A Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost
We have here the familiar story of David and Goliath. Goliath was a very tall man, described as being six cubits and a span tall, which comes to about 12 feet. The sight of the fierce giant, six cubits and a span tall (about twelve feet), towering over the hill, clad in armor and iron and brass from head to foot, filled the Jews with great terror. There was not a single man in the Jewish camp who dared accept the challenge to fight this man.
Among the armed forces of King Saul were David's three older brothers, Eliav, Avinadav, and Shama. David was told to stay home to tend his father's flock. With his youthful age and poetic soul, David was not regarded as a warrior at all.
One day, Yishai ordered David to take some provisions to his brothers on the battlefield. David had heard of the great humiliation his people were suffering daily from that fearful giant, and his heart was filled with a burning desire to kill the giant, and restore his people's pride and faith. When he came to the camp and witnessed the painful scene, and the mortification of his people, he decided to take up the challenge.
The next moment, one of the king's adjutants came up to David and told him that the king wanted to see him. David followed him, and the next moment, he stood before the king. The king's face was pale with sorrow and anxiety. Seeing David, Saul recalled how the young shepherd had been first introduced to him as "a man who knows how to play (the harp), a fine warrior, wise and handsome, and God is with him"; and how David's sweet music quickly eased his troubled mind. Could this lad be the unnamed person whom the prophet Shmuel declared to be the next king of Israel?
"Do you think you could take up Goliath's challenge and defeat him?" asked King Saul.
"No man could defile God's name and get away with it," David replied. "I trust in God to fight the battle for me."
"But what chance have you - an inexperienced young man - against a tough and seasoned warrior, a giant at that!"
"God has never forsaken me in the time of need. Once, as I was tending my father's sheep, a lion attacked my flock and made off with a lamb. I gave chase and saved the lamb from his very teeth. And when the beast charged at me, I slew him with my bare hands. The same thing happened again when a hungry bear attacked my flock. Surely, God who protected me when I went to save a lamb, will protect me when I go to save the dignity and fate of my people, in a fight with a vicious heathen who dared profane God's holy name!"
"You are a brave lad! You have my permission to go, and may God bless you and grant you success!" King Saul said.
If we but look around us, and read the news stories that present to us almost daily, it can be quite overwhelming. There are many Goliaths all around us. We have a government that seems intent on letting the sick die, the hungry starve to death, the poor be made even poorer and left to their own devices; this same government is turning a blind eye to the dramatic increase of racism, xenophobia, and nationalism. As a result, we – like David – find ourselves in deep sorrow at the humiliation and degradation of his people. Like David, we are filled with a burning desire to do something about it.
Now, for David, it was easy … relatively speaking. The Goliath facing us is much larger and has many obstacles of bureaucracy and is not so easily conquered. But that does not mean that it cannot be done.
“Charity begins at home” the old adage says. Look around. What is there, right here in our own town, that needs attention? Who is in need of assistance? Is there a school-child whose family cannot afford school lunches? Take care of it. Have you learned of a person or family in need of, say, a new refrigerator and they cannot afford a new one? Connect with them, and go together to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and get them that gently-used refrigerator. They always have quite a few of all different shapes and sizes. Is there someone who needs help with mowing their lawn or trimming shrubbery? Help them out.
This is where it begins. And as they used to say in those old TV commercials, “But wait! There’s more!”
Indeed there is more! Dare to be like David!
David saw his people being oppressed, and he did something about it!! Now, let me be clear, I do NOT advise you go out there and kill people who are creating a problem; that’s not how it’s done, that doesn’t pass the WWJD screener. If you see someone being victimized by racism, gender-phobia, anti-LGBT vitriol, or anything else, SPEAK UP!! Intervene!! Don’t just walk idly by, or stand by recording it. Do something useful! If it is within you power to do something to intervene and protect the one being victimized, then do so. If you fail to do this, you have taken the side of the oppressor.
In case you missed it, this is exactly what our buddy Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
But wait! There’s more!
I would invite to turn in the Book of Common Prayer to page 417. I’m going to ask you a few questions.
Will you persevere in resisting evil? [Pause] Are you sure? How do you plan to do this? [wait for answers.]
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself? How will you do this? [wait for answers]
Will you strive for justice among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? What do you plan to do to actively seek justice for those who are oppressed? What do you plan to do to respect the dignity of every human being, especially those who are different from you?
These are all part of our baptismal vows that we renew every time there is a baptism in this church. We join together in answering the questions as they are read to us.
Are we going to be hypocrites and just mindlessly recite the printed answers, or are we going to take them to heart, and LIVE according to the promises we are making?
Are we going to be like the Israelites who sat there quaking in fear despite all their armor and spears and swords, or are we going to be like David who actually DID something about the problem and liberated the Israelites?
Jesus calls us to be the liberators of the oppressed, each of us doing our part no matter how humble or seemingly insignificant, to free those living under the yoke of oppression. And oppression comes in so many forms: Racism. Xenophobia. Homophobia. Islamophobia. And a lot of other isms and phobias.
We currently have asylum-seeking families coming into the country who are being illegally arrested and whose children are being taken from them and placed in concentration camps all over the United States. And once again, Scripture is being used to justify it, just as the same scripture was used to justify taking Native American children from their families and placing them into camps, and taking Black slave babies & children and selling them. Though we may not be able to do very much with our hands and our feet at this time, we CAN make our voices heard by writing letters or making telephone calls to our lawmakers, making it clear that this is unacceptable and immoral. For those who are able, be prepared to take in a refugee child and provide for them a home of love and safety, and be prepared to adopt them, just as did millions of people during World War II for Jewish children.
Unless we truly commit ourselves, dedicate ourselves, to bring freedom … hope … succour … comfort … to those who are oppressed …. then we cannot call ourselves Followers of Jesus. We cannot call ourselves “Christian” -- we’ve lost that privilege. Because that is what Christianity – as Jesus taught us – is all about, and is embedded in the Great Commandment: Love your neighbour as yourself.
If you see a black person, or a Muslim, or a Jew, or a gay person, or ANYONE WHO IS DIFFERENT FROM YOU being oppressed or victimized, do something about it!! This is how we love our neighbour. This is how we are Jesus in the world around us. This is how we change the world, this is how we bring light – the Light of Love - into the darkness of the world around us. It’s all about actually doing something. Not writing a check to a charity, not just sitting there and praying about it – that prayer’s not going to do you – or anybody else - any good. Don’t pray for God to fix a situation that you can actually do something about! Instead of asking God to do something for someone, consider that YOU might very well be the one God is calling to do something about whatever it is that you’re praying about!
Dear God, there is a very hungry homeless man over there. Please send someone to get him some food. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Instead of praying this and walking on, pull out your wallet, and go to the nearest food place and get the fellow a couple of burgers and some iced tea and bring it to him. God put you there in the presence of a hungry homeless person for a reason, and that reason is NOT to pray for someone else to do your job for you!
David was but a simple, humble shepherd boy, too small and weak to move with all the armour on. So he took off everything that was getting in his way, things he didn’t need, and used the one thing he did best, and he made a difference.
A simple act liberated the oppressed and brought freedom to the captives.
Look at yourself in a mirror. Think about your skills, your talents, your gifts. Ask yourself, “How can I use what I’m good at to persevere in resisting evil, to serve Christ in all those around me in my community, and to strive for justice for all people? What can I actively do to LIVE my baptismal covenant?”
DARE TO BE LIKE DAVID!!!