The Rev. Rhoda Montgomery, D.Min.
4th Sunday after Pentecost
June 24, 2012
It’s been a lot of fun this week getting ready for Vacation Bible School…and by “getting ready” I mean watching staff members Rachel and Jordan and a lot of volunteers do all of the real preparation. The middle school and high school kids have been hard at work filming the story of Esther, our theme for the week. I make no promises about the quality of the film….but I can promise that a whole lot of effort and enthusiasm, and laughter have gone into the production. Mostly I’ve enjoyed watching our adorable 21st century youth group kids roaming the halls in “costumes”….lots of capes and bathrobes tied in various configurations in an effort to portray life in ancient Persia. I think my favorite costume has to be the bright yellow cape I saw tied to a middle school boy wearing modern day blue jeans and tennis shoes. But when he turns his back to the camera there’s a big Batman logo emblazoned across the back of the cape…just like it must have been in ancient Persia…I’m sure something got lost in the translation from the Hebrew to the Greek to English. But no matter, he wears it with pride and confidence.
Whether it’s vacation Bible school or Christmas pageants or dance recitals there’s just something marvelous about watching kids in costumes. Even with blue jeans and tennis shoes underneath, put a kid in a cape or a tattered old bathrobe and all of sudden he is a king or a palace guard or a shepherd watching over the baby Jesus with great tenderness and focus. But kids can navigate the interplay between costumes and reality with more agility than most grownups.
If we grownups aren’t careful…we will lose sight of when the costumes should be laid aside and when we just need to wear what we’ve got on and be who we really are. Esther had to learn that. But way before Esther, in a story far more familiar to most of us; a young shepherd boy named David learned that lesson first.
Over the past few Sundays we have begun this marvelous arc of a storyline in our Hebrew testament readings where the children of Israel, now free from bondage in Egypt, now free from wandering in the desert with Moses, the children of Israel are starting the big transition from a nomadic life to the development of a full on nation-state. And the children ask God for a king….so they can be like other nations. And as we heard three weeks ago, God says, “really? That’s what you want? Uggggh…(that might be a loose translation)” But essentially God says, you might regret this, but OK. So Saul is selected as the first king….and…like God had warned things start to unravel….Saul is disobedient and petulant and dangerous. So the search is on for a new king and God tells the prophet Samuel to anoint a handsome young shepherd boy as the future king. A boy with no leadership training, a boy who is too young to do anything else but take care of sheep, a boy who isn’t as rugged or tall or athletic as his 7 older brothers a boy who before he takes the throne slays a villain.
And not just any villain, but Goliath, the grand champion fighter, the world heavyweight, the ultimate fighting machine of a man who had terrorized and taunted the children of Israel. And although the translations vary about Goliath’s actual size, leading most scholars to believe he wasn’t a freakishly tall man as is often portrayed in stories and cartoons, Goliath was certainly big enough to play linebacker in the SEC.
And no one, no one wanted to take on Goliath, but the fighting between the Israelites and the Philistines was never going to end until the ringleader was defeated. And somewhere in between running errands for the troops and tending his father’s sheep, young David heard what was happening and how no one wanted to fight Goliath and he said, “I’ll do it”. And in the part we didn’t hear today, one of David’s older brothers said, “you are an idiot”…or words to that effect, but David persevered.
And Saul, who back in chapter 16 has started to figure out that his time on the throne was coming to an end, Saul said, “Go for it….and God be with you” (Saul must have thought to himself, God be with you because you are going to die.)
But first, Saul says, put this on. Put on my sword and armor. And the Bible is hilarious here, and the text reads: “David tried in vain to walk for he was not used to them.” And the phrase repeats--(always pay attention when the Bible repeats something)….So for a second time we hear, “David said to Saul I cannot walk with these for I am not used to them.”
I have this image of a child walking around in his mother’s high heels or his father’s big loafers and tripping over himself because they do not fit his small feet. But David does not need the overblown armor and sword, the costume of traditional power. The young shepherd boy knows who he is and Whose he is, and David knows that God has called him to do this crazy impossible thing and that’s all he needs. David has all that he needs to conquer the evil one threatening his people and all of a sudden the whole house of Israel becomes the flock of sheep that David must defend.
All of his experiences guarding sheep, all of the ridicule he has taken from his brothers, everything in his young life has led up to this moment but most of all he has faith in God that he can do this enormous task, and with only one of the smooth stones he has in his little pouch, David fells Goliath and Israel is saved from the marauding Philistines.
And even though to my modern 21st century ears this story ranks pretty high on the violence scale….and we didn’t even read the really awful part about what happens next, and what David does to Goliath’s head, even though there’s a lot in this story that I wouldn’t want us to carry out today, there’s a core piece of this story that absolutely speaks to us and to the Church, right now in 2012.
We need the confidence of David, the confidence that what we have been given by God, our identity as children of God, is enough…more than enough. We need to lay down the costumes that don’t fit us, and stand up proud and be who we are.
We have all that we need to slay the giants in our lives, the giants of debt and despair and current struggles in politics and in the Church. We have everything we need to slay the giant shrill voices of our time, the voices that say there is no hope, the voices that say you better get all you can before “those people” whoever they are, before “those people” take it away. You better be afraid of this and you better be afraid of that because what we have isn’t enough, we’re going to lose…whatever it is…position power money status, the shrill voices taunt us and tell us to be afraid.
But God calls us to stand tall. Be who we are, trust that what God has given me, and what God has given you is more than enough. We are children…but children of the living God who aren’t called to slump around in makeshift costumes and shoes that are too big or armor that’s too heavy, we are called to be who we are and trust, that it’s more than enough. Thanks be to God.