Sermon   June 21, 2015

I Samuel 17  Facing Goliath

I always hate to hear of another gun-welding killer of innocent people somewhere.  What a shock it was this week to hear it took place at a Bible study at a church in Charleston South Carolina and that the young man who did it had been telling his friends he wanted to hurt people and start a “race war”.   Once again we see the tragic power of racial hatred.  That young man somehow thought it was all right to kill a group of people just because they were African American.  I’d rather start my sermon with a joke, but this morning I start with this story of hatred and violence.   For a church to lose its leaders in this way. For a young man to learn such hatred. For the continuing struggle for us all to live together in peace and dignity.  We think it only happens somewhere else. Yet, in our own town we have had people place flyers on cars in from of one of our schools espousing fear and hatred for those who are not white. We have had a school shooting in one of our own high schools.  We know tragically that such violence is possible.

The story of David and Goliath this morning invited me to wonder- what are the Goliaths we face today?   No one faces a 7 foot Philistine warrior.  But what are the problems that seem impossible, the conflicts that seem intractable?  What fearsome realities do we face?    I have named the problem of racism and violence in our culture already. What others do you face today?

Not enough shelter and low income housing

Disability and illness

Poverty

Diseases like cancer and malaria

What is the Goliath that threatens to immobilize you? To leave you shaken and afraid?

As we name these things- is it a downer?  Are you feeling some sadness and frustration right now?  Well, surely that is how the army of Israel felt too. They had been trying to defeat the Philistines ever since  Saul became king- that was why they had wanted a king- remember?  To fight their battles and protect them from their enemies like all the other peoples around them did.  But then one day all the Philistines has to do is send out a big tall warrior with lots of armor and even more bravado.  And Saul can’t find one man to fight him. For 40 days he taunts them and everyone cowers in fear.  Even promises of honor and the hand of the kings daughter don’t  inspire the Israelite fighters.  Demoralized. Afraid. Frustrated. Cowed.  Immobilized.   They can’t seem to take on this challenge.

But then something happens.  A new person comes among them. David is just a younger son, a shepherd boy turned courier. He’s come to bring food to his brothers and check up on them for his father. Yet, the trouble with Goliath intrigues him. He hears the taunting warrior and  wonders, “ What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? “  He is tantalized by the idea that the one who takes on Goliath will be honored in Israel. And he also questions, “ For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

With his question David introduces a whole new element into the situation.  Israel has a living God!  Surely this reality makes a difference!   At least for David it does. At makes all the difference.

Of course David ‘s question also gets his brothers worried about him. He’s an embarrassment perhaps or at least a worry. They want him to go back to their father and stay away.  But Saul has heard about David’s questions and sends for him.   And David suggests to Saul that there is a way out of this mess.

“ Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

Now Saul looks at this young man and  replies,” You are just a boy!”  And then David tells Saul about his escapades as a shepherd- he has fought bears and lions- why not a Philistine because- “ The Lord saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.”

David seems to have his own bravado but this confidence comes from his relationship with God! He trusts that God will help him. His courage comes from the Spirit of God in his life.

Now Saul tries to help David by giving him the trappings of a warrior = like all the other nations.  But he cannot walk with all that armor and sword and spear.  He decides to use the gifts he has been given – five smooth stones and a sling shot.  Oh and of course God!  The living God.

So David thus so miminally armed and with no armor for protection comes out to meet Goliath the giant warrior.  Goliath is disdainful and full of put down for David.  But David doesn’t care. He answers right back giving his own witness to Goliath and all who watch and listen, “ This very day I will strike you down… so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”   And we all know. He does!

It really is a great story. In fact Biblical scholar  Walter Brueggeman suggests that it is such stories that give courage to the people of Israel in times of hardship and struggle.  The story reminds them that there is more to any situation than there seems- there is a living God!

This is the first thing I take away from the story for how to face the Goliaths of our day.

Remember there is a living  God!  And God does not want hatred and violence  to win the day. God works in our lives and hearts to give us the courage to love in the face of hatred, to stand up to the bully with confidence, to find ways other than revenge.  A living God that will help us defeat what seems impossible and fearsome in our lives.

The second thing I notice about the story is that David does not need to become like everyone else.  He uses the gifts, God has given him to do his part  for God and his people.  David had the confidence of his own relationship with  God to know his own value.  David shows us that relationship is possible.  As we open our lives and hearts to the Spirit of God, we like David can discover our own worth, our own gifts, our own courage.

Jesus knew this. He took the hands of forgotten, put down, outcast people and showed them that they too could find healing and could be part of God’s community.  He too  knew that the Spirit at work in him meant that he could go his own way to the cross rather than try to be a conquering hero like David.  He knew that God was at work in him in a unique way that would lead to life and hope for the world.  HE died and rose again so that you and I could know the healing grace of  God, so that we could find our own inner strength and worth to  offer our gifts to defeat the Goliaths.

Finally, David did what he did not just for his own glory ( although frankly he liked that idea too) but he says that he was doing it for the assembly, so that they would know there is a living  God in Israel. He acts and speaks as a witness to the community. He wants to help restore the community of Israel to faith and trust in their God!

Thus it is that when we face the Goliath’s of our day, we are called to witness to God’s presence and power and to enable a community of faith, to develop.  David overcame Goliath, but it will take the whole army working together with renewed trust and courage to win the war.   So it is for us. We do what we have the power to do with the gifts God has given us to face the Goliaths, but we are not alone. WE have God but like David we also have a community of those who also can be inspired to care, to give their gifts, to support one another.

So in summary, how can we face  and resist the Goliaths of our lives?

1. Put your trust in God who is alive and cares about you and our world. Who wants the Goliaths that would spread fear and hatred, suffering and pain , to be defeated or transformed.

2. Use the gifts and skills you have and if you are not too sure about this let  God show you your own value and gifts

3. Realize that you are not alone. Look for allies.  For you can be part of a community of people who also want to fight the goliaths of our time.   Our witnesses and gifts together can make a difference.

It’s father’s day and I haven’t talked about father yet.  Just one note.  One of the ways my father showed his love for me was to challenge me to see a wider world and a more expansive view.  I think about the father in this story. We don’t think much of Jesse, but somehow Jesse knew that David needed a bigger stage, a wider opportunity.  He chose to send him to his brothers at the front.  He let his go into a wider arena and the rest is history.  Maybe behind every one of us who find the courage to stand up to the bullies, the Goliaths, is a father, someone who inspired us to step out into the world.  Who entrusted us to God.  Maybe today you can be such a father for someone facing a Goliath.  Or Maybe today you can be a David that trusts  God and takes a step to defeat a Goliath. Maybe today you can be someone who makes a difference to the community of faith through your witness of God at work.  All this is possible because we have a Living  God !

 

 

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