The Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 4), June 2, 2024

May 7, 2024 | by Gabrie'l Atichson

Reading 1 Reading 2 Reading 3 Reading 4 Reading 1 Alt Reading 2 Alt
1 Sam 3:1-10 Ps 139:1-6, 13-18 2 Cor 4:5-12 Mark 2:23-3:6

From Darkness to Light
On the campus of the Historically Black College (HBCU), Tuskegee University, stands a monument in honor of the institution’s founder, Booker T. Washington. The statue, created by sculptor Charles Keck in 1922, shows Booker T. Washington lifting a veil from the covered head of a young African American man. This monument entitled, “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance,” symbolized the push of African American school founders to educate a formerly enslaved population who had been prevented by law from learning to read. Booker T. Washington believed that “education and industry” would solidify the position of African Americans in society.
The image of this iconic symbol of empowerment came to mind as I read the lessons for this week. As we mature in our faith there is a promise that we will become better at hearing what God is telling us and gain more clarity about just how much we are loved by God.
In 1 Samuel 3, the young protégé of Eli, Samuel hears God call out but mistakes God’s voice for Eli’s. Samuel answers the call and runs to Eli, only to have Eli tell him, “I did not call; lie down again.” (1 Sam 3:5 NRSV) This exchange happens two more times, until Eli figures out that it is God, who is calling Samuel. Eli advises Samuel to say to God, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening!” When Samuel obeys, he learns that God needs him to relay an important message to Eli about the corrupt nature of his own sons. It is in this moment, that Samuel comes of age as a trustworthy prophet who can hear what God is saying. There is a lesson here about being in a good position to hear what God is telling us and then being able to trust God enough to follow through with God’s directives.
Whereas the Old Testament scripture addresses moving from confusion into clarity, the Epistle addresses moving from darkness into the light. In 2 Corinthians 4:5-12, we learn that through a relationship with Jesus Christ, we have a path or a light that can guide us out of the darkness. God shines this light in our hearts so we can face all that the world throws at us. The gift here is described as a treasure in clay jars. The clay jar represents our understanding that our power does not come from us, it comes from God. In our scripture, we are not promised lives without affliction and challenges; rather, we operate from the promise that our hardships will not defeat us.
Psalm 139 picks up the theme of moving from darkness into light and from uncertainty into faith. The Psalm is a beautiful reminder that God truly knows who we are and has created us just the way we are supposed to be. The psalmist writes, “You have searched me out and known me.” (Psalm 139:1a);“You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:12b); and, “I am marvelously made.” (139:13a). These are affirmations of love, inclusion, and acceptance. Psalm 139 holds important lessons for those of us who struggle with high ambition coupled with low self-esteem. The Psalm is a song of praise for a God who knows us. So, like a veil being lifted, we can see more clearly that we are loved and accepted by God.

Gabrie’l J. Atchison earned an M.A. in Religion from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from Clark University. She is an adjunct professor of Gender Studies, a blogger, and an author. Dr. Atchison is the editor of Environment and Religion in Feminist-Womanist, Queer, and Indigenous Perspectives a series by Lexington Books. She is author of Are You The Unchurched?: How to Develop a Relationship with God Inside or Outside of Church and a co-author of More to this Confession: Relational Prison Theology with Chris Barbera. She is a contributor to Preaching the Uncontrolling Love of God, Edited by Jeff Wells, Thomas Jay Oord, et. al. and The Creation Care Bible Challenge, Edited by Marek P. Zabriskie. She lives in Buffalo, New York with her dog, Jack.