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1 Samuel 17:38-49; Psalm 9:9-20; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
June 24, 2018 – Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
We talked last week about the anointing of David…and the ways that God works in unexpected ways…surprising ways…in the history of the world.
There is brute strength and there is the power of God. God wins every time. For some reason, in the history of Israel…the people whose God is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob…what is true and right and just…triumphs… time after time, over physical supremacy.
Just as a little light can make a great change in the darkness, the Word of God can transform the world, and make it a just place…a place where justice is visible and peace is possible…the lion and lamb can lie down together…heaven on earth.
Today, David, our secretly anointed shepherd, confronts Goliath, the giant who can strike any enemy before that enemy is close enough to strike him. He is offense with his strength and defense with his size.
He is the Titanic, the exaltation of power over humility, and he cannot be defeated. The little guy might as well surrender to him at the outset. The fate of the weak is sealed.
But today, we read that that is not so. There is something greater than physical strength, something more powerful than physical power…and because we cannot see it…cannot understand it…but know that it is true…
We can only trust in it, for a child has been born to us, a child given to us; authority rests upon their shoulders; and they are named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
So it was with David, the shepherd boy who came to the forward edge of the battle area to deliver provisions.
The Philistines have set up their battle lines and have terrorized the army of Israel with this giant who taunts them daily, “Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us….Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.”
As this is going on, Jesse says to his youngest, the anointed one, “Take for your brothers an ephah of parched grain and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers…
“Also, take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some word…token…proof of life…from them.”
Remember now, that our theme this Sunday is the triumph of the righteous over the strong. See that the scriptures have called the least powerful person of anyone on the scene to the rescue.
David goes up and sees what is happening. He goes to King Saul…into whose presence he can enter perhaps more easily because of the cheeses his father has sent him with…and says, “Here I am. Send me.”
“You have to be kidding,” Saul tells him. “He will kill you before you can raise a sword.”
That is when David speaks those immortal words…maybe the greatest of all the words he will ever say. He has been in danger before, to protect his father’s sheep.
Predators have approached, even attacked. He understands what he is agreeing to do. He tells his king, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.”
I say to you today, too, “The Lord, who saved you from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save you from the hand of those who would crush you simply because they can…for the sport of it.”
What is right is more powerful than what we can impose as a matter of our will. If we do whatever we want to do simply because we can…not because it is right…we will soon lose our way.
We will lose sight of True North. We will forget what Jesus has said, over and over…love God and love your neighbor…because we are excited about doing what is fun and exciting than what is right and true and just…at the moment.
But we do not live for a moment. We live for a lifetime.
Over time, it is our character rather than our whims that will have a profound impact on the course of humanity, whether we live for a few weeks or 100 years. We shape the course of the world whether we are good or bad.
So why not be good?There is a surge of power in doing the right thing. Just ask anyone who has served at one of our Thursday suppers. There is a loss of power in doing anything else. There is a force in the universe that balances it all out.
We can all think of a half dozen very famous people who have been caught up in scandal just in the last year and have disappeared from view. Their power left them when the issue became their character.
On the other hand, we can also think of people in history who have gained power and recognition by doing the right thing.
Gandhi had no office, but he became a household name around the world because he tried not only to avoid living a bad life…he tried to live a good life..
When Lincoln became President 11 of the 34 states in the Union had seceded…they defied and denied his power over them…but he has come to be seen in many quarters as the greatest of them all.
It is terrible times that make great leaders. Sometimes they are on the scene at the outset and point out the danger…like Gandhi, and sometimes they emerge…like Lincoln, but it is a great and necessary effort…the necessity of a great effort…that makes leaders great.
Jesus is asleep in the boat when a great storm arises. The disciples panic and wake him, asking him if he does not care what happens to them.
Mark is the earliest of the gospels and it is the most concise. The focus is on action and action now. The word ‘immediately’ appears in it over 40 times.
As we enter Mark’s narrative this morning, Jesus and the disciples have been crossing back and forth across the Sea of Galilee, and there is a pattern to it.
He is speaking in a synagogue to Jews, then he is speaking to a crowd at the lake and they are Gentiles, then the crowds are following him and pressing up against him because he is healing so many so he orders them to find a boat for him.
But now he is in a boat in the middle of the lake, away from both Jewish and Gentile crowds. He is with his disciples. He is asleep in the stern of a boat when they find themselves in a storm so strong it is about to be swamped.
Make no mistake about it, what happens now is a story about how the church turns to Jesus in a crisis and how Jesus speaks to the church in times like these.
Mark is the first one to speak to the body of Christ on earth, the church, about who Jesus was and about what the church is supposed to do about it. Those early years were far from comfortable and it was probably written between 66 and 70 A.D.
This was when Nero was persecuting members of the church in Rome and the Jewish revolt against the Romans erupted in Jerusalem. It must have felt like the church was in a little boat out on Flathead Lake when a storm comes up.
Many members of the church must have been thinking, “What were we thinking?” Their culture is under severe pressure, and so are the people who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. They were heretics to Jews and troublemakers to the Romans.
They are not anointed by Samuel and they do not pick up their cross as eagerly as David picked up his sling and those five smooth stones. The spirit of the Lord had still not fallen mightily upon the disciples… it is not Pentecost yet…they still cannot understand fully who Jesus was and what he had to do.
The church, like our disciples today, thinks that Jesus is the problem and not the answer. “Teacher!” they cry to him, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Can you hear a persecuted church lifting their prayer to their Lord and Savior there…Do you not care that we are perishing?
“What is Jesus going to do for us in these troubled times?” we might ask ourselves today. Everything, it seems, has been turned inside out and the world is upside down. We are rude to our friends and kind to our enemies. Our solutions create problems and problems are never discussed.
We have strife at home, our friends are uncertain about us and enemies of democracy…people who do not believe that all people are created equal…are emboldened.
We want to wake the Master and ask him why he isn’t doing something about it. But we know what he will say if we do that. “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Of all the people on the earth, we are still the nation most prepared to confront problems and address them. We do not need to wait for a king to tell us what the solution is.
In World War II, I have been told, if you shot a German officer his men would not know what to do and were likely to surrender. On the other hand, if the Germans shot an American officer, the soldiers carried on, unburdened by authority. On one side, it was who had the authority to do it, and on the other side it was what needed to be done.
This was true on the American frontier and it is still as true for those of us who live in a relatively small community in a large place.We have seen the one least likely solve the problem of the day many times. The reason we have free public education as our birthright is so that we can solve problems on the frontier…on any frontier…as David was free to solve a problem on a military frontier.
It is so important that Jesus reminds us to have faith…in him…in ourselves…and in the power of Goodness itself to overcome evil. The Holy Spirit has been breathed upon us as surely as it was breathed on all those gathered in the square at Pentecost.
We shouldn’t blame ourselves for worrying, for worrying makes us think about the problem and about the solutions to our problems. But we are not to get stuck there, either.
We are always solving problems. We have new problems every day. Our forebears brought us through to the present day. It is up to us to see the world through this day and deliver it to tomorrow with its faith and its hope and its love intact.
We are just one more link in a long chain like Samuel was a link and David was a link and John the Baptist was a link.
The world looks darkest to us when we are called to be the light. The storm seems so violent because it is so unexpected, but we have been prepared for this by our traditions as free people…tethered only to our faith in a better day coming…we don’t think about what we cannot do…we think about what we can do.
If we are trying to float on the water, if we try to dominate it, we will sink. If we give up we will sink. But if we cooperate with the natural buoyancy of the water, we will float.
So it is with the challenges we are given to face in this life. Paul writes about it today. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Any problems created by people can be solved by people. We are called not to be the be all and end all of a solution to all human problems, but to take steps in that direction …always tested by one temptation or another…but always true to the Word.
May we always be willing to see how things can be better, and may we be always rejoicing at the sound of the voice that calls us onward and upward to oneness with each other and with our Creator. Amen.