Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sermon for June 14, 2009

June 14, 2009
Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Sermon Title: “What God Can See”
Rev. George N. Miller

It’s hard to believe, but 4 years ago I moved here. In that time I’ve made friends, dated a bit, but my most significant relationship, outside of the church, has been with my cat: Martin Isaac.

I remember going to the petshop looking for a cat that wasn’t too timid or prissy, an active feline that was more like a dog. And that’s what Martin was. While other cats were depressingly lethargic, he was a ball of black-n-white fur batting around a toy in his cage. He climbed onto my shoulder and on the ride home he broke out of his box: be careful what you wish for, because you’ll get it.

Last year it was brought to my attention that Martin and I are very similar: we’re extroverts who hate to be trapped inside, and neither one of us knows when to shut up! If I constantly talk, he constantly meows, even at 3 a.m..

But, he is mine and I am his, and I love him. Yet, I wonder: did I choose him because his behavior mirrored mine? Or does his behavior mirror me because he is mine? Is it nature or nurture?

When company comes over what causes one cat to show his belly and another to hide behind the couch? With children, why is one painfully shy and the other can’t shut up?

For example, take the boy who lives above me. Bruce has attended our Vacation Bible School since its inception. When he first came here he was a tiny little soft-spoken stringbean of a child.

Up until that summer he had not hung out with other boys. His Mom was worried about how he’d deal with kindergarten in the fall. But Bruce came to our Little Star program for those two weeks, and he blossomed.

There was another boy there and they immediately hit it off, eating meals together, playing crash up with their toy cars and doing all the things boys like to do. Once quiet and shy, Bruce became vocal and playful.

By the end of the program his mother was thankful for all we’d done and Bruce couldn’t wait to start school. Since then he’s grown and grown, does well in school and he’s the leader of the gang of kids he hangs out with.

Although he’s not the tallest or huskiest or oldest, he is the boy everyone centers around. It’s the other boys who come to his door to see if he can play. Be it tossing a ball, fishing in the lake, or skipping stones, he is, for lack of better words, the star. His mother claims she can’t see it, but I do.

Bruce is his group’s leader, but why? Is it because he was born so, even if his height, weight and age might say differently? Is it because of the positive affirmation he received from our VBS program, creating a lasting impact on his life?

Could it be that he’s simply reaping the benefits of living above the local pastor with the cool cat?

You never know by looking at someone what you’re going to get or what to expect. You can make an educated guess; perhaps you’ll be right, or wrong, but we’ll often fail to see a person’s full potential or to see them as God does.

What makes someone a natural leader? Is it what they possess, is it just a luck of the draw, or it is about the possibilities that exist within them?

That question exists in today’s scripture. Why does God choose David to be the next king, and why does the Bible constantly testify to the fact that God delights in choosing the unlikeliest of folk to do the most amazing things?

For a brief history of the Israelites, God never intended them to have a King; God wanted to be their ruler. That’s what made Israel unique- they were not people united by race or politics but by their relationship with God and God’s covenant.

God spoke to them through judges and priests, but they demanded a human king, wanting to be like everyone else. It broke God’s heart, and God tried to give them a word of warning, using Samuel to relay the message.

“You don’t want a king. He’ll take your sons and make them fight in his army, he’ll take your daughters and make them maids. He’ll take the best of everything you have and give them to his cronies and use them for his own benefit. He’ll turn you into slaves and you’ll find yourself crying out because of your king.”

The people could care less: “We want a king so we can be like everyone else and he can fight our battles.” To which God told Samuel “Listen to the people and give them their king.”

Saul is the first person anointed King. He’s tall and imposing and wins wars, but he disobeys God and acts as if he did nothing wrong, leaving God no choice but to “fire” him. Samuel had a hard time bearing the bad news, but afterwards God sent him to anoint a new king.

Samuel is told to go to the little do-hicky of a town called Bethlehem to a nobody named Jesse.

Jesse did not come from what we would call blue blood: his grandma was a foreigner named Ruth, one of his ancestors pretended to be a prostitute while another one of his ancestors was the town prostitute. Yet it’s from this non-pedigree family that God plans to anoint the next king.

What happens next is something akin to “America’s Next Top Model” in which Jesse’s sons participate in a runway show. One by one they walk in front of Samuel for inspection.

First down the runway: Eliab, the oldest son with JFK’s good looks and Michael Jordan’s height.
“This is the one” Samuel thinks, impressed with his beauty. But God says “Na-ah. You’re looking at the superficial appearances, I look inside the heart.”

Next comes Abinadab but God says “Oh no, this one won’t do.” Brother after brother walk down the runway and all 7 brothers fail to pass the test.

In a situation similar to Cinderella, Samuel asks “Are you sure these are all the sons you got?” To which Jesse states “Well... there is an eighth one, he’s the youngest and kind of the runt of the family. He’s out in the fields guarding the sheep.”

“Well bring him in,” Samuel says.

Last born David is brought in and God immediately says “That’s it, he’s the one, get up, get up and anoint him.”

By all sense of established logic, Eliab, the first born with the movie star good looks should have been the king. But instead it was David, the eigth son, who was chosen.

And just in case you missed it, the moral of the story is simply this: God does not see the way we see, and God doesn’t always do what we would expect. God’s ways can surely be odd, but God’s ways are best.

There are various questions we can ask about this reading. What was it God saw in David that he did not see in the seven others? What was it that God saw in David that no one else, even his own father, could see?

Was it David’s traits? Sure, he was musically inclined, strong, sincerely loved the Lord and proved to be steadfast and brave. But David also had some questionable qualities. He would single handedly break five of the commandments. So what was it God saw in him?

Maybe it wasn’t what David already had or what he was capable of. Perhaps what God saw in David was a wonderful vessel that God could fill.

Perhaps David was something like a balloon.

Think about it. Have you ever purchased a bag of balloons? When left in the bag they have no value, just bits of color and rubber.

But look closer. What makes them valuable is that balloons can be stretched, and they can be filled with a multitude of things, thus becoming whatever you need them to be.

Fill them with your breathe and they’re pretty decorations to be tacked to the wall, or twisted into cool animal shapes. Fill them with helium and you have something that floats in air or when inhaled let’s you too talk in a high squeaky voice.

Fill them with water and they become playful blobs of wet fun, to be tossed back and forth in contests or used in a water balloon fight.

But balloons can also be used inappropriately. When swallowed they can become a tool of death. When stretched back they can snap someone’s skin. When filled with rocks they become a weapon. And when accidently let go they float away causing their little owner countless tears.

But a balloon is just a piece of colorful nothing until something is put inside of it.

Was that the secret to God calling David as king? That it wasn’t about his musical ability, his courage or strength, but God knowing here was someone who could be filled by the Spirit; that David was stretchable, thus allowing God to work through him, with him, and for him?

David was a leader, a lover, and a musician. He was raw and charismatic and throughout 1 and 2 Samuel we see how the Lord is with David and how David belongs to the Lord.

But at one time he was a nobody. The runt of the litter, from a questionable family in a tiny town, considered by his own kin not worthy enough to participate in a holy fashion show.

And yet it was David who would become the greatest king God’s people had ever seen, and it would be from David’s family tree that we would receive our Messiah, Jesus Christ.

We should be thankful that God does not see us through flawed human eyes, easily tricked by beauty and pedigree, but beyond, into our hearts, into our souls, into who we are and who we are capable of becoming.

May we not only seek to see others through the eyes of our Heavenly Father, but we should seek to see ourselves through God’s eyes as well.

Perhaps we’ll be surprised at just what God is calling and empowering us to do. And perhaps we can be audacious enough to ask God to fill us with whatever gifts God can, so we can be all God is calling us to be.

Thanks be to God who sees beyond height and stature, the Son who reaches out to all and the Spirit that fill us with endless possibilities.

Amen and amen.

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