Monday, June 11, 2012

Looking Ahead to June 17, 2012 -- 3rd Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 6

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • 1 Samuel 15:26-29, 34-16:23
  • Psalm 20
The Sermon Title is Second Choices

Early Thoughts:  Sometimes you have to start again.  When the first try has disappointing results it is sometimes just best to cut your losses.  And this, it appears, is what God does at the beginning of the monarchical period in Israel's history.

Saul has not been as great a choice as was first thought.  And so God has decided that a new king is needed.  {Note that the failing for which Saul is condemned is that he chooses not to destroy everything in his latest battle with the Amalekites, instead he almost acts prudently by saving some of the livestock.  Nevertheless this went against God's intention, as the story is told, and so is an act of rejection/rebellion which God will not accept}  Accordingly God instructs Samuel to go find the one whom God has selected to replace Saul. And then we meet, for the first time, a little shepherd boy who will, in due course, become the greatest King (for some reason he gets that title, although he is often a wholly unlikable man) of his people -- David, 8th son of Jesse.

Samuel, mind you, gets it all wrong for most of the story.   Had it been up to Samuel we never would have met David.  The story is, in part, about looking for other criteria than we automatically use.  Samuel is drawn to the sons who look "kingly".  God tells Samuel that it is what inside that really counts.  And that is certainly a sermon possibility.

However, it would be foolish to not at least look at the political aspects of this story.  Samuel has to travel to Bethlehem somewhat secretly because he is about to commit treason.  The elders of Bethlehem must have a sense that something is up because they are afraid when Samuel arrives.   David may be anointed here, but there is a long road of civil war ahead before the anointing translates into actual kingship.

A starkly historical reading may well be that there was a king, there was turmoil, there was a new king from a different house (in fact a whole different tribe).  But the writer/compiler/editor of the book of Samuel puts a theological spin on it.  For the writer, the guiding force behind the whole civil war was God.  And thus, the reader knows from this point on who the eventual winner will be.  The idea of a God who intervenes this directly in human affairs is, to say the least, challenging for many of us.  Do we believe there is this level of a plan?  Does this type of intervention turn all the humans into puppets?  How is God active in our lives?  That I think is where we will go on Sunday.

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