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Preached by Sarah Wolf
Last week, Betty led us through the Israelites' cry for a king and the subsequent anointing of Saul. Betty spoke in her sermon of the human tendency to "choose human power in place of God's power." And in today's Scripture, we see what can happen when that choice is made. Immediately preceding today's passage, Saul refuses to follow the Lord's instructions fully which leads to the Lord's rejection of Saul. While this grieves Samuel deeply, the Lord, while sorry that Saul didn't work out, still isn't too surprised that it didn't, and quickly moves on to finding a new, and most importantly, a worthy king.
Maybe you remember the song from Sesame Street: "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things does not belong..." People have such a tendency to want to conform, to be like those who are most popular, or to have what others have, or what the media wants urges us to get. "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," the old saying goes. Our OT story shows us that these tendencies are far from new.
It was a tough year, 742 BCE, the year King Uzziah died. Uzziah was crowned, following his father, at sixteen years old, ruling for 52 years in Jerusalem. In those 52 years, he consolidated territory, conquered neighboring tribes, engaged in massive building projects, it was quite a record. Later, though, God struck Uzziah with leprosy because he had been too proud, becomes too strong, forgotten where his strength and success came from. His final years were in a separate house, his son running things and, being leprous, he was excluded from worship in the temple. What had begun so powerfully, so well, ended with disappointment.1
The whole world was there. Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem, Luke tells us, AND it was Pentecost. As Passover was to the exodus, Pentecost - the Greek name for the Festival of Weeks - became the celebration of the giving of the law to Moses on Sinai, and its annual observance pointed to the renewal of the covenant.1 And everyone was there: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia... fifteen nations listed, symbolic of the whole world.2
It began with a committee meeting.
In Luke's gospel, part I of his narrative, Luke shares his experience of Jesus, of His extraordinary life, death, and resurrection. Part II, the book of Acts, picks up as the gospel ends: at the Ascension. Jesus, alive, was right there with them. He promises the Spirit's POWER, is swooped up into the clouds, and they are left there...staring.... At some point someone decides to hike down the mountain, they make their way into the city. Luke names the disciples for us, they trudge up into those rooms, collapsing with a sigh. Eventually they began their rhythm, Luke says, telling us only one thing about those days - they were constantly centered in prayer.