Okay…I agree…that is one funky title. You are probably asking yourself, “What do they have to do with one another?” Really nothing except the way God used them as a convergence point in my pea-sized heart.
Hannah and Samuel was the topic of the Sunday school lesson today. What a wonderful story this is (See 1 Samuel 1-3). Hannah was barren and this was a deep grief for her. She went to the temple to pray. She did so for years and years. The priest, Eli, thinking she was drunk in her mumbling and keaning, corrects her. She confesses she is not drunk but sorrowful in spirit and relates the cause of her sorrow. Eli tells her that God has heard and answered her prayer. To her great joy Samuel is born and keeping her promise that she would dedicate her son to God if He blessed her with one, she took Samuel to Eli where he was raised in the temple.
One night Samuel heard a voice calling him. Thinking it was Eli, he rose out of bed and went to Eli asking what he needed.
“I did not call you! Go back to bed!”
Being obedient, Samuel did so.
Again the Lord, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Up he goes! Out of bed, Samuel trots to Eli and asks, “Father, you called me?”
“Then Eli perceived that the LORD had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:9-10)
I thought it was so beautiful to see the golden flower of Orthodox spiritual fatherhood so evident in this story.
Eli heard Hannah’s distress. She spoke her heart to her spiritual father. He spoke the blessing of God to her. Samuel, not knowing what was going on, sought out his spiritual father to ask his help and discernment about what he was hearing. Eli, discerning it was the Lord, instructed Samuel how to respond to God’s call.
And then the story of The Prodigal Son who left home with his father’s inheritance, which he received early; squandered it on the high life; ending up eating the same food the pigs ate. He returned home, much to his father’s delight who welcomed his son with open arms restoring his right to inherit by putting “a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet.”
In Father T’s sermon, we heard how the prodigal son joined himself to a spiritual harlot when he rejected his father’s home and all that was there for him to embrace what he wanted. Of course he father let him go. After all, we have free will.
The husks the prodigal ate were likely sweet when he first bit into them. Just like sin is sweet at first blush. It is the sweetness that is the hook which grabs you and drags you along. But the more the prodigal chewed on the husk, its sweetness disappeared. It became bitter and coarse. Sin, when one continues in it, has the same effect. It becomes bitter and coarse, causing us great grief and no relief.
Thus we receive the instructions in the Epistle to the Corinthians 6:12-20 to not united ourselves to the harlot of sin but to “shun immorality,”that we are “not our own; [but] were bought with a price.”
Both of these stories given us clear pictures of God and His everlasting Love for us. He provides the blessing of spiritual paternity in our priests and spiritual mothers that can only be found in the Orthodox Church. When we come to our spiritual senses after squandering and turning our back to the riches He has given us in the Holy Orthodox Church, He welcomes us with open arms, enveloping us in His unconditional Love and restores our communion with Him.
Glory to God! Glory to Him Forever!