Sunday Sermon 13th June Communion...David: The ripple effect of what we do
The chosen hymns for this week, Ye gates and Halleluya can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Communion...David: The ripple effect of what we do
1 Samuel 16: 1-13 Margaret
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 13th June.
This is our communion service so if you haven’t already done so maybe you would like to pause this talk now and get some bread and something to drink for the communion part later on.
One of the most detailed narratives in the Bible is the story of David; the shepherd boy who becomes king.
It is a fascinating story of political intrigue, of great highs and terrible lows.
Of noble deeds and savage betrayals.
Of how one heart can be part of both the greatest of men and the worst.
This isn’t some romantic story, a tale of rags to riches.
This is a story, our story, of how we live in a world of wonderful colours, but also black and whites and greys.
More importantly, how what we do will have ripple effects on so many people for good or for ill.
Today we hear the start of that journey as Margaret leads us in our prayer and reading...
I have been enjoying reading the books of Samuel over the last six months.
They are very deep, much nuanced books that are so well written.
We do them an injustice when we read them as if they were some kind of fairy story or some kind of romantic book about a hero king called David.
These books have much to teach us about our lives.
If you read these books yourself then when you read them imagine that your life is your kingdom, you are the king of your life, and David represents you. Then, as you read David’s story, imagine that he is living a parable of your life, your ups and downs, your struggles and triumphs, doing that you will see that David made real life choices, and those real life choices have real life consequences.
But today we start with how he was anointed by Samuel to be the future king.
And the first thing we see is that the beginning is not the beginning.
And that is important.
How many times do we judge ourselves on an action, and we judge others on their actions, and we are hard on ourselves, or we are hard on them, because we dislike that action. What we or they have done is completely out of order and unforgiveable.
And the truth is that that action isn’t a one off incident that has no context or back-story. Everything that happens is a ripple of something else that has happened.
This is the start of David’s story, only it isn’t the start, if anything it is the culmination of stories.
Samuel’s story...the last of the judges.
Before Samuel when Israel had a problem God raised up a charismatic leader to defend the people. Samuel was the last of these judges.
Samuel was getting old and the people were getting fed up of the unpredictability of the judges. What is more Samuels sons were corrupt. The people wanted something more stable, like one of those kings that the other nations had.
With those foreign nation kings came permanent armies with trained warriors.
The people believed that if they had a king like that, that would give them stability.
The truth is that all it would give them was a new set of problems.
Not having a king had problems, having a king would have a different set of problems.
But Samuel didn’t look at it that way. Samuel took this king idea as a personal rejection on his ministry.
So, very reluctantly, he went along with the people. But it was a half hearted attempt at best. His first attempt at finding a suitable king, Saul, was a disaster. And it was a disaster because of Samuel.
When Samuel chose Saul, he didn’t believe that a king was a good idea, what would be a better idea was a king that would have to listen to Samuel for all the good advice that Samuel would give him. Samuel thought he could control Saul, Samuel was always undermining Saul, trying to keep him weak so that he would have to go back to Samuel for advice.
Eventually Saul rebelled against Samuel, fed up of always been treated like an idiot, fed up of always being set up to fail.
What was worse Samuel told Saul that he wasn’t good enough and that someone else would be chosen to take over from him, so now Saul couldn’t trust anyone.
He couldn’t trust Samuel who was supposed to be his advisor because he was looking for his replacement.
He couldn’t trust any of the court because they would be the first in line to replace him.
He couldn’t even trust God because Samuel told him that it was God who wanted him gone.
No wonder Saul felt paranoid.
But that meant Israel had a king who was weak because Samuel had deliberately picked someone inadequate for the job; and this weak, insecure king was very unpredictable.
At points Saul was too scared to do the right thing, at other times lashing out irrationally, trying to prove to himself and others how strong he was.
Samuel is washing his hands of it all trying to pretend that nothing of this is his fault.
And now he is led by God to pick the next king.
And what does he do?
He nearly makes the same mistakes that he did before.
He goes for the tall, handsome, charismatic leader.
Again and again he goes with his instinct, when we already know that his instinct is questionable.
There is something mildly comical as all these sons go before Samuel and he says to himself, ‘Of this I am sure, this is the one...oh no maybe not.’
At the same time we have Jesse’s story.
A powerful man who has ambitions; he is growing a dynasty in his own home, training his sons to be warriors as we will see soon when they go off to war.
But not treating his sons equally. When he is told to get his family together he doesn’t even bother bringing in David. David is the Cinderella of the family.
And over the whole of the story we see that has a dramatic effect on David, while he has been in the fields looking after the sheep he has been growing ambitions of a boy determined to be a man who will be noticed, who will not be ignored, who will seek to grab as much power and influence as he can so that no one can ever overlook him again.
So what do we learn from all this?
I think two things.
One is a message of forgiveness.
We need to learn to forgive ourselves more, and forgive others.
Because often the things that we do are because of ripples of stuff from the past.
Have you ever done something and thought to yourself, ‘How did I get in this mess?’
Because an action is never just an action, it is a ripple from the past.
People who have been married for a long time are perfect examples of this.
They can be doing something completely innocent, and they go from Defcom 5 to Defcom 1 in an instant.
The two of them are in the kitchen, the husband is peeling the potatoes, and the wife is preparing the chicken.
The wife says something like, ‘You did get the asparagus spears like you promised.’
And he says, ’I never promised anything. You never told me to get an asparagus. I don’t even like asparagus with chicken anyway.’
A seemingly innocent conversation that can be reasonably sorted out; they laugh, they joke, they agree to go with garden peas.
Only that doesn’t happen.
Instead the wife says, ‘You never listen to me. How many times do I have to tell you to do things before it sinks in?’
Instead the husband says, ‘I don’t listen to you? How many times do I tell you that a conversation isn’t a real conversation if it is only happened in your head?’
And now you are aware that there are two very angry people with knives in their hands....
How does that happen?
It happens because of the history that went before.
We need to learn that too often we react instead of reflect.
In any conversation, in any interaction, we do not come in fresh, we come in with history. And if we are not too careful we make the same mistakes again and again and again.
We need to learn to forgive ourselves from the past, learn from the past, and move on from the past.
And we need to do the same for others or else we destine them to make the same mistakes again and again and again.
The other insight is this.
We are going to create ripples that will have a life of their own.
If we are going to create ripples anyway, why not be deliberate and create ripples that will create good.
Samuel created a ripple of control that had disastrous affects on Saul, and through Saul had disastrous effects on the country.
Jesse had ripples of indifference and neglect on David which created this power hungry child that was always craving attention and unable to show affection to others, or maybe even feel affection for others.
What if Samuel had encouraged Saul to find and develop his own leadership gifts, what if Samuel had taken all Saul’s mistakes and instead of criticizing him had tried to develop him?
What of Jesse had treated all his sons as worthy and special?
It couldn’t have made things worse.
In these passages God is telling us that what we do matters.
If we do nothing and put our head in the sand it matters.
If we let the world pass by and don’t do anything, it matters.
But it also means that when we get involved it matters too, we can create ripples of good in this world.
So my homework for you this week is very simple...try to create ripples of good.
Just write to someone and tell them what a great friend they have been.
Just phone someone and ask them how they are getting on.
Just have coffee with someone and share with them how much better your life is with them in it.
If someone you know is a long term carer then contact them and let them know how much you admire what they have been doing for someone else.
If someone is struggling just now then contact them and let them know that you are willing to help, that they are not alone.
There are so many people struggling out there just now.
And the difference between them going under and persevering might be as simple as one of us letting them know that we have noticed how hard their life is, and we are there with them.
Which is really the spiritual truth and hope of communion;
the true strength and wonder and the hope that communion gives us is that what we hopefully offer others is what God offers us.
Because when we receive this bread and wine it is as if God is reminding us that He is there for us,
We are not alone, we can persevere, we can overcome, we can get better, be better.
Remember, if you want to see our worship live then phone me up between 6-9pm Monday-Friday. Places are limited so they are given on a first come, first served basis.
But if you are unable to attend for whatever reason you can also watch them the way you are watching this service.
We are also open for anyone to come in for private prayer and reflection on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 1pm.
God of potential,
God, who seeks, and finds, and chooses,
God, who sees beyond the surface to the heart of all,
you have chosen us to be your people.
As we leave this time and space
help us to look at the world with your eyes:
help us to see opportunities, not obstacles,
possibilities and promise in unexpected people and places—
so may we build up others, and create ripples of wonder and good in the world.