I listen to a podcast each week on the readings called Bible Worm, I’m not sure why it’s called Bible Worm, but I find it a very helpful way to do some research on the readings for the week. I often listen to it while I’m out walking, either the trail up at the end of our house, or in this neighbourhood at lunch time. It helps to keep our context in mind as I try and make connections between the biblical text and what’s going on in our church, neighbourhood and world right now.
Last week we heard God calling to the child Samuel. Samuel grew up to be a trustworthy prophet who revealed God’s word to the people, and so the people began to recognise that they needed a more formal leader. They asked for a king. Samuel reminded them that God was their king, and a human king would inevitably go wrong, but they insisted, and God agreed, anointing Saul as the first king of Israel. Saul was head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the country, and he was handsome and charismatic. Unfortunately, he also chose political expediency over faithfulness to God’s way, and when waiting for God and Samuel to give their blessing in the midst of a military situation became too difficult, he took matters into his own hands. As a result, Samuel told him that God would choose another king to take his place. We pick up the story today in 1st Samuel chapter 16, when Saul is still on the throne but has just heard from God that his days as king are numbered. (Teri Peterson)
16 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you go on grieving over Saul? I have rejected him as king of Israel. But now get some olive oil and go to Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse, because I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”2 “How can I do that?” Samuel asked. “If Saul hears about it, he will kill me!”
The LORD answered, “Take a calf with you and say that you are there to offer a sacrifice to the LORD. 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will tell you what to do. You will anoint as king the man I tell you to.” 4 Samuel did what the LORD told him to do and went to Bethlehem, where the city leaders came trembling to meet him and asked, “Is this a peaceful visit, seer?”
5 “Yes,” he answered. “I have come to offer a sacrifice to the LORD. Purify yourselves and come with me.” He also told Jesse and his sons to purify themselves, and he invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Jesse’s son Eliab and said to himself, “This man standing here in the LORD’s presence is surely the one he has chosen.” 7 But the LORD said to him, “Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called his son Abinadab and brought him to Samuel. But Samuel said, “No, the LORD hasn’t chosen him either.” 9 Jesse then brought Shammah. “No, the LORD hasn’t chosen him either,” Samuel said. 10 In this way Jesse brought seven of his sons to Samuel. And Samuel said to him, “No, the LORD hasn’t chosen any of these.” 11 Then he asked him, “Do you have any more sons?”
Jesse answered, “There is still the youngest, but he is out taking care of the sheep.”
“Tell him to come here,” Samuel said. “We won’t offer the sacrifice until he comes.”
12 So Jesse sent for him. He was a handsome, healthy young man, and his eyes sparkled. The LORD said to Samuel, “This is the one—anoint him!” 13 Samuel took the olive oil and anointed David in front of his brothers. Immediately the spirit of the LORD took control of David and was with him from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.
The hosts of Bible Worm, one Jewish, one Christian, started joking that this was like Project Runway, which by the way is in its NINETEENTH season! Project Runway is an American reality television series that focuses on fashion design. The contestants compete with each other to create the best clothes and are restricted by time, materials and theme. During each season, contestants are progressively eliminated until only a few contestants remain. In the Biblical text, Jesse’s sons are paraded before Samuel one by one and one by one they are rejected by God. Until Samuel asks if there are any more sons and Jesse mentions David… obviously David, as the youngest, was not even considered to be kingly material, so wasn’t even present. David is an unexpected leader… he’s the youngest, even though the text says that he was a handsome, healthy young man, and his eyes sparkled.
There are a couple of important things going on in this text. Saul is still king! Religion and politics are one and the same in ancient Israel, there is no separation. The previous chapter of 1 Samuel outlines in detail WHY God tells Samuel to choose another king and leader for the people. Because Saul has disobeyed what God told him, for today, it doesn’t matter why, just that he has and so God decides that Israel needs another leader. Samuel is afraid that if Saul hears about that he anoints a new king, that Saul will kill him. So God tells him to bring a calf with him and make a sacrifice… in other words, to have a religious feast… and somewhere in there this anointing occurs.
What does this mean for us? Sometimes, in the midst of our religious feasts, festivals and worship, God is up to something on the side that we might not be aware of. Something that is really important. For instance, last week, we hear from Wendy Fraser from the North Grove and while that it a totally secular organization, it feeds hungry people. People who are hungry for food, companionship, community… God is up to something over there on Primrose Street.
Each month Susan Kolesar, Sam Schwartz, and I take part in a meeting of the Dartmouth North Organization where we hear of all the amazing work that is happening in this community.
• Fresh produce through Tony Mancini’s office
• Employment through LakeCity Woodworkers
• Literacy Skills
• Safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth
• And many more!
God is up to a WHOLE lot of stuff here in north Dartmouth that is happening outside the churches, because guess what, God’s work is not confined to religious people!
The other thing is that sometime leadership arises from unexpected places.
After worship this morning, you are going to hear the recommendation from the Transition Team and Executive for future ministry at Stairs. And what kind of leadership you will need for that ministry. And not just in your minister, but for the rest of your leadership. Like Jesse’s sons, there may be a variety of prospective ministers paraded before the search committee. He or she or they may not look like what you expect or what you are accustomed to. 😉
I have every confidence that the right person will appear. I have every confidence that we have all we need. I have every confidence that God is with us.
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of being the church in this time and place.
1 Samuel 16: 1-13
October 31, 2021 – SMUC