Thoughts for the Month – March 2018

Seeing the Story of Samuel – Thought for the Month by Helen Gambles

Quite a few weeks ago in January, I read the Readings at the 11am Eucharist Service. The first one was from the first Book of Samuel and told the story of the boy’s calling by the Lord.  Afterwards, I was thinking about the story. I must have first heard it at Sunday School when I was a child. I remember every week being given a sticker with a Bible picture on to stick in a book or on a card for the appropriate Sunday. (I bet many of you can remember those).  I decided to see if I had a copy. I could see it in my mind in Ladybird form. But no, if I had one it must have been cleared out in one of my reducing “stuff” sessions.

I did find a nearly A4 size book of “Stories from the Old Testament in Colour.” Maurice was given this by his Sunday School in 1956 “For Attendance”. There were the stories of Noah, Abraham and Isaac, Joseph, Moses and Daniel, all with lovely colour illustrations alongside. Finally there was “Jehoash, the Boy King“ which I must admit I’ve never heard of, but never mind. But not the story of Samuel!

So, I found a website where you can buy old Ladybird books.  I typed in Old Testament stories – Samuel in the Temple. There it was, just as I remembered it from my early teaching days. On the cover a picture of Samuel looking up, listening and the author’s name, Lucy Diamond.  It was called Samuel, “The Child of the Temple” and was published in 1966. If you want to, you can buy a copy for £5.95 and reminisce.

I like the use of the word “of” in the title. I presumed it meant he was a child who lived in the Temple or belonged there, not a child who happened to be there for a short while.

Reading further in my “Children’s Illustrated Bible” I remember now that Samuel’s mother was childless and she had prayed to God for a child of her own. If successful she would devote his life to God’s service. I remember as a child thinking how odd that arrangement would be. Who would buy the food and cook his meals? Where would he wash etc.? It seemed a bit like camping – great fun for a short while. Eli was becoming blind and so Samuel was his eyes. Probably they muddled through together.

It says on the back cover, “In this book, Miss Lucy Diamond tells the story of the boy Samuel and Eli the Priest, in very simple words all can understand.” And it is just so. Reading that extract at the lectern, every word clearly described the events as they happened that night in the Temple. Samuel mistook the voice calling his name for Eli’s voice. You can visualize the situation. Three times Samuel gets up and goes to Eli until Eli finally realizes Who is calling Samuel.  Eli might have been losing his eyesight. But he could still work out what was going on!

Speaking of eyesight, recently I’ve bought some different glasses. No! the ones to help you see better!  I have several reading glasses but these are varifocals with a sunscreen coating. “But my long distance vision is fine”, I kept saying. I now have to admit the top half (for distance) makes things seems a lot more distinct and sharp. I just need to teach myself how to use them and stop perching them on the end of my nose. Playing the piano with them on is going to be a learning curve. How can I glance down at my hands without getting that dizzy feeling. However, now on holidays, I won’t be the person in the passenger seat continually swapping sunglasses for reading glasses as I try to navigate.

As we get older and pass those birthdays ending in a nought we think we’re completely fine and all’s well, but deep down we know it’s all sort of downhill now. Let’s hope it’s a slow journey.

But back to Samuel. All the books here at home don’t tell the full story of Samuel’s life. I’ve been reading that Hannah, Samuel’s Mother, took him to the Temple when he was only four. As he grew to adulthood he became wise and used his wisdom to solve people’s problems through words and his own example. He was a teacher, educating the people in the law. He was considered to be the greatest of judges and wrote down the history of the people of Israel. Such a great man for that nation at that time. Still, Eli “whose eyesight had begun to grow dim”, didn’t have the benefit of varifocals, or any kind of glasses.

Fortunately, he didn’t need those to become aware of the significance of his young helper and to realise that God had work for him to do.

Samuel in the Sanctuary – by Barbara Worsley

There is a link and coincidence to be found this month in two pieces from contributors. Helen has written about Samuel, and Brian is making an appeal for acolytes to serve in the Sanctuary.  The story of Samuel was very familiar to children who attended Blackrod Church School in the forties because, at morning assembly, we sang regularly a hymn recalling his story as a boy serving in the Temple. We had a small repertoire and that is perhaps why I remember it so well. I hope others still remember it, too. It had a lovely, simple tune.

It was the evening time, the temple courts were dark

      The lamps were burning brightly ‘neath the sacred Ark

     When suddenly a voice divine, rang through the silence of the shrine.

It was, of course, God calling Samuel.

Until relatively recently only boys served in the Sanctuary; thank goodness we now realise that God accepts and welcomes everyone. Both my brothers and both my sons have had such jobs, though then they were called Servers, but I was never given a chance. Had I been so lucky I would have loved to have been a server or an acolyte having always seen any job in the Sanctuary as being a privilege.  It was the innermost, most holy part of the Temple and Samuel must have been a seen as very lucky to serve there. The Sanctuary of a church has long been taken to mean a place of safety and refuge because no one dared or wanted to invade such a sacred place.

I hope some people, especially some young people, will hear and respond to this call to serve and enjoy contributing to each Service. It does, after all, allow you to get near to the action instead of sleeping as Samuel did.  But he did hear and responded.

Another hymn we sing asks, “ Is it I ,Lord?”      Perhaps it is!