Here we see Israel coming to grips with a problem of their walk with God. They have begun to follow a pattern of forgetting God, falling into disaster, and seeking a hero from God as a new Moses to rescue them from the trouble they have put themselves in. When this woman or man, a Deborah or Sampson, dies the people forget and fall back into that same pattern.
Samuel has grown old and his time as judge is coming to an end. Israel rightly knows this pattern of disaster, rescuer, and disaster again has to be broken. It is no way to live and keeps Israel stuck So they approach Samuel with a new idea: let’s do as the nations that keep clobbering us do. Let’s pick a family to produce kings. So we always have a hero set up to do it all for us, to tell us what to do, and to kepe us safe.
God’s answer to this is clear: this is a mistake. You give some person the right to dictate what your life will be, they will crush you under foot and put you into slavery by another name.
I think this speaks to our lives. We all have patterns we can fall into that are self-destructive. Two extreme pitfalls we can fall into are, on the one hand, thinking that we’re fated to this. Nothing we can do can change the situation we are in. We can throw up our hands and accept this as our lot in life.
On the other hand, we can give up control in another way. We can look to someone else – a politician, a preacher, a guru, a spouse, anyone – to rescue us. We can look for them to tell us all the answers and how to live our lives.
Both ways involve giving up our responsibility and our agency.
Yet Jesus tells us in the Gospel not to look for a hero to rescue us. When someone says the hero bringing the kingdom will be here or there, don’t listen to them for the Kingdom of God – the power to transform our lives and world – is within us. Within you.
Ultimately God is wanting us not to look outside of our lives for someone else to solve the issues we face, let alone for us to give up trying, but rather for us to seek out how we might discover the power within ourselves as individuals and communities, to break the patterns that rob our lives of freedom, of joy, of meaning.
Whether that cycle is bad relationships, addiction, or (as is occurring nationally) racism, gun violence, and mass incarceration I think God would have us all hear – the Kingdom of God is within you. You need not wait for someone outside yourself to begin to work toward change.
Rather, you can be a part of the change you wish to see in your world.
Let us embrace this call together this day.
And I ain’t just whistling Dixie!
Your progressive redneck preacher,