Sunday, June 21, 2009
Third after Pentecost, 2009
David Slings the Stone
James Tissot, c. 1900
June 21, 2009
I Samuel 17;
II Corinthians 6: 1-13; Mark 4: 35-41
Earlier this week while I was driving down South Braddock Avenue I noticed that the Regent Square Theater was showing the 1995 film Clueless – that very fun adolescent comedy, based on Jane Austen’s novel Emma, with the young actress Alicia Silverstone. And as I saw that, thinking about this other young adolescent in our view this week, young David of Bethlehem, it occurred to me that maybe we would call his movie not Clueless, but Fearless.
David strides onto the stage here with all the bluster and ego and self-confidence of a robust 13-year-old boy. We know his type. A young Beowulf: I guess he’d be played by a teenaged Marlon Brando. Invincible. Gutsy. Always right. Totally unphased by the amused, skeptical pragmatism of the grown-up men around him, even when they dress him up in all that armor and enjoy a good laugh. They’re looking at the numbers, the size of the armies, comparative weapons systems, and things don’t look so good. But David—you don’t bother him with the facts. He’s just ready to rumble.
Of course, we drill down a little deeper into this moment, this famous story, the story of the Kid and the Giant, and we see that there is more here than just a typical brash teenager and a lucky first-throw with the slingshot. If David reminds us in some ways of that typical teenager, we’re asked to see something else in him as well. The source of this brash, over-the-top confidence. We’re asked to see that this amazing, fearless moment is grounded on something more than testosterone.
Three thousand years ago, but these words ring out as fresh here this morning as they were on that morning: “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand . . . .”
This isn’t a story about a reckless teenager. It’s about a man of faith. Holy confidence. About how from that moment years ago when the Prophet Samuel had anointed young David’s head with oil and proclaimed, “This is the One,” there was the Spirit of God moving with strength, and a sense for us in this story of the certainty of God’s plan and God’s destiny. For David, for Israel. It’s not just a boy here before us. It’s Daniel in the Den of Lions, it’s Esther standing up to the Shah.
Heroes. Prophets. Martyrs. Generation after generation. Bold and brave, no matter what the odds, no matter the apparent strength of the powers lined up against them. All kinds of images. Father Damien sailing out to the island of the Lepers. Mother Teresa gathering the dying on the streets of Calcutta. I think of my friend Mike Wurschmidt, my colleague and Stacy’s colleague and friend also, who with his wife Tina and a few friends 15 years ago and more now decided to go out to the places under the bridges of Pittsburgh, and down by the river, where the homeless were sleeping, and to reach out to drug addicts and the mentally ill on the streets, and then to gather them together into a family, a church, a community of faith, with our Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship.
How do they do it? As in Mark, the storm winds howl, as they did last Wednesday night, the rain pours down, the waves are rolling faster and faster, and we like those disciples begin to shake him, “Wake up, Jesus. Help!” And then of course to hear him, not to rebuke us, because he speaks to us in love and with encouragement, but to rebuke the wind and the waves. “Really, really: what is there to be afraid of? Peace. Be still.”
Paul in the second lesson this morning from Second Corinthians can talk about a life of endurance and triumph in Christ, for better, for worse, for richer for poorer. It’s all good, because we know who’s in charge. It’s all good.
Again and again to go back to Paul in Romans 8: Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus or Lord.
It speaks to us, Christian friends, down the centuries. David before the giant, with only those five smooth stones and his leather sling. Those friends that night in that tiny boat on the stormy lake. A word about what Christ has won for us, who Christ is for us, about our life in the Spirit of God.
Living in this world as we do have sometimes pretty scary giants, and feeling like we don’t have much in us and on our side to fight them with. Living in some pretty small boats sometime, in the midst of pretty big storms.
This not about cluelessness or carelessness, not about poor judgment or some kind of wild adolescent impulsivity. As God has given us minds to think with, reason, memory, skill. But this is about who we are in our hearts. Win or lose. Victory or defeat.
To hear his word, as he quiets the wind and stills the waves. “Peace, be still.” Remember the whole story. To see and to know that it isn’t our story, but God’s story.
On her sickbed and at the threshold of death Dame Julian of Norwich had her mind and her heart and her imagination filled with the image of the sufferings of Christ, his wounds, his death on the Cross, and in all that she found herself repeating over and over and over again: And all shall be well. And all shall be well.
As young David says, as we would say, as we would pray, through all our battles, confronting our fears: Today you will see that there is a God in Israel.
So then we come to the altar. We break the bread and share the cup and participate together in the heavenly feast. With the prayer that we might open our hearts to him, that we might go out this morning in the power of the Spirit, in a world of storms, in lives where there are many giants, with a spirit of boldness, and confidence, and standing in faith. Like David. Not clueless, but fearless.