Sunday 17th June 2018
1 Samuel Chapter 15 verses 34 – 16:13
Maggie Cogan - Reader
Parenthood is essentially a matter of continuous training. By that I mean that everything we do day in and day out teaches our child something - sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. So from time to time we have to ask ourselves: "What am I teaching my children? What am I communicating to them?" With that question in mind, let’s look at the Old Testament reading we heard read from the first book of Samuel.
The Lord commanded the prophet Samuel to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem and anoint one of his sons as Saul's successor. When Samuel arrived at Jesse's house, he learned that Jesse had eight sons. Jesse trotted the oldest ones out proudly hoping that one of them was the one Samuel was seeking. But no, none of them would do. About that time, Samuel was wondering if he had got his assignment right from the Lord, wondering if he had made a mistake. Just to make sure, he asked if Jesse had any more sons and he did. The youngest boy named David who was out tending sheep. Jesse summoned David, and when he arrived, the Lord said to Samuel, "This is the one." And so, right then and there, David was anointed as Israel's next king.
"This is the one." Those words sum up the kind of attitude parents ought to have toward their children and communicate to their children.
For example, this expression reminds me of the importance of instilling in our children a sense of self-worth. Of giving them the gift of acceptance and letting them know they are special in their own way.
"This is the one" can translate into "You are somebody special."
Unfortunately, Samuel went about his task of finding the Lord's anointed with a sort of "beauty contest" mentality. And Jesse did, too. They looked for the most handsome, the strongest the one who appeared to have the most wisdom. When Samuel had looked over all Jesse's sons, he asked if there were any more. Jesse said, "Well, there's David. Now, he's the youngest. And he's out tending sheep." The unspoken idea Jesse communicated was, "He's not the one." Jesse overlooked David because he was the youngest, probably not the most handsome, and certainly lacking maturity. "He's nothing special. Nope, he's not the one."
If we're not careful, parents today can succumb to the same tendency: to minimize their children, to discount who they are for one reason or another. In a thousand little ways, we can communicate to our children the sense that they're not special on their own, that they don't measure up either to a sibling or to someone else. As a result, they will grow up lacking a sense of self-confidence. They will never feel accepted on their own terms. So, what is the proper approach? How can we go about instilling within our children that vital sense of self-worth and acceptance? I think there is nothing more valuable in this regard than us as parents enjoying our children. Yes, that's exactly what I said: "enjoying your children."
But it's true, nonetheless. Children will develop a sense of self-worth and acceptance to the degree we enjoy them. Our children will develop that sense of acceptance and worth that will enable them to contribute to this world only to the degree that they sense we're glad they're here, that we enjoy the fact that they are a part of our lives. In so doing, we give them the sense that they really are "the one" no matter what.
Charles and John Wesley are familiar names to us - one a great hymn-writer the other a great preacher. Instrumental in founding what we know today as the Methodist church, but Charles and John Wesley were but two of the 18 children born to Suzanna Wesley and her husband. Now, in that time, there were certainly few, if any, conveniences to make a day's work around the house easier.
Nevertheless, this wonderful woman made a point of spending some part of her day with each of her children. She refused to let time become her enemy, and in her own way, let them know that she delighted in them. She was able to communicate to each of those children the sense that "you are the one as far as I am concerned." I am convinced that her diligence in this regard enabled Charles and John to make the contributions to the church that they did.
"This is the one." Those words not only express the importance of making our children feel valuable, but they also communicate the idea that something is expected of them. These words remind us of the calling each child has a calling to use his or her uniqueness and gifts to the fullest and to bless this world. To say to a child, "You are the one" is to nudge them toward discovering their gifts and becoming good stewards of those gifts. "This is the one" translates into "You can do something special."
When Jesse brought young David in from tending the sheep and presented him to Samuel, the old prophet took one look at this young lad and anointed him as Israel's king. "This is the one." You have been chosen, and you have something to contribute to your people. I have an idea that when David became king he wore his crown well because he was able to look back on this event, remembering that he was indeed the one. God had chosen him, and God expected him to be somebody and do something with his gifts. Perhaps at some point later in life, when his kingdom was threatened and he doubted his own abilities, David would look back on this day and remember that he had been chosen. He would look back on this moment and take strength from it.
God's guidance is usually not as discernible in the moment as it is in hindsight. We may not sense what God is doing in our midst or how God is leading us. Even the great prophet Samuel did not know what God was doing. This story, with so much of the Old Testament, affirms that God's "providence" operates beyond the spectrum in which our sight operates, but even so we remain within God's view. Note also that God's eye here is on the flock and not just the individual sparrow. In our age we tend to individualize so many of the messages of the Bible. Here, it is important to note that it is the community of faith that is under God's care. Neither Saul nor David's older brothers might have understood the way in which God was providing for Israel as a good way, but God's eyes were on the people as a whole and not merely the individuals.
I would like us to try to understand how this humble shepherd boy became a man after God’s own heart. David achieved in his life something that God wants each of us His children to achieve. David achieved something that many of us fail to accomplish. Now, David was not perfect. In fact, he was far from it! He failed, and he failed hugely, but he kept short accounts with God. He sinned, but he was quick to confess and he manifested genuine heart repentance. David has much that he can teach us about obedience, faith and worship
Many years ago, when I had the Pathfinder group in Bures -I remember a training I attended about programmes for young people. They showed us how important it was to look at all the assets in a young person’s life in order to understand which youths were at risk for problems and how to prevent them.
They had found that the more assets in a young person’s life the better the outcome for them. Assets were not just family, but positive relationships with teachers, after school programmes, a job, church relationships, grandparents, etc. Even children with terrible home lives, could make a go of it, if they had other assets in their lives. In fact even just one person that a young person can rely upon for consistent unconditional love can make a big difference.
What a difference it makes when looking at our community or another person or even ourselves, if we think in terms of assets. Samuel was ready to give up on the search for a king among Jesse’s sons. He had been through all the potentials, the ones that seemed to have what was needed- seven in all. But God saw beyond the crowd there at the ceremony. He saw a young boy left behind in the fields. The youngest son- the boy, the one left out, the unexpected one. God saw the potential in this boy’s heart that no one else could see.
This passage invites us to think about how we see the world and our children and how God sees us.
We are challenged like Samuel to look beyond outward appearances. Outward appearances have a lot of power. We know that generally to go for a job interview in rags is not a good idea. When we go to the theatre – even in London these days – people don’t seem to dress up as they use to We have to admit it, if we are honest, we do quickly assess another person by their appearance.
We understand Samuel being attracted to the good looking first son of Jesse. What if we decided to try seeing others as God saw David- looking to their heart. What if we took the time to get to know someone beyond our first impressions? What if we assumed that each person we meet has God given potential? What difference could that make in our relationships?
The passage also invites us to examine our assumptions about others. Like Samuel found the chosen king in the youngest, forgotten son, we can sometimes discover potential and giftedness where we least expect it. We are called to consider things not through the eyes of social norm but through the eyes of God, the eyes of love – what God sees.
Could it be that God also sees potential in you and me even when we feel left out or put down by the world? Yes, it’s possible because just a few fish and loaves of bread can become a big feast. Because a small little mustard seed of faith grows into a sturdy strong tree -Because God continues to pour out the Holy Spirit so that even the old men dream dreams! Because, each one of us matters to God! Each one of us is alive in this moment and so have potential to love, to dance, to laugh and to learn.
What a powerful, countercultural, evangelical message that this text has to offer us and our times! Thus says the Lord: "The Lord does not see as mortals see: they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart and sees." Amen