Seeing As God Sees
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13;Psalms 20; 2 Corinthians 5:6-9, 14-17;Mark 4:26-34 June 13, 2021 – 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Behold the day. Mortals greet it as a duty. What do I need to get done today? Where do I need to be? What do I need to take with me? What do I need to have done tomorrow…this week…soon?
Behold the day. God sees us in a corner of Creation, a holy experiment in teaching mortals to look beyond the day…and themselves. This day holds as much promise as any day ever has. Let us create something we can call ‘Good!’
Can you see how we frame the question can change how we greet the day?…the energy level that we apply to our pressing…but momentary…problems…our immediate…and eternal possibilities?
A whole different horizon opens up when we see opportunity beckoning us and we don’t just wonder how we are going to get through it all.
“What do we have to get done?” vs. “What can we bring into being as a new creation?”…or…”What reminds us this day of a sacred moment in humankind’s past?”
Living a day just so you can get through it…or forget it…is a way to make an empty day…a way to empty a day before it dawns…a way to empty a day of the most important thing we have: Hope.
So let us ask: What new lesson can we receive?…What old, old teaching can we see in a new light this day?...this hour…this moment?
Jesus sees faith in God’s promises in a farmer who scatters seed on the ground… anticipating the rain and sunshine…wary of the weeds and the insects…counting on the earth’s power to nourish growth and sustain life.
In January of 1989 I was serving in what would be my last term in the Legislature. The weather turned warm and many of us celebrated with an open-coat lap around the Capitol grounds in Helena.
You all had the same wonderful blessing here in the Flathead…so much so that your cherry trees started to bud and blossom in February. No one could remember seeing that before.
Then winter roared back, and the temperatures dipped to 30 below and over half of the cherry trees in the valley…by some counts 80% of them …perished. They had been a mainstay of the economy here for 50 years by then. In a week they were dead.
Now all was lost. What could the future bring? It took a while for the answer to surface. I was working a bee kill case, allegedly due to pesticides, and I had a plant expert to chat with about it.
He was very interested in what had happened and mulled it over after we had met about our case. The next morning he took the long view.
Cherries were a very valuable crop and there were few places – like the Flathead Valley – where they could be grown. Fifty years was a long time between killing winters.
His advice was that the growers should replant their orchards and get back into the cherry business. He had me going right to the end…then I wasn’t so sure.
But I sat back and watched as the growers in this area all seemed to take my expert witness’s advice about a subject he hadn’t been asked about… and they had not heard.
At the first onset of pain, and especially a very sudden and deep pain, we all want to pull back…turn away. That is often… maybe most often…the wise thing to do.
It takes people who have been doing things for a long time…and know hardship as well as prosperity…to look misfortune in the eye without blinking.
It’s like the old story of the little boy who is talking to God and asks how long 10,000 years is like for God. God says that it’s like just a minute in the grand scheme of things.
So the boy asks what ten million dollars is like to God…and God says it’s like just a penny. The little boy says, “God… would you give me one of those pennies?”
And God says, “Sure…just a minute.”
Bad things happen, but they don’t last forever…they aren’t the end of the world. We need to see misfortune…and good fortune through God’s eyes…especially when we are talking about our relationship with the earth…if we are to know anything but the vanity of what we wish would happen.
The longer I am alive, it seems, the more I can see misfortune as a learning experience and give thanks for it. The alternative…getting even…requires us to be as uncaring and unthinking and unfeeling as the person who wronged us…and you can’t get even with the earth in any event.
The fact of the matter is that the earth has no obligation to act as you want it to act, or as you expect it to act. When bad things happen, you learn more about the world.
What you do in response to any misfortune that befalls you tells the world all it needs to know…about you. What lesson do you want to give at times like those? How can you show a world in the future a way through its present problem…it’s Red Sea moment …with what you do next?
Jesus seems to be telling us that that is when it is time for us to go out and sow our fields again…always creating an opportunity for truth and love to take root again…and show us the divine magic of new life and new creation…once more.
It doesn’t take courage so much as faith …a strong spirit and a steady hand…to bring the kingdom a closer to our world this day.
Samuel is now and old man. He has known power and pain. He has always looked with a humble heart for God’s purpose in it all.
This morning he hears God call him to anoint a new king while Saul is still on Israel’s throne. This can be seen through faithful eyes as a divinely compelled act of justice by those who are seeking only after love and truth.
But it can also be seen through mortal eyes…as high treason by those in power. Elijah tells God if Saul hears about it he will kill me.
God gives him a cover story. “Take a heifer with you and if anyone asks tell them you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord.”
God also tells him, “Invite Jesse to the sacrifice and I will show you the rest.”
It all goes well and when Eliab, the eldest son, appears, he looks like a king…to Samuel…but the Lord says, “No. You are seeing only his physical beauty. I look upon the heart.”
They parade seven of Jesse’s sons before Samuel, and they look okay to Samuel, but God makes him say no again and again. Finally, Samuel asks Jesse if he has any more sons and Jesse tells him he has seen all but the youngest who is out watching the sheep.
They bring David. Immediately Samuel knows this is the one and he immediately anoints him. So here is a faithful person who does what he doesn’t want to do at risk of his life and because he has bowed his head to the Lord God…at every turn…good things always flow from his acts.
He cannot see as God sees, but he hears God’s voice and follows. Here is another one of those people who do not have power, but power has them.
They just try to do the right thing in the time and circumstance that surrounds them…and things turn out all right.
The Bible is full of these people, from Abraham to Moses to Ruth to Hannah to Samuel to Mary to Jesus. And you don’t have to get them all right. Keep trying.
Look at Jacob…and David…and Paul. They all made mistakes, but they all bowed their head to God when the time came. Power had them.
The great lives we watch in the time we spend together are lives that speak to us of self-actualization…the realization or fulfillment of our talents and human potential, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.
We have a popular term for this: making something of yourself. All my life people have asked me what I am going to be when I grow up. They still do. So do I.
But I am on a journey. As Lerner and Lowe sang it out in Paint Your Wagon: Where am I heading? I’m not certain. Where am I going? I don’t know. All I know is I am on my way.
Got a dream, boy. Got a song. Paint your wagon and come along.
There is an element of destiny in it, but the expectation is open. You are living your life to your best…accepting circumstances as they appear…doing what you can and leaving the rest to God.
It is the definition of Samuel, from the first night he hears God’s voice call him…until he has gained the stature to anoint not one, but two, kings…only after listening for God’s will.
Self-actualization has a number of aspects. People who live self-actualized lives have peak experiences. They accept themselves as they are and accept others as they are.
They are realistic…knowing that they are not the be-all and end-all of every moment of every day…but also knowing that they have a part to play… because of who…and what…they are.
They are not self-centered. They are problem solvers. They don’t complain about their lot. They take life as it comes and try to do as little damage as possible and produce as much joy and peace and hope as possible.
They don’t see the world as it is and ask, “Why?” They see the world as it never was and ask, “Why not?”…then work to make their vision real…not counting the cost but giving their utmost for God’s highest.
They are independent…listening to everyone, reflecting on it, and then painting their wagon and coming along …in their own time…in their own way.
They love people but also enjoy their own company. They are in the world and they get power from that. But they also know their own strengths and weaknesses and need to find a place where they can talk with their Creator, unhindered by the tides of their culture or community as they try to find their way.
Packing for moving, by the way, struck me this season as solving one puzzle after another. What goes in the box so it is full but not too heavy…or too light …and so the things you put in the box will travel well together and not break each other into pieces as they make their way.
They have a sense of humor, finding joy and amusement even at their own expense. The world is talking to them in those times.
They are spontaneous, finding new ways to solve old problems as easily as they find old ways to solve new problems.
In all of this, they do their best… they’ve got a dream…and they’ve got a song…and they encourage others to paint their wagons, too, and come along…with their own hopes…with their own gifts…to add to their mutual journey.
So what we are talking about in all the characters in the Bible and their stories …and all their challenges…and setbacks…and stunning peak experiences…is church.
This is the last real place on earth… where real people come with real problems and real hopes and apply the gifts that God gave each of them to better understand themselves…and their neighbor…and their world…and the trillions of worlds they find themselves looking up at on a clear dark night.
The world needs you…us…and as we show them the power and the joy and the richness of living our lives as honestly and fully as we can…the world will come to understand that church isn’t about saying the right words but living good lives…and being happy at the gift of time God has given us to live and grow together…the gift of life.
May we see this gift as God sees it.
O Lord, what is it that you want to accomplish through us…through me …this day? Amen.