Friday, August 27, 2010

The Lord be with you.

We've been preaching familiar tales from the Old Testament during August. On Sunday we hear about David and Goliath. I write my sermons even later in the week when they are not based on the lectionary. It is a blessing to wander outside the structure I am used to - choosing stories I like and texts that interest me - but it is also a strange curse because my mind and heart tug the sermon in so many different directions, it takes awhile to get legs and move. On these weeks my sermon preparation mirrors the children's book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, finding new tangents and distractions around every corner. But that wandering is one of my favorite things about life and scripture, so today I'm taking you with me.

The first thing I noticed about this tale is that David approaches the battlefield and his brothers as an unwelcome runt. They hear him yapping that Goliath is no match for the living God. His comments make them defensive and David continues his naive and adorable take on the situation by volunteering himself. King Saul catches wind of this and, after trying to talk David out of it, simply says The Lord go with you. These are valuable words in David's ears - God's presence is the only reason David thinks he can defeat the giant! And while the soldiers of Israel watch a small shepherd boy approach the enemy, David knows he is much more than an army of one.

Then I was taken by the jealousy David's older brothers feel. As an oldest sibling, I can relate to that envy. Gabe would get swept away in rip currents when we'd play at the beach. He was so carefree and unaware by the time I would reach him and remind him to stay between the flags. I remember pushing him off the monkey bars one afternoon because I wished I were brave enough to jump off the top. He, of course, landed on his feet like a cat, giggling and ready to take another fearless dive. I wished for that ignorance and confidence that Gabe and David knew.

Next I could picture King Saul dressing David before battle, giving him fine armor and a heavy helmet for protection. Little David tried to walk, but he couldn't move! So he took the pieces off and stepped out as himself, totally vulnerable and possessing only the gifts he'd been given: a slingshot, good aim and a voice that proclaimed the true God. David wasn't a soldier and didn't need to look like one to stand up for himself, his people and his God. He just needed to stand up.

And when I imagine David walking toward the beastly Philistine holding just a staff and slingshot, I lift up a prayer for the people of St. John's and for all our churches. May the promised presence from God that Saul spoke so simply give us courage to be ourselves, to know our gifts and to stand up for the things God can do in this world. Imagine what our congregations and communities could be capable of if we trusted in whose we are and what God thinks we can do instead of banking on what we produce and who the world tells us to be.

And then I pray that we start trusting the value of our own gifts enough to call other people out on theirs, promising God's presence and creativity to our neighbors at Holy Communion and the grocery store alike. Because the world could use another optimistic runt or two.

It is Friday and the words I keep coming back to have titled this post. I have dwelled deeply in the text and wondered a lot about what God has to say this week. Who knows were Sunday will end up? That's what the Holy Spirit is for. And it's used to working with me, my crooked staff and my no-frills slingshot to preach great news.

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