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The Ark of the Covenant goes to war

by davesandel on January 13th, 2022

Thursday, January 13, 2022                                       (today’s lectionary)

The Ark of the Covenant goes to war

The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel.

This poem struck me in the chest yesterday, like an emergency room shock paddle, or maybe a friend’s friendly solid smack on the back, reminding me that I’m alive.

Imaginary Conversation by Linda Pastan

You tell me to live each day

as if it were my last.

This is in the kitchen

where before coffee I complain

of the day ahead—that obstacle race

of minutes and hours,

grocery stores and doctors.

 

But why the last? I ask. Why not

live each day as if it were the first—

all raw astonishment, Eve rubbing

her eyes awake that first morning,

the sun coming up

like an ingénue in the east?

 

You grind the coffee

with the small roar of a mind

trying to clear itself. I set

the table, glance out the window

where dew has baptized every

living surface.

 

God’s inside me and all around me. She and I can live it up, hold a quiet conversation, sing. Or we can go to war.

Let us fetch the ark of the Lord from Shiloh that it may go into battle among us and save us from the grasp of our enemies. So the people sent to Shiloh and brought the ark of the Lord of hosts. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God.

“You grind the coffee with the small roar of a mind trying to clear itself.” Eli’s sons had pretty much committed every act of corruption known to man by this time – bribes, and sex and such. Eli turned a blind eye after awhile, and they just ignored him. Their minds surely were not on this battle. I wonder who convinced them to accompany the ark.

Eli stayed home. Eli slept too much. Eli was getting old. “He looked out the window, where dew has baptized every living surface.” He had heard nothing from God when he prayed about the soldiers’ request to take the ark to the front line. But it was not in him to say no.

No news is good news? The morning was bright, the sun shone on the thick dew, and surely the battle was going well.

The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, and Israel lost thirty thousand soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons were among the dead.

“You tell me to live each day as if it were my last.” Really, Lord? Eli talked to himself, but he seldom heard God. He was approaching 100 years old and nearly blind. He heard a ruckus nearby and someone told him the Ark had been stolen by the Philistines.

In his shock Eli toppled over backward off his chair and broke his neck. And so it was, father and sons all died on the same day, marking the national disaster with personal tragedy, laying waste the priesthood of Israel.

It’s time for something new.

Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the leper and said to him, “Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him. After this people kept coming to Jesus from everywhere.

Where was Jesus when the Philistines destroyed the Israelite army? God’s eye did not miss that disaster.  He allowed the Ark to be stolen. And Samuel, listening to God’s words inside his mind, had to rethink his future.

Why not

live each day as if it were the first—

all raw astonishment, Eve rubbing

her eyes awake that first morning,

the sun coming up

like an ingénue in the east?

Why not indeed?

 (1 Samuel 4, Psalm 44, Matthew 4, Mark 1)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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