Sermon - Brad Brookins
I Samuel 16. 1-2 When the world has lost its mind
I Samuel 13. 13, 14; 16. 1, 2
Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he commanded you. The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel for ever, but now your kingdom will not continue; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart; and the Lord has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.’
The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’
Today’s story about David begins several chapters back in I Samuel.
At the urging of the people and against his better judgment, Samuel anoints Saul to be the first king of Israel. His expectations are not high. He is soon proven correct.
The first time Saul is in a tight spot, waiting for Samuel to arrive to offer a ritual sacrifice before a battle, he gives in to his anxiety and makes the sacrifice himself. Samuel is not pleased.
“You and your sons could have ruled this kingdom forever”, he tells Saul. “But now, God is taking the kingdom from you and giving it to a man after God’s own heart”
A little while later Saul, who is still king in spite of Samuel’s words, is sent on a holy war of exterminate the Amalekites. This time he gives in to pressure from his soldiers, allowing them to keep the spoils from the battle.
Samuel is really peeved: “‘The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you”, he says.
But just like before, Saul continues as king.
This brings us to today’s story. God tells Samuel to go to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse because God wants to provide a new king for Israel from among Jesse’s sons.
But Samuel is deathly afraid of King Saul. “I can’t go the Bethlehem”, he exclaims. “If Saul hears of it he will kill me”. “Just do it”, God says. So he goes.
But secretly. He comes to Bethlehem and invites Jesse to a feast. “And bring your sons”, he tells him.
Jesse comes to the feast with 7 of his 8 sons in tow. He presents Eliab, the eldest, to Samuel. Eliab must have been a strapping figure of a man. Samuel is sure he is the one who will be king. And here we find this famous line: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature”…God says…the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Six more sons pass by. Each one is rejected. “Do you have any more sons?” Samuel asks. “Only David, the youngest”, Jesse tells him, “But he’s out with the sheep”. “Bring him here”, Samuel commands.
David is brought in and the story teller goes gaga over him. “Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’”
And David becomes king, only not really; not yet. Saul is still the acting king.
But Saul is descending into mental illness with paranoid delusions. He tries to kill David. He succeeds in killing many other people. Things are not going well on the battle field; the kingdom Samuel and David were looking to build is coming apart at the seams.
Once again everything is at risk. The future, again, is uncertain.
Every week, as part of my own preparation for the upcoming Sunday morning, I put together a sort of study sheet for the adult class downstairs. This is usually a few comments on the text followed by a collection of the questions that occurred to me as I did my study. Sometimes they get only a few questions; sometimes a whole page or more.
This week I gave them just one.
All week long I kept being drawn to one phrase that isn’t even in today’s story—it’s back in chapter 13. It’s a phrase that sheds light on the whole story of David, and more importantly for me anyway, opens a door for wondering what the text says to us today.
Back in chapter 13, David is described as “a man after God’s own heart”; a person, that is, whose values and moral sensibilities reflect Divine values and moral sensibilities. What did it mean, I kept wondering, for David to be a man after God’s own heart in his particular setting; within the political, social and religious realities of his day?
David was called to serve in a dangerous and unsettled time. The Philistines were pressing hard while the king was quite literally losing his mind. The mental state of the nation’s leader affects the entire nation, you know. King Saul’s anger, hatred and paranoia were tearing the adolescent nation apart. They were coming unmoored from the moral values that had marked them as God’s covenant people ever since they left Egypt.
What did it mean, I wondered, for David to serve God—to “follow God’s heart”, in a world that was losing its mind?
And that question got me digging a little deeper. I began wondering about us, about today. And that led me to the one question I gave the class this morning:
How do we live “after God’s own heart”, in a world that has lost its mind?
To say our world has lost it’s mind is hardly an exaggeration.
Today we are on the verge of a stupid, pointless war with North Korea. Isn’t that crazy? Such a war could go nuclear. There are people in both governments who think this would be OK. That is crazy.
Civic conversation in this country quit being civil years ago—not only in Washington but in Mt Horeb, too. We can no longer talk to our neighbors who differ from us; mostly because we no longer know them, or see them as neighbors. Isn’t that crazy?
Politicians are re-writing, or rather un-writing, centuries old standards for pubic speech and behavior. White supremacy and bigotry is emboldened, as president Bush said this week. Hate crimes against African-Americans, Latinos and LGBTQ persons are way up this year. Isn’t this crazy?
Meanwhile hurricanes flood the south, wildfires consume the west, ice caps and glaciers melt and sea levels rise—yet half the politicians in Washington keep saying “Problem? What problem? I don’t see a problem”. Isn’t it crazy, not to mention immoral, for politicians and corporate moguls to care more about maintaining their power and wealth than they care about maintaining a livable planet for their own children and grandchildren?
If this isn’t evidence of a world gone mad, it’s a pretty good imitation.
So I think my question for today is a good one—not easy, to be sure, but necessary. How do we live “after God’s own heart” in a world that has lost its mind?
The first thing we have to admit is that the big problems I just outlined are beyond us. We individually, or even all of us together, can’t do much to stem raging climate change. We can’t stop the disgusting behavior of rich, old, white men in Washington or Los Angeles. We won’t persuade Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un to tone down their rhetoric.
We can vote more intelligently than Americans are prone to do and we can engage in the political process at local levels, but the truth is solutions, if there are any, will come from somewhere else.
There is, however, another option open to us; one more effective than most of us—myself included by the way, can even imagine. Two options, in fact.
First, we can trust that God is with us. Whatever destructive forces are unleashed, we will not be alone. So don’t worry. As Jesus said in the passage Tisha read, “Don’t be asking what you are to eat or drink, living in suspense of mind; your Father knows well what you need. No, make it your first care to find the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be yours without the asking”.
And second, we can follow through on that first thing—the “finding the kingdom of God” thing. We—and I mean us together, we can be a people who actually live “after God’s own heart”.
Following Jesus we can build new communities—churches, for instance, or volunteer groups or coffee klatches even; places where choices that contribute to the destruction of Creation are traded for choices that heal Creation; communities where bad choices aren’t made because good choices are available.
Following Jesus we can build communities where people can, and do, choose generosity over greed, kindness over anger, love over hate, forgiveness over judgment, peace over power, welcome over exclusion, trust over fear, light over darkness.
Following Jesus, enlivened by the Spirit, it is within our God given power to build the Beloved Community Dr King called for; the Kingdom of God that Jesus lived for.
We can do that. We are doing that; right now, right here. Go downstairs after church today. Eat. Talk. Wash dishes. Experience the beloved community. We are doing that.
But we can do it better.
And if humanity is going to survive beyond a few more generations, we, and many other communities, will have to do better.
Look—we are a welcoming community. But we could raise the bar on hospitality, welcoming more—all excluded people. It would be easy, and cheap; and Jesus wants us to do it.
Around here kindness and understanding are valued very highly. It wouldn’t be hard for us to find more ways to be kind and new ways to be understanding outside these walls.
We are generous people. Most of us could afford to be more generous, trusting that God’s abundant creation will be generous toward us.
We are a loving people. Can our love extend to the people we hate? To the people who hate the people we love? Can trust overcome our fear of those who are not like us?
I think it can. I believe it must.
Brian McLaren is right. “The Spirit of God is calling the church”, he says, “to stop trying to save itself, and instead to join God in saving the world”.
We can’t save the whole world, of course. We can save the part we live in. This is how:
Communities of people living after God’s heart will give birth to more people who live after God’s heart—more people who care about the earth, more people who know a neighbor when they see one, more people who love in new and generous ways. More people who vote wisely.
Or, to borrow the prophet’s words, more people who “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with their God”.
We can do this.
So don’t worry.
Follow God’s heart.
Find the kingdom.
Everything else will be yours as well.
 Brian McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration
Text and Questions for 10-22-17
I Samuel 16. 1-13
Peel back a layer on most any Bible story—especially one given a historical setting as this one is, and you will likely uncover danger, uncertainty, threat and worry. These are not, by and large, idyllic accounts of times when everything was going along
swimmingly. Rather, they are often stories of palace intrigue, political maneuverings, public idolatry, private unfaithfulness, threats from enemies and the hope for security. They are stories into which the story teller often inserts the presence of God.
In other words, these stories are theological interpretations of events in the lives of the characters and the life of the people of Israel.
Peel back the outer layer of today’s passage and you find a world coming apart at the seams. Samuel tells Saul God has removed the kingship from him. But that’s just Samuel’s interpretation, at least according to Saul. He remains king and Samuel is afraid. God tells Samuel to anoint a new king, but he has to do it secretly, for fear Saul will take his life. David is anointed king and the Spirit God comes upon him but he is not crowned king till quite a while later. In the mean time, Saul’s hatred of David grows hotter and David’s hold on life grows more tenuous. Failure is a real possibility. Many people will die before David actually becomes king; many more will die after.
What holds the story together, it seems to me, is Samuel’s claim back in chapter 13 that God has chosen “a man after (God’s) own heart” to take over the kingdom. The story unfolds around those words. What does it mean to be a man after God’s own heart?
Today, in contrast to every other Sunday, we have only 1 question. Bring the story of David and Saul, with its intrigue, treachery and danger, into our day. Consider the national, international and environmental dangers we face in a world again coming apart at the seams and consider this:
How do we live today as people “after God’s own heart”, in a world that has lost its mind?
Here are the texts for this Sunday. The second text, from Matthew 6, was not included earlier.
1 Samuel 16:1-13
1 The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ 2 Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’
4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ 5 He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’* 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see
as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he
said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’
11 Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ 12 He sent and brought him in.
Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon
David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went .
Matthew 6. 24-33
24 ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. 25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what
you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of
more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his
glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?”
or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these
things will be given to you as well.