Sunday Sermon 20th June - Nothing as it seems
The chosen hymns for this week, Courage brother do not stumble and 10,000 reasons can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
David: Nothing as it seems
1 Samuel 17: 20-37 John
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 20th June.
Today is a very famous story.
David verses Goliath.
We think we know the story, we think we understand the story.
I would suggest that we are maybe a bit naive about the story.
Let me tell you how I think you understand the story.
There is a giant Goliath who is terrorising the Israelite army.
Along comes David, a young innocent who believes that God is on his side.
The rest of the Israelite army know how difficult it would be to defeat Goliath, even Saul the king is scared.
But David, with his blind faith and trust in God, takes on the giant and defeats him with nothing more than a slingshot and some stones.
And the moral of the story is, if only we have faith we can defeat the giants in our life.
How am I doing?
Is that what you think?
So what of those who don’t defeat their Goliaths? Do they just not have enough faith?
Well what if we have made a mistake, what if we have heard the Sunday school version so often that we think that is what happened?
Maybe it’s time to hear the grown up version.
Our reading today, although part of the David/Goliath story, isn’t part you would have heard, or if you have you’ve probably ignored it. But it gives us an insight into the heart of David, his motivations.
We will hear that from John as he leads us in the reading and prayer...
The theme of today is ‘Nothing as it seems’.
And trust me, if you read the Bible, and I mean read the Bible, rather than just recall the Sunday School stories of old, then nothing is as it seems.
And that is a good thing.
One of the big problems we have in the church is that we are scared to challenge our conceptions of faith.
So often I deal with people who are disillusioned with their faith. And their faith isn’t the problem. The problem is that the truths we gave for the Sunday School were good enough for children, but we kept to those truths as grownups and they just aren’t good enough.
The strange thing is that we don’t do that with any other part of our life.
When we are very young and we fall and hurt our knee we tell children, ‘Do you want me to kiss it better?’
And it works.
It works because as adults we have triaged that child and know that they aren’t really hurt, they just got a fright.
And kissing the wee one in the hurt place distracts them enough to reset their brain. They realise that they aren’t all that badly hurt and that they can carry on.
It is not a lie; it is a truth that works at the level it is meant to work.
If there really was something wrong, if the child came in and a bone is sticking through the skin the parent would never say, ‘Do you want me to kiss it better?’ The parent would be rushing the child to Accident and Emergency.
Now imagine you are a child and you had wonderful parents who miraculously healed you so many times by kissing it better.
As a grown up you would never go to the doctors with heart pains and say to the doctor, ‘I have these chest pains; do you think you could kiss it better?’
We understand this nuance with medicine...and so many other things. That we tell children truths at a level they understand. But for some reason when it comes to the Bible we don’t think to do that.
So we remember the David and Goliath story it all seems pretty clear. ‘
And if these Goliaths don’t go away, if our problems don’t go away...then we have two awful conclusions.
1) We don’t have enough faith. So we beat ourselves up, or
2) Our faith is wrong.
Maybe the truth is that we need to grow up a bit.
So in this story I would like to suggest that things are not as they seem.
He is not as he seems.
We look at Goliath as invincible. He is huge he is mighty, he is a warrior.
Listen to this description from 1 Samuel 17:4-7
A man named Goliath, from the city of Gath, came out from the Philistine camp to challenge the Israelites. He was nearly 3 metres tall and wore bronze armour that weighed about 57 kilogrammes and a bronze helmet. His legs were also protected by bronze armour, and he carried a bronze javelin sling over his shoulder. His spear was a thick as a weaver’s loom, and its iron head weighed about seven kilogrammes. A soldier walked in front of him carrying his shield.
This guy is not invincible, this guy is vulnerable.
Goliath is the answer to only one problem.
If your problem is, ‘How do you beat a big guy in armour at close range?’ then Goliath is your answer, outwith that he is useless.
He is slow, carrying far too much weight.
He is carrying so much weight that he can’t carry his shield as well. He needs someone else to do that.
Yes he is big and frightening. But that is all he is.
The problem that Saul and the rest of them have is they think that as Goliath has all this armour, then they have to have all that armour.
And as soon as they fight Goliath on his terms they are going to lose.
In a battle of strength and power over a short period of time and distance then Goliath will win.
But as long as you are out of his range he can’t hurt you, and he certainly can’t run after you, not with all that armour on.
There is a famous scene in the first Indiana Jones movies, in this scene, Indiana is chasing a group of bad guys who have kidnapped his girlfriend, and then this man confronts Indiana. This enemy is a trained martial arts expert and his does all the fancy stuff to show Indiana that he hasn’t a chance of beating him in hand to hand combat. So instead of confronting him Indiana takes out a gun and shoots him.
If this David and Goliath scene was a modern day movie Goliath would be a lumbering tank. With a great big turret that takes ages to turn. Sure it could blow up a building. But it is useless against a ten year old that has the speed to move faster than the turret and place a limpet mine on the armour and then run away.
Goliath is not the invincible problem that he seems.
And David has seen that.
David has seen that as long as he keeps out of the reach of Goliath, which would be easy because Goliath is carrying all that weight and David is carrying nothing but a slingshot and some stones, then David will be safe.
David has also seen that Goliath is vulnerable to long range weapons.
Goliath is not the problem that he seems.
And David is not what he seems either.
David is not the innocent we make him out to be.
David is a man on a mission. He wants to be noticed, he wants to rise up the ranks.
But unfortunately he is the youngest of the family.
And then he hears something.
Now here is an important Biblical principle, especially in the Old Testament.
The first time someone speaks they give an insight into their character.
David has been in the story for a couple of chapters now. He has been anointed by Samuel to be the next king. He has been placed in the court of Saul as a harpist to sooth Saul’s depression. But in all that time others have spoken around David, but David hasn’t said a word. He has kept his council to himself.
All through the conflict and the declarations of Goliath he says nothing.
Then there is this...
When the Israelites saw Goliath they ran away in terror. ‘Look at him!’ they said to each other. ‘Listen to his challenge! King Saul has promised to give a big reward to the man who kills him; the king will also give him his daughter to marry...’
Now there is money on offer, now there is the king’s daughter and being part of the succession line to the kingship of Israel...and now David speaks...
‘What will the man get who kills this Philistine and frees Israel from this disgrace?’
Now David’s heart is shown.
David is not all the innocent we make him.
He is militarily sharp...He has already worked out Goliaths weaknesses.
He is politically sharp...
He is working out how this can put him in a place of great power and influence.
Poor Goliath didn’t stand a chance.
For David the risks were small and the rewards were huge.
Now where does that get us?
I think it gives us a couple of insights that are helpful.
The first is that we really need to look at our problems.
Not glance at them and say, ‘They are big and scary and I don’t want to look at them anymore.’
Because we have a tendency to do that; to close our eyes; to hope that the problem just goes away.
If nothing else if we ignore our problems then we don’t need to deal with them until later.
Goliath was scary until you seriously looked at him, then once you looked at him you could work out how to deal with him.
Our church has huge problems, but the thing about huge problems is that they are big and lumbering and are easy targets to hit. So maybe they are not as scary as we think they are.
The second is that maybe we need to be a bit more like David.
I know I make David sound as if he might be the bad guy, but that is because I liken him politically to people like Boris Johnston and Tony Blair, really shrewd and canny political people, but not people I would necessarily trust.
But David had a knack. People loved David, for all his flaws, and there were many, people loved David. And they loved David because he had a knack, particularly at this time, of picking the option that not only benefited him, but also everyone else on his side.
Yes he would defeat Goliath, win the money and the political power. But it would also give the soldiers a time of peace, their wives wouldn’t become widows, their children wouldn’t become orphans. David wins, but everyone else wins too.
I think what I am trying to say is...
When we are looking at solutions to problems, let’s try to make as many people as possible win.
For instance...huge problem...between now and Christmas the church wants local churches like ours to work out how we will move from over 1000 churches that need ministers, down to 600.
Maybe Alva will be one of the lucky ones that get to keep a minister. Maybe we can justify and prove that it would be a good investment for Alva to have a minister. But in that scenario Alva wins and other churches lose. And those other churches resent the churches that have a minister, like Alva.
But what if we create a heart within ourselves that doesn’t see us as competing with other churches? What if we try to help them as best we can? So maybe Alva has a minister, great. But each week we produce a sermon that we can send out to churches without a minister so that they can still have worship every week. Their worship teams do the prayers and readings, but they don’t need to go though the worry and the tough work of producing a sermon every week.
Who loses in that?
As we will see through the weeks ahead David was manipulative and ambitious...but as long as he used that for the good of others as well as himself, then he was also loved.
That sounds complicated, grown up, and maybe hard to understand what that means for us.
So to put it more simply...
This passage teaches us that our personality is never God’s problem; he doesn’t care what our base personality is; extrovert, introvert, ambitious, bold, timorous...God doesn’t care about our personality. But he does care with what we do with it.
Be yourself, but be the best self you can be.
We rejoice that we don’t need to be as perfect as our innocent image of David is, before you help us.
That you take us as we are, flaws and all, as David truly was, and you seek to help us.
Though if truth be told, more often we are like Goliath.
Poor Goliath, trusting in all the heavy, weighty stuff that he thought kept him safe.
And poor us when we trust an all the heavy rubbish that we think keeps us safe.
What kind of baggage are we carrying around?
What kind of stuff are we holding onto that we think protects us
when in reality it holds us back from the joy and the peace you would want us to have.
The anger at past slights both real and imagined.
The resentments that we were not acknowledged the way we thought we should have.
The feelings of shame when we didn’t live up to the expectations of ourselves or others.
Help us to let go of it all.
To just be ourselves.
To be the one you love.
To be the one who is cared for.
To be the one who is chosen to be your child.
And may that version of us, that true image of your Son, bear the fruit of compassion and forgiveness, reaching out to share your love to others.
Not waiting to do good, but seeking ways to do good.
This we ask in Jesus name.
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.
The God of surprises,
the God of the least likely, the last-chancers, and the underdogs,
bless you and challenges you,
inspire and encourage you,
astonish and delight you,
this day, and always.