A Hunger for God

A reflection on the readings for Epiphany 2: First Samuel 3:1-10 and John 1:43-51

The Hunger Games, is the first book in a trilogy of books based on a time some 100 years in the future. Following the apocalypse and a complete collapse of the world as we know it a new country rises up in North America. Instead of the United States there are twelve districts, all tightly controlled by the Capital, and each focused on the natural resources of the district. Most of the districts are very poor, a few have ample resources. In order to remind the districts that they are under the strong arm of the President and Capital, the Hunger Games are held once a year. The games, looking like something out of reality television and the Olympics, requires each district to randomly select one boy and one girl, called “TRIBUTES,” between the ages of twelve and eighteen, to compete in the games. The Hunger Games are a survival of the fittest battle through extreme wilderness experiences with only one person, one tribute, allowed to win. All of the children competitors must battle each other and the elements until one remains, with the entire event being televised. Everyone in every district is required to watch the games. The district with the winning child receives notoriety, extra food, and benefits for a year, until the next Hunger Games.

Katniss, the lead character in the series, is a sixteen year old girl from District 12, a poor coal mining district. Following the death of her father from a coal mining accident, Katniss becomes the family caretaker – hunting for meat and collecting berries to support her mother and younger sister. She adores her sweet younger sister, Primrose.

Here is an excerpt from the book, with Katniss as the narrator, as the town prepares to learn who will be the tributes from their district:

“It’s time for the first drawing. Effie Trinket says as she always does, ‘Ladies first!’ and crosses to the big glass bowl with the girl’s names. She reaches in, digs her hand deep into the ball, and pulls out a piece of paper. The crowd draws a collective breath and then you can hear a pin drop, and I’m feeling nauseous and so desperately hoping that it’s not me….Effie….reads out the name in a clear voice. And it’s not me. It’s Primrose….There must be some mistake. This can’t be happening. Prim has her name on one piece of paper in thousands! Her chances of being chosen are so remote that I haven’t even bothered to worry about her…..with one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me. ‘I volunteer! I gasp, I volunteer as tribute!”

It is no surprise that when the younger sister is chosen to be the tribute Katniss insists on going in her place. Take me, she proclaims. The story that unfolds is gripping, moving, and challenging to read.

Our readings this morning all focus on the idea of being chosen by God, called to serve God, and our response to that call. The readings offer us a number of ways in which people hear God’s call and follow, reflecting that each of us is called, in different ways, and each of us responds in our own way.

Samuel, although a small boy, is called to become a "trustworthy prophet of the Lord." The Gospel of John tells the story of Philip and Nathanael leaving everything behind to follow Jesus. These readings connect to the theme of the Gospel for this year – “Where is God?” with the idea that God chooses to be made known in and through us.

None of us has the exact same call from God, each call is unique to who we are. Which reminds me of this story:

A rabbi named Zusya died and went to stand before the judgment seat of God. As he waited for God to appear, he grew nervous thinking about his life and how little he had done. He began to imagine that God was going to ask him, "Why weren't you Moses or why weren't you Solomon or why weren't you David?" But when God appeared, the rabbi was surprised. God simply asked, "Why weren't you Zusya?"

How are we to become fully who God calls us to be? Samuel reminds us that God calls both children and adults. God’s call might come as a whisper, or small voice in the night, as a dream, a thought, an idea, or something said to us by another person. God’s call comes in and through the context of all the voices in our lives.

And so, sometimes we need help discerning which voice is the authentic voice of God. Samuel seeks the guidance of Eli. People discerning a call to ordained ministry need to have that call confirmed by a community of people who, after spending a number of weeks and months in prayer and conversation, can affirm a call or redirect the person toward another understanding of their call. Each of us has a calling, and for many of us it manifests in the work we do every day, whether that is our paid profession, our volunteer work, or our role as a parent or grandparent, lawyer, doctor, nurse, or teacher.

Martin Luther King, Jr. whose feast day we celebrate today, knew his call from God. A minister and an activist for social justice, particularly as one who spoke out against racism and prejudice, Dr. King literally put his life on the line to follow God. Unlike the Hunger Games where one person survives, King worked hard for the survival of people of color – for all of society to recognize the inherent value of all human beings – loved by God and worthy of equal opportunities in all avenues of life. Dr. King points us to consider how our call, like his call, is a movement toward the fulfillment of the kingdom of God, or what it means to love God, love self, and love others. Our call may not look as extreme or as intense as his, but that doesn’t mean it is less important to the kingdom of God.

Bruce Epperly, an author and Spiritual Director suggests that our call is a “call to adventure – to see God everywhere, to experience God in our daily lives, to honor embodiment, and welcome revelation whenever and wherever it occurs…In the questioning, inspired by a sense of holiness in all moments and all creatures, we will discover God’s voice amid the voices….
Katherine Hawker at liturgyoutside.net wrote this prayer, A Litany of Call:

A child once dreamed the Voice was calling his name… 'Samuel';
Fisherman once heard the Voice when a young man bid them follow;
And still the Voice beckons today… can you hear?
Here I am. Send me.

Moses protested vehemently as the Voice spoke at the burning bush;
Mary stood amazed as the Voice proclaimed impending birth;
And still the Voice beckons today… can you hear?
Here I am. Send me.

Rosa Parks followed the Voice to the front of the bus;
Martin Luther King, Jr. heard the Voice as the bullet shattered;
And still the Voice beckons today… can you hear?
Here I am. Send me….

A timid believer pauses to listen to the Voice;
A struggling church hears the Voice and turns;
And still the Voice beckons today… can you hear?

Listen. The Voice is calling you, too…

Comments

Purple said…
Beautiful.
I am using Katherine's liturgy as the invitation/benediction tomorrow.

Must start the Hunger Games...
Martha Spong said…
That story about the rabbi is great, really sums up the idea that we're called to be just who God made us to be. (Whether we like it or not!)
Jan said…
Powerful, esp. drawing people in with the Hunger Games! Thank you for this.

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