The Sacred: a responsible relationship (1 Samuel 4; James 2,4-end) / Wednesday after Trinity Sunday, Matins, Book of Common Prayer lectionary
After a defeat, the elders of Israel decide to ‘use’ the ark of the covenant to give boost to their military operation against the Philistines. ‘Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.’ This does not work, they suffer a second, devastating defeat.
There is so much depth in this story, and there is so much to learn. The Sacred should not be manipulated. It should never be put into human service in an instrumental way. In this story, it is idolatrous use.
There is a personal level of the story’s meaning. The scene is also a model of ‘lie’. When we don’t tell the truth, we want to put the sacred (‘truth’) into our selfish service. We want to manipulate reality according to our narrow interest.
Having received the news (both the death of his sons, and the loss of the ark of the Lord), Eli, the chief judge of Israel dies. His daughter of law, when learns of the death of her husband, though gives life to a son, also dies. The woman that stood by her ‘named the child I-chabod, saying, The glory is deperted from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.’
It is moving to see how people related their personal lives to the Sacred. It is a very close connection. The Sacred is read through their lives; their personal lives are read through the Sacred.
This story also shows us the nature of paradosis, handing over Tradition. Tradition cannot be passed on to the next generation only through a personal commitment and conviction. Namely, that God’s grace is the centre of my life.
James’ letter, from the angle of faith, also sheds light on our relationship to the Sacred. ‘Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone… Faith without works is dead.’ The works of faith connect us to God as a prayer, and as concrete relationship to our neighbour in whom God is present.
There is a profound meaning attached to these lines. Our deeds are a ‘microcosm’ of Salvation History. Our deeds, stemming from faith, are cells of God sacred history with us. To put it differently, the acts of love give us the sense of ‘history’. It is particularly important in a cultural climate when the sense of time, space, past, and belonging (the Biblical dimensions of faith) are erased by the mixture of cyber worlds and consumption.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..