The first Sunday in Kingdomtide starts the second half of the year with a rather direct challenge to our allegiances. The same theme seems to come through – where do we place our allegiance, and to whom do we give our obedience and devotion. In the Samuel reading, which marks the start of the monarchy in Israel, the people reveal their struggle to remain committed to God. In the conversation between God and Samuel, God relates Israel’s history of turning away from God, and views this call for a king as just another case of misplaced allegiance and a quest to be like the other nations, instead of living as an alternative community under God’s Reign.
The other readings all give an indication as to the reasons why we are tempted to turn away – the struggles and suffering of life. In Psalm 138 the attitude is one of praise for God’s unfailing love, protection and answer to prayer. In both cases, though the intent is clear – no matter what life may throw at us, our faith needs to remain in God.
Similarly in the Corinthians reading, Paul describes the troubles that we experience in this life as small compared with the glory which awaits us in Christ. It is this hope that enables us to stay faithful, and to share the message of God’s grace, even as we face suffering in this life. Finally, Jesus faces persecution of his own, both from his family who call him crazy, and from the religious leaders who claim that he is demonised. His response is decisive though, in two ways.
Firstly, he reveals the absurdity in claiming that his power to defeat the devil comes from the devil, which implies that it can only come from God.
Secondly, he embraces all who obey God, who give their hearts in allegiance to God’s Reign as he has done, as his family.
The message of this week, then, is that life is hard and will bring suffering, especially when we try to live with integrity and faith. However when we keep our allegiance with God we have God’s promise that God will sustain us, and we have the hope in the eternal life that God promises us.
Finally, in this life, we also have the joy of a family of faith with whom we can share our tears, our joys and our hope, while helping one another to stay faithful to God.