seek a Lent-appropriate verb. This scene from Numbers was familiar, with the Children of Israel—free from the injustices of Egyptian slavery and sojourners in the wilderness—complaining to Moses. Like today’s kids (and adults) on a road trip with a destination that never seems to appear around the next curve or over the next hill, their protests included meals. The food’s bad! Not enough. Not the right kind. Not what you promised. Not what we’re used to eating.
It wasn’t only their stomachs that were growling!
I don’t have to read about the snakes God sent. I don’t have to read about how those wandering whiners were eventually contrite—after a multitude of nasty snakebites—and then spoke again to Moses. They would be good. They could be better.
I Samuel 3:1-20, Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 – the 2nd Sunday of Epiphany – for January 15, 2012
“As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” (I Samuel 3:19)
When a youth struggled or an adult seemed exhausted during church backpacks I led, I might ask this inane question:
When I snap a picture, does the film weigh more because there’s an image on it?
Such a silly query! What a nonsensical notion! Whether my camera used old-fashioned Kodak Ektachrome or a modern SanDisK Ultra Card, I relished engaging them in a meaningless chat. And yet my words served a deeper purpose. They could inspire conversations and reactions, and therefore cause my fellow weary hiker to stow away their own troubles for a few trail moments.
Of course film stock or a memory card won’t weigh more after capturing scenes of mountain lakes, glorious alpenglow and friends grinning around a campfire. Or . . . would it?
How much do memories weigh? Can an anguished memory weigh you down, a tender memory lift you up? Does the depiction of a sublime sunrise expand a soul while the snapshot of a burned forest shrinks the heart? Pictures and memories. Some are overloaded luggage dragging you down, others lighter than feathers. G. K. Chesterton rightly mused, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”
And what about the very words spoken or written to convey our experience? Do they add or subtract weight?
This week I enjoyed re-reading the Bible’s account of the prophet Samuel’s summons from God. Still a child, Samuel lives with the aging Eli, his mentor and a judge of Israel. God beckons Samuel, and once, twice, three times the youngster scampers to Eli, thinking the old man had called him. The third time is the charm, as they say, and Eli advises his charge to listen instead for God’s voice, God’s desires. Toward the end of the tale of Samuel’s calling, a verse declares . . .
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
Whoa! What an image! Do words have weight? Can they not “fall to the ground?” Well, the useless ones could. The unnecessary ones might. But words that matter won’t; God promises Samuel’s honesty Holy truth and will never become mere dust or litter. Samuel, like Eli, would grow old, proclaiming uplifting, forceful, essential nouns and adjectives, answers and questions.
A day after reading about Samuel’s gravity-defying words, I became enthralled with another verse. In Psalm 139:17, the psalmist/poet rejoices . . . Continue reading →