Dear Friends,
In 1 Samuel chapter 8, Samuel has a problem: the people are revolting! Or more correctly they are near to revolt. They want to be like other nations and have a king to lead them, and Samuel is in a dilemma. All his life he has tried to do what is right, and been a faithful and wise judge for the people, and they repay him with this, a rejection of his authority and the established way of doing things! The trouble is he can forsee the troubles that will come. A king will not solve all their problems: he might be able to bring people together for a time, and even defeat the Philistines who are threatening to overwhelm the people of Israel. He might be able to unite the disparate tribes into a nation, but in the end kings are unreliable: they may lack the skills necessary to lead the country. Worse still they will take the best of the nation’s resources for themselves and even become tyrannical in their behaviour.

However, the people have not rejected Samuel but God. By wanting to be like everyone else and putting God’s will last they are not being God-centred. It is a powerful lesson that they have to learn collectively, and the stories of the subsequent kings read as a lesson in flawed humanity. Ultimately of course God brings things together in a King of kings, Jesus, God in human form, thereby bringing to a close the need for a super leader.

Or does it? In the present era people may not clamour for a king, but they do still fail to be God-centred. People still put their faith in people, expecting impossible perfection and being surprised when it is not realized. People put their faith in science or technology, or the acquisition of wealth or status. The need to be like others is still a powerful one that is hard to resist, or conversely to ride roughshod over others as we do it our own way, valuing our own achievements and forgetting God’s role in giving us talents, tools and opportunities.

So, as God’s people, we have an opportunity to show others that there is a different way of doing things, and of orientating our lives to God’s Way. Indeed we are specially placed to know that there is so much more to life, and in so doing to have a solid foundation that allows us to better weather life’s difficulties, and be an example to others. Except that that is hard too. Living in a pressured World we find ourselves behaving like others, bending to the World’s ideals and forgetting God’s. So we need to keep making space to re-orientate ourselves to the things that God wants us to do.

Summertime offers us an excellent opportunity to do just that. For those going away there is the opportunity for refreshment by doing things differently, by gaining stimulus from different sights and experiences, by stopping our usual rush of activities. For those remaining at home, summer still offers a change of routine, a pause in the usual round of meetings and the chance to make space. In both situations come opportunities to pray and reflect, and to put God’s Way first once more.

This year that is particularly useful as we prepare for the arrival of Mark and Tessa in September and the changes that must come thereafter. Being God-centred acknowledges the need for change and adaptation, as well as the potential for new opportunities for witness. And the latter come to us at all stages and at any point of life. The reading from 1 Samuel reminds us that Samuel had new things to do: his role as principal leader and judge had ended, but he had a key role in appointing the first two kings of Israel, as someone who put God at the centre of what he did. We may not have such dramatic things to do, but we are still able to encourage, support and witness to one another, and to strangers, and thereby show what it is to be God-centred people. Amen.