Sermon June 14, 2015
1 Samuel 15:34- 16:13 “Looking again” by Rev. June Fothergill
One nephew of a famous athlete, Deion Sanders’ was a little short on cash so he wrote his rich and famous uncle and asked for a short-term loan. The usually generous Sanders were annoyed that the young man would ask him for money considering that they had not seen one another for years. The multi- talented athlete wrote a chilly note to his nephew suggesting in blunt, simple terms that he earn the money through his own diligence. The young man promptly sold the letter for a thousand dollars. (p. 233 An Encyclopedia of Humor, ed. Lowell D. Streiker)
Now that’s seeing the potential in a situation! A few years ago, I remember a training I attended about programs for youth. They showed us how important it was to look at all the assets in a young person’s life in order to understand which youths were at risk for problems and how to prevent them. They had found that the more assets in a young person’s life the better the outcome for them. Assets were not just family, but positive relationships with teachers, after school programs, a job, church relationships, grandparents, etc. Even children with terrible home lives, could make a go of it, if they had other assets in their lives. In fact even just one person that a young person can rely upon for consistent unconditional love can make a big difference. The power of one, we decided to call our campaign.
What a difference it makes when looking at our community or another person or even ourselves, if we think in terms of assets. Samuel was ready to give up on the search for a king among Jesse’s sons. He had been through all the potentials, the ones that seemed to have what was needed- 7 in all. But God saw beyond the crowd there at the ceremony. He saw a young boy left behind in the fields. The youngest son, the boy, the left out one, the unexpected one. HE saw the potential in this boy’s heart that no one else could see. And thus enters the stage of Biblical history- David, one of Israel’s most complex and beloved figures. The king that would unite the tribes and bring them peace from their warring neighbors. But that’s all yet to come. Now we just have a small shepherd boy being anointed by Samuel under the radar, a small seed planted, potential only God can see.
This passage invites us to think about how we see the world.
1. We are challenged like Samuel to look beyond outward appearances.
Outward appearances have a lot of power. We know that generally to go into a job interview in rags is not a good idea, or that we really don’t want our slip showing through a whole musical performance. We have experienced perhaps our own struggle with first impressions. I remember a young man in another church who came to the choir practice with a stud in his lip. He was quite a good singer, but one lady – I am sure with the best of intentions-couldn’t help herself and suggested that the stud wasn’t appropriate. We have to admit it, if we are honest, we do quickly assess another person by their appearance. We understand Samuel being attracted to the good looking first son of Jesse.
What if we decided to try seeing others as God saw David- looking to their heart. What if we took the time to get to know someone beyond our first impressions? What if we assumed that each person we meet has God given potential? What difference could that make in our relationships?
Remember that young man with the lip stud? Well, when he was in Jr High, I had him in confirmation class. He had a rough life, his family of origin was a mess and the only stable place in his life was his grandma’s house. He came to our church whenever he was at her house. So for awhile we joined with us. At that time the little church was in a slump. Their Council meetings were, well very dull and uninspiring. But for confirmation I invited this young man to come to a meeting. He came and things changed. He asked them questions. He had ideas. His energy and enthusiasm was infectious. I am so glad God nudged me to include him.
2. The passage also invites us to examine our assumptions about others. Like Samuel found the chosen king in the youngest, forgotten son, we can sometimes discover potential and giftedness where we least expect it. We are called to consider things not through the eyes of social norm and mores but through the eyes of God, the eyes of love.
I think of Sue Lyons, a woman I knew in seminary who was blind and had to walk with two arm brace crutches because of arthritis. She was studying to be a pastor and went on to be a chaplain. I was surprised to see her sitting in my dance class. Now this was my very first dance class, but it wasn’t hers. She had taken many dance classes growing up despite her blindness. The class was one where we had to choreograph a duet with another person. At the end of the class we all shared our dance duets with the whole class. Sue was paired with a young able bodied man. They announced that the name of their piece was Creation. The dance consisted of one person on a stool, sitting inert while another person danced around them and gradually brought them to life. I admit it, I was surprised to see the young man sitting on the stool. And then, I was amazed and inspired as Sue who couldn’t see or walk very well, danced. Around and around the young man, she danced bringing him to life- bringing us all a new way of seeing.
Finally, we are invited not just to think about our relationships with others, but also how we see ourselves. God saw the potential in a small shepherd boy that was left out of the party. Could it be that God also sees potential in you and me even when we feel left out or put down by the world? Could it be that even a small, older church could have potential to reach new people with Christ’s love?
Yes, it’s possible because just a few fish and loaves of bread can become a big feast. Because a small little mustard seed of faith grows into a sturdy , strong tree. Because God continues to pour out the Holy Spirit so that even the old men dream dreams! Because, each one of you matter to God! Each one of you is alive in this moment and so have potential to love, to dance, to laugh , to learn.
I close with the story of Grandma Moses. ( pic) We are never too old to have potential! Ann Mary Moses left home at 13, bore 10 children and worked hard to raise the 5 who survived. Struggling to make a living on poor farms, she managed to provide a bit of beauty for herself by embroidering on canvas. At 78, her fingers became too stiff to hold a needle. Rather than give into debility she went out to the barn and began to paint. On masonite panels she created brilliantly colored , precisely detailed scenes of country life. For the first two years these were either given away or sold for at pittance. But at the age of 79 she was “discovered” by the art world. She went on to produce more than 2,000 paintings and her book illustrations for Twas the Night Before Christmas were completed in her 100th year. ( p. 235-6 “ Grandma Moses and Me”, Liah Kraft- Kristaine in Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul,1996)