Here are my thoughts for this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.
Ordinarily, with the Old Testament reading of David and Goliath (1), one might be tempted to discuss sporting events and our own personal desire to see the little team beat the monolith (remember the movie “Hoosiers” with Gene Hackman?). But no matter how we may express empathy for the “Davids” in this world, we still would rather be the Goliaths in this world.
Even in the business world, we may call for the support of the small business man (the Davids of the business world) in their battles with the monolithic businesses (the Goliaths) (again, remember the movie “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?). But in the end, the Goliaths are more often the stores where we buy our things.
We may like the idea of David opposing Goliath but we would much rather have the “armor” and the “protection” that David forsook when he entered the battle. We seem uncomfortable if we do not have some sort of large force protecting; we are not willing to put our faith in God as David did when he entered the battle.
Similarly, we are not always willing to do as Paul wrote, “through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger.” (2) We tend to think that suffering and anguish are left for those who are sinners, not for those who follow Christ. We are unwilling to accept the notion that we must, as followers of Christ, suffer in His name.
Yet, where would we be if those who were followers in Christ had not suffered? Where would we be if those who understood the meaning of the Gospel had stayed home and out of the way when the call for righteousness and justice was made?
On Sunday, March 7, 1965 John Lewis, then an assistant to Martin Luther King, Jr., and now a Congressman from Georgia, was among those leading a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers were met by Alabama law enforcement authorities who prevented them from moving forward. As the marchers knelt to pray, the lawmen fired tear gas and began beating them. This day has become known as “Bloody Sunday”.
Congressman Lewis had joined the civil rights movement because of his faith and belief in God; he had withstood the taunts and threats because of his faith. Congressman Lewis wrote, “without the example of Christ, who sacrificed for others, as the foundation of the movement, it would have been impossible for us to endure the setbacks, and to hope, and to go on.” It was his faith in God that allowed him to withstand the beating that day that almost took his life; the beatings that day shifted the mood of the people of this country so that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 could be passed. (3)
But too many of us today are not willing to hold to the course that was exemplified by those in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. We feel that being a Christian enables us to avoid pain and suffering; we see Christianity in terms of rewards, not sacrifice.
There is much in this world that makes us want to shout. But we more often see things and say “why” when we should be dreaming things and saying “why not?” (4) We live in a time when the skies seem to be darkening and the seas threatening to swamp the boats that we sail in, much like it did for the disciples that day in the Gospel reading (5). But we are not willing or able to call on our Christ because we have been encumbered by the armor that we have put on to do battle in this world.
The only way that we are going to be able to fight the battles of this world, the only way that we are going to be like David and overcome the Goliaths of this world is to be like David and shed the armor that protects us.
Yes, the armor protects us but it also hinders us and slows us down. Such armor keeps us from moving forward, it restricts us and it does not allow us to freely move. We put on the armor of the world to protect us but it does not allow us to fight the battles that must be fought.
If we call on Christ, as the disciples did that day in the Sea of Galilee; if we put our faith in God, as David did that day on the plains of Israel, then we are in a better position to fight tyranny and overcome terrorism. If we put our faith in Jesus and answer the Gospel message, we will be better able to heal the sick, help the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and the blind to see, we will be better able to bring justice and righteousness to this world.
We are called this day to move forward, to shed the armor that society insists we wear and which we wear in fear of the pain that it prevents. We are called this day to cast aside the framework of protection that society offers and accept the protection that comes from knowing Christ as our Lord and Savior. As David showed that day so many years ago, it is the faith we place in the Lord that will lead to the triumph of justice and righteousness in this world today.
So my question to you this day is very simple. Shall you wear the armor of society and be protected from the ravages of the world outside? Or shall you wear the faith of God through Christ our Savior and face the world so that righteousness and justice will prevail?
(1) 1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4 – 11, 19 – 23), 32 – 49
(2) 2 Corinthians 6: 1 – 13
(3) Adapted from American Gospel by Jon Meacham
(4) During his 1968 Presidential campaign, Robert Kennedy often used the statement “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” This was a paraphrase from George Bernard Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah – part 1, act 1 (1921), “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”.
(5) Mark 4: 35 – 41