An Ephah of Flour and a Skin of Wine

I Samuel 1:1-2, 10-11, 20, 24-28        “An Ephah of Flour and a Skin of Wine”
October 23, 2011
Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were little?
It’s a conversation I can remember having often in my childhood.  Either with my parents or my friends, we’d often talk about the advantages and the disadvantages of certain career paths.
Some of my friends wanted to be professional athletes.
Other friends of mine wanted to be carpenters or farmers, just like their dads.
Most of us wanted to be video game testers; but we understood those would probably be pretty hard jobs to get.
Well, I wanted to be a lot of things, but one of the most recurring jobs that I thought would be cool was to be a scientist.  Science was my favorite class.
I was fascinated with energy; how atoms worked and outer space.
I loved movies like Back to the Future and Star Wars.
I loved reading about stars and the color spectrum and sound waves and black holes and how we were going to have to find alternative energy because fossil fuels aren’t going to cut it anymore.
In grade school, I totally planned to study physics and then get a job with NASA.
(I know; it’s not every kid’s dream.)
But somewhere around Junior High, I started looking into what it would take to become a scientist, and I realized that I would have to study a lot of math.
I loved science, but I didn’t have the patience for Math with all it’s decimals.
Nothing bored me more than working with fractions or having to figure out how many apples were left after Peter gave Tom 6 more.
Needless to say my dream of working for NASA never became reality…and probably never will.
I wasn’t dedicated enough to get past the math!
…I’m guessing that most of us have unfulfilled childhood dreams.
Hopefully we come to terms with our limitations, and it’s not a big source of disappointment.  Hopefully we find other ways to engage our world with our gifts and talents, so that we find and create meaning regardless of what we get paid for.
Even so, I think there will always be those times when we wonder what would have happened if we had stuck with it; whatever it was.
I want to talk about dedication this morning, and what that means in the lives of Christian people.
Now, I’m not going to stand up here and suggest that everyone can achieve excellence at an activity if they’re dedicated enough and put in the time and effort.
That’s just not true.
God didn’t give me the genetics to be a professional basketball player, and I’m OK with that.
He did give me an active mind with many interests.
I’m no Einstein, but I do read Popular Science.
I’m no Jimi Hendrix, but I can pluck out a tune on a guitar.
You might enjoy riding Bike, but let’s face it, you’re no Lance Armstrong.
And you might even play basketball a couple of times a week.
That doesn’t make you Michael Jordan.
See, dedication is more than a want or a desire.
It’s a choice you make every day.  It’s a long kind of sacrifice that finds a way beyond the obstacles.
Dedication is consistency, commitment, hard work, and sacrifice.
That’s true in relationships, it’s true in sports, it’s true in our faith.
If you’re married, how does your spouse know that you’re dedicated to them?
If you’re single, how do your friends know that you’re dedicated to them?
People know we’re dedicated to them when we consistently put their needs and interests before our own.
Christine knows I’m dedicated to her because I consistently choose to put her first, before other friends, before other women; and at least sometimes before myself!
We can’t think of Albert Einstein without thinking of science, because he consistently chose to make science the priority in his life.
And in the verses we heard this morning, we heard about how Hannah dedicated her son Samuel to God; not unlike what Chad and Kristi and Seth and Rachel are doing today.
See, Hannah’s decision didn’t just affect her.
I think that’s another aspect of dedication that’s important to remember.
It touches other lives.  It changes how we relate to other people; not just for their sake, but because of the dedication itself.
The only reason Hannah could dedicate Samuel like she did is because she was  first so dedicated herself.
God was her priority, and because of her dedication to God, she set the tone of her child’s life.
That’s what parenting is all about, right?  Making decisions that affect the future of your child?
…Hannah prays and prays and prays some more for a child.
Unlike my dream of working for NASA, that one is not easy to let go of.
It’s a dream that’s kind of written into the female DNA; this desire to bear children.
So she prays because that’s about all you can do when your life’s dream turns to mud.
*But then the miraculous thing happens, and she has a child!
You know the story, because it was read this morning.
She dedicates his life to God, and as soon as he’s weaned she takes him to Eli and the boy Samuel stays there to spend his life dedicated to God and God’s people.
Have you ever wondered how he felt about that?
Maybe he wanted to work for NASA!
Samuel didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter.
It was Hannah’s dedication that put him in the temple.
It was nothing he did that put him there; it was no choice that he made.
It was Hannah’s dedication that set the tone for his life.
This was how she wanted to thank God for answering her prayer.
You could say that she put him up for adoption.
Chad, Kristi, Rachel, and Seth, in one sense what you’re doing this morning can be understood as entering into a kind of open adoption (just without the paperwork and the expense).
Don’t get me wrong; nobody wants you to leave your kids here when you go home!  🙂
What I mean is, we all have a stake in your children’s lives, and your families have stakes in the life of this church, too.
The kind of dedication we’re doing this morning goes both ways; for in Christ we are a unified body.
We are not perfect; but we are dedicated to each other and to God with bonds that are stronger than blood.
Otherwise Christ died in vain and does not live.
*The family of God extends beyond biology!*
If it were otherwise, we would know more about Eli’s biological sons than the fact that they turned out wicked!  It’s interesting that they had the same opportunities, the same influences, and the same experiences that Samuel would have had, and yet they chose a completely different direction for their lives.
…Samuel was dedicated first by his mother, and then he took that dedication upon himself.
We pray that your children will follow that example.

Dedication is not a one time act.  It’s a habit.
…Hannah took a bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine with her when she made her dedication.  If  you’re curious, an ephah was probably something like a bushel of flour.
In other words, she took a lot of meat, and a lot of flour to the dedication.
That’s because when a dedication is made, it’s a time to celebrate in a big way.  It’s a time to mark by sharing the best of what you’ve got.
We don’t do things the same way today.  We generally cook our meat and flour before we get to the potluck.
But still, today is a day of celebration as these two families take an important step in dedicating their children this morning.
It’s a chance for the rest of us, as well, to consider the state of our own dedication.
Are you in the habit of making dedicated decisions each and every day?
Or might you need to bring your own ephah of flour and skin of wine, to mark a new direction?

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