St. John's, Centreville
June 17, 2018
Proper 6 B
God of power, nothing diminishes you; give us the strength to acknowledge your power and presence in our lives so that others might see your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
"For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on outward appearances, but the Lord looks on the heart." In our reading from the First Book of Samuel, Saul has been sent by God to choose a king to replace Samuel. To give a little background, Israel has been ruled by judges for many, many years. There is a lot of fighting going on as different groups attack and defeat other groups. Many of these groups -these tribes and countries - have kings and Israel thinks they should also have a king to lead them into battle. God does not want them to have a king. But they whine and complain and insist they should have a king like everyone else. Even when they are told that a king might not treat them kindly and they will have to give up some of their freedom and some of their possessions to have a king, the Israelites are sure that is what they want. So God says, OK, and tells Samuel to anoint Saul as king. But Saul disobeys God and in today's lesson, we hear that God was sorry that God made Saul king over Israel.
So God sends Samuel to Jesse the Bethlehemite to find a king among his sons. From the oldest to the youngest, each son is presented to Samuel. Samuel is sure that when the oldest son, Eliab, is presented to him, that surely he will be the one chosen by God. But God warns Samuel not to look at outward appearances. God knows the hearts of people. As each of the sons is presented to Samuel, he replies that God has not chosen this one. When they have all passed by Samuel, he asks Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" Jesse replies that the youngest, David, is out tending the sheep. Obviously, Jesse does not think that David would be God's chosen as he was younger than all the other sons and didn't seem to possess any special qualities that God would need for a king.
But it is David who is chosen to be the king of Israel - the least, the youngest, the shepherd doing his work out in the fields, an ordinary field hand. He is the one chosen by God to lead Israel and do great things. And it is Jesus who comes from the house and the lineage of David.
In our gospel lesson, we hear the parable of the mustard seed, the tiniest of all seeds that grows into a large bush where birds can make their nests. This insignificant seed can produce an amazing bush, particularly when it is nurtured with adequate soil, water and sunlight.
Throughout the scriptures, God uses whom we might consider the least or the weakest, to accomplish God's purposes. Think about the story of David and Goliath, where the young boy defeats the giant with a stone and a slingshot. Consider Joseph in the Old Testament story, the youngest and peskiest of the 12 brothers, whom the brothers sold into slavery in Egypt, and Joseph ends up saving grain and other food during the 7 years of abundance to sustain the Egyptians, and his whole family, during the 7 years of famine. Think about Jonah and the whale. Jonah is a very reluctant servant of God and sails away in the opposite direction in order not to have to do what God has asked him to do. But when he relents and does what God asks of him, the entire city of Ninevah repents and becomes obedient to God.
We all know people in our lives who have exceeded our expectations. They have accomplished things we never thought they would. But with God, nothing is impossible. God works in and through and with people we hardly would have imagined would be called by God to do great things.
Look at Mother Theresa. She was born into an ordinary family and was not overly intelligent. She didn't seem to have any special qualities that would make one think she was bound to become THE Mother Theresa who made such a difference in the lives of the poor of India. She wanted to live on the streets of Calcutta with those she was ministering to, hold those who were dying when their families had abandoned them, and nurse others back to health. As we know, she went on to win the Nobel Prize and become someone revered and admired by the world for her work.
God called David and Jonah and Joseph to do God's work - David, a young shepherd; Jonah, a reluctant follower; and Joseph, a young, somewhat arrogant, brother. God can use each and every one of us to do God's work in this world - great things and small things; ministries the whole world can see, and ministries to one other that only we can see. It is by God's grace that we are given the power and the strength to do what God calls us to do. We can't and shouldn't all be Mother Theresa or Archbishop Tutu or Gandhi or Martin Luther King. God called them for their particular ministries. We should be the people that God has called us to be, with the particular gifts and strengths that God has given us for the particular ministries that God has called us to accomplish. For with God, nothing is impossible.
In our gospel lesson, we heard the parable of the mustard seed, the tiniest of all seeds that grows into a large bush where birds can make their nests. This insignificant seed can produce an amazing bush, particularly when it is nurtured with adequate soil, water and sunlight. In Jesus' parables, he uses ordinary things that his people were familiar with - seeds, soil, water, yeast, sheep. Jesus tells us over and over again that God can be found in the ordinary things and events in life. We don't have to wait for burning bushes or the parting of the seas in order to encounter God. God uses the ordinary for the extraordinary. Who would think that such a large bush could come from such a small, almost miniscule mustard seed? Who would think that a small amount of yeast put into some dough could make so many loaves of bountiful bread?
It is by the grace of God, and the love of God for us, that God continues to use ordinary people and ordinary things to show us who God is and how God wants us to live our lives. God can use you and me for God's purposes if we listen and respond to God's call. We have to do our part - spreading the seeds, and watering them, and harvesting the crops. But it is God who is doing the miraculous, God who is always at work, even when we don't see it, in ways and in places that we could not have imagined. God is always at work to bring to fruition the kingdom of God on earth. Amen.