1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
or 1 Samuel 17:57 - 18:5, 10-16
Proper 7 (12) - Year B
When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. (11)
And David heard him. (23)
David said to Saul, "Let no one's heart fail because of him...." (32)
... the LORD does not save by sword and spear." (47)
Let's check our hearing and our understandings.
It appears that what we understand affects what is heard. When we are looking at issues of power we can approach it from the perspective of might makes right. In this case, the one with the bigger weapon wins. If this is our understanding, we are correct in being afraid of currently being behind in the bigness category and also being afraid that at some future time we will fall behind in such.
An alternative approach is not the reverse of right-makes-might, but the sideways gift of metaphor and analogy and other images. Goliath is enough to engender mass hysteria; his challenge, if taken literally, freezes responses. If we can see him naked under all that armor we know from previous encounters that we can deal with a big pussycat, even if it has a scary name, like "lion." If we can look carefully we can note a chink in the armor (speed vs. mass) and redefine the challenge. This redefinition re-defines what we now can do.
Reframing the situation offers new hope. We will still, though, still need some courage to proceed.
After the event, David still had four smooth stones from the wadi - for additional situations. Imagine David giving you one of those stones and saying, "Don't let your heart fail," inviting you to reframe the situation in which you experience the most fear (oh, I forgot, these days we only talk about being "a little uncomfortable" - not much motivation there to seek an alternative way).
May you not walk in the armor of the past but the freedom of GOD in the present.
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I'm going to be working on Sunday primarily with the reading from 1 Sam and will be talking about the giants we allow into our life and which we also allow to control our lives. In 1 Sam the giant is Goliath. In Mark the giant is the storm at sea and the fear it spawned. The 2 Cor passage's "heart wide open" would work well here too. The wide open heart is wide open to God's work, word & will.
Confronted with overweening force or entrapping questions we have decisions to make.
Do we do what we can do? Palestinians with stones against Israelis with tanks, occupied Iranians against armored Americans, David against Goliath? Against all reason we claim a place that is not put down and dismissed. We will be meaningful, even in defeat. We will not go into that good night.
Do we eventually give in, claiming that it took us awhile to get it but now we are willing to succumb to the power arrayed against us. Once having redefined our relationship we can redefine everything else to perceive that war is peace, that we have more now than we ever did, that our new family and circumstance is ever so much better than the old.
Where is wisdom in these days? How far will we go to hold the integrity of an intention for all to work together for good? How far will we go to care for the least? How far will we go to claim our experience as a viable alternative to everyone else's tradition?
All too often David would get assassinated by a death squad before even making it to the brook to pick up one stone. All too often it is Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar that make the big bucks. And so it is difficult to maintain our listening to a still small voice that allows us to go ahead. What implacability are you facing and what are you going to do about it?
Open wide your heart, let's go to the other side where we will be in the presence of mystery and openly challenge impossible situations. In so doing, praises will be sung and thanks given.
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open wide your heart
let's go to the other side
in the presence of mystery
open challenge will be given
to impossible situations
in so doing
praises will be sung
What to do in the face of assured destruction? We are not talking here about mutual assured destruction (MAD) that was the basis of the cold war arms race, but just assured destruction. When the world is after your head and there is no way out – what to do?
We hear here about five smooth stones. Not the jagged ones that would slow down on their way to their target, but smooth ones that fly straight and dive deep. One image of these smooth stones is to consider them as the deep questions that cause a pause and a change of thought, of heart.
Liberation forces have never tried to out-do their adversary on the same level. There needs to be some soul-judo that goes on where an opponent's strength is turned on themselves.
Goliath had assurance to the max. He was right. He had might. He would rule.
Going against Goliath's assurance is not a winning tactic. He'll probably win and feel more assured. The same holds for Goliath's might. What is left is the issue of being right. This is an entry point for the smooth stones to go to the heart of Goliath's operating system. To raise a question dampens enthusiasm and brings a moment of hesitation in execution.
Imagine coming to someone in the name of the Lord of Questions. What would that do to your interaction with someone constrained enough in their behavior that they think doing away with you would answer some important question? What would that do to your image of G*D? How would it change your relationship with whatever "Goliath" you are facing.
David put his head to the matter, took out a question, asked it, and struck Goliath on his assumption of right; Goliath took a question to the head and he began to change. (This does need to acknowledge that this is not a magic formula. You may remember the enormous and multiple pain incurred during the Salt March in India and the Civil Right Marches in the United States of America – many were injured and killed, but the questions piled as high as their sacrifice.)
What would you ask Goliath?
* Will a superiority of equipment or widening some stuff-gap assure your happiness?
* If you met your match and were defeated, would you still have worth?
* How many people must die before you will know that too many people have died?
* What color are my eyes that see productivity, not destruction, still alive in you?
* What harm would come if we shared our dreams before you murder me? Why don't you go first.
Now, facing your particular "Goliath", what five smooth questions would you ask of both "Goliath" and yourself?
Storms at sea and battles on land. In the midst of crisis we look around and find someone on the edge of perception is a source of breakthrough. A sleeping one and one too young bring a new way of looking at a situation. Fresh eyes see a way through. So many fearful eyes had missed important connections. We have a boat-load of teachings, pick one. We have so many stones, pick any five.
As per usual, life comes down to one new choice. Rejoice - today a new choice is available to you. Pick one or five, but pick.