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Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: I Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 or Job 38:1-11, Psalm 9:9-20 (optional with II Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16) or Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32, II Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41 There are lots of lectionary choices for Sunday, June 21. Read them all if you want. One of the threads running through them is power and weakness and/or strength in the face of difficulty. I Samuel 17 starts off with the familiar story of Goliath. It’s full of violence. Even the "good" guy, the one who refuses to go into battle relaying on full military regalia and might, David, ends up flinging a stone so hard that it becomes imbedded in the giant enemy’s, Goliath, head. Then, for good measure, he buts Goliath’s head off. I don’t really know what to do with some of the details of the story. As much as I admire the lad with the sling, I’m offended. Mostly I’ve come to the story asking who are the giants threatening us. They can be personal (depression, addiction, loneliness, etc.), socio-economic (poverty, crime, overconsumption, greed), or political (terrorism, authoritarianism, racism, agism, sexism, and a lot of other "isms"), to name a few. The text calls us to trust God as our ally in fighting such giants. It explicitly wants us to "know," in I Samuel 17:47, "that the Lord does not save by sword and spear . . . " In the midst of a section of the Bible where we often see violence comes this warning against reliance upon the power of military might as a way of solving the problems of the world. I actually believe that I & II Samuel and I & II Kings constitute andantiwar tract in which the people are warned about reliance upon the power of a king. Look at I Samuel 8:4-18. The story is then told in violent detail until it leads inexoribly to the fall of the nation and the ruin of the people. In the end, relying upon military might leads to their, and our ruin. The passage from Job 38 is similar in that it warns us of the pride to think that we are the ones who make all things happen. There are so many things that happen that we don’t control—like last week’s windstorms or stock market crashes or 9/11 attacks. Yes, sometimes, many times, human hands are in the pot stirring things up, but it is the pride that we know and can predict all things that is not only arrogant, but dangerous. Pride and greed have gotten us into the current economic mess. Like the young David, we could do with a good dose of humility as we face the crises of this world. As Psalm 9:9 says, "The Lord is a stronghold . . . in times of trouble." Note in this Psalm that the Lord is again not on the side of the giants but on the side of the "oppressed" (vs. 9), and "the needy" (vs. 18). In the broad sweep of biblical history, we see that again and again. It’s not always comfortable for affluent people to realize that, but if we truly care about peace and justice, it reassures us when, like David, we face political and economic giants when the get out of hand and threaten to destroy the deeper values of human existence. The optional passage from I Samuel continues the story of David, offering us a love story between David and Jonathan (I Samuel 18:1-5). It then moves into the violence of Saul in the face of David’s popularity and success. Saul is jealous, perhaps driven a little mad, and attempts to kill David. Once again, we don’t get a very pretty picture of the machinations that occur in the inner workings of government. Earlier, in I Samuel 16:14 and following, David has been able to soothe Saul when the evil spirits overtake him, by playing the lyre for him. Apparently, Saul is now beyond that, but those who want to see peace and justice, and the healing of violence and troubled minds, may want to consider again the soothing and soul connecting (even across traditional lines of division) that music can sometimes bring. Both Psalm 107:25-30 and Mark 4:35-41 depict the soothing power of God in the face of the storms of life, storms perhaps being another way of talking about the giants we face. There is also an echo of the voice of God in Job asking who is really in charge anyway. We talk a lot about world peace, but a prerequisite to world peace is inner peace. Edwin Friedman has written about leaders needing to provide a "non-anxious presence." We get so anxious about so many things, even afraid. The shooting or shouting most often starts when we are anxious and fearful. We all need to hear the words, "Peace! Be still!" (Mark 4:39) Finally, the epistle, II Corinthinas 6:1-13, speaks also of strength in the face of adversity, in this case what Paul describes as "afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger." Is Paul complaining again? Theres’ more if you read the whole thing. The bottom line, though, is that he is alive and able to rejoice. He has learned, as he says elsewhere, "to be content with whatever I have." (Philippians 4:11) In II Corinthians 12:10 he makes a similar claim, while contrasting power and weakness. He puts himself on the side of weakness (David vs. Goliath) because that is where he realizes the strength and power of the love of Christ. He hears the Lord say, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." Lots to think about. Lots to digest. I can’t wait to see what Rick will do with one or more of these scriptures. In the meantime, I hope all of us "weaklings" are able to find strength enough to prevent the Goliaths and windstorms from overcoming us—maybe even move on to a place where peace prevails, inwardly and outwardly.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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