Year B – Trinity 7 – 1 Samuel 17:32-49

1 Samuel 17:32-49:  David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” 48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. (NRSV)

 

Summary:  This familiar scene between David and Goliath has become an iconic showdown for all those underdogs pitted against an invincible foe.  But David is not the lone hero of this story (nor would he let himself be); Instead, it was for the Lord’s honor and His glory that David fought (vv45,46).  Probably the age of an older teen at the time, David was nevertheless behaving as the noble and true leader for God’s people—though it would still be years before he was publically recognized as the king.

 

Insight:  Can you image that your parents were once teenagers?  It may be hard to believe, but all of us adults were at one time in your, or in your older siblings, shoes.  Being a young adult is not quite like being an adult, but it certainly feels like you’re not kid anymore.  We’ve been there and so was David.  Despite his youth, he demonstrated a remarkable level of spiritual maturity and wisdom.  His youthful drive and focus was one of humble servanthood and properly placed zeal.  Something we adults, and future adults alike, do well to learn from.

 

Child Catechism:  Why would David fight Goliath?  Because he had defiled the armies of the living God.

Discussion:  Parents, what teenage challenges did you face and overcome with God’s help?  Children (and youth adults), what Goliath-size challenges are your facing in your youth?

 

Father we remember your steadfast love and devotion to your people

In all stages of our life, protector us and stand with us

Our battles are your battles

In the power of your Spirit and the name of the King, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

 

Contributed by M. West

March 4, 2012 Year B – Second Sunday in Lent: Mark 8:31-38

Mark 8:31-38:  Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Summary:  “You are the Christ” exclaimed Peter only moments before (8:27ff).  Christ as the leader Israel had been waiting for.   This great King will lead them into victory.  This is the one for whom the heavens tore open, the Spirit descended upon like a dove, and the very voice of God was heard.  And now he must go and be killed; not exactly valiantly on a field of battle, but beaten and bruised as a criminal on a cross.  The disciplines were not expecting such a bleak and defeating prophecy told by Jesus (of course, one wonders just how wrong they were probably interpreting the “…and after three days rise again” part at the time too). But for us, the most shocking statement today is hearing Jesus’ sharp and swift rebuke of Peter the spokesmen:  “Get behind me, Satan!”  Peter, along with the rest of the disciplines, were no doubt expecting a different kind of kingdom victory; but by doing so, they were also indirectly cheering for the wrong kingdom.  That was Satan’s temptation in the wilderness:  to give Christ any other kingdom, as along as it was without the Cross.

Insight:  Jesus’ command to follow him should really be the most shocking of all.  Take up your cross, not a sword for the kingdom of God.  Lose your life, to gain your life.  These statements are never as unsettling as they should be.  For many of us, we have become too use to hearing them.  For many of us, we don’t even try to consider the full implications of what God’s kingdom really looks like, especially over our personal lives and priorities.  Likewise, we have all subtly cheered for the wrong kingdom.  Abandon your life and your desires properly, follow Christ, do not be ashamed of Him and stop helping the enemy!

Child Catechism:  What should followers of Christ do?  They should deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him.

Discussion:  How can this season of Lent help change your priorities?

Father, teach us to put our lives in the right perspective, to accept the life of your kingdom, to follow Christ more fully, by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

 

[contributed by malcolm west]

Year B – Lent 2 – Psalm 22:23-31

“23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;    he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. 25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. 28 For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. 29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, 31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.”

Summary – The psalmist calls for the praise of God to be declared throughout the all the believing community because God does not despise the afflicted but rather, He has delivered them. After such a demonstration of God’s faithfulness the psalmist in great thanks and celebration will pay his vows with witnesses present and in a common or a community meal together they celebrate the deliverance with others who were also oppressed. The psalmist expanded his worship and praise as if to include all past, present and future worshiping communities together.

Insight – With a deeper level of belief, insight and confidence and as a result of having witnessed God’s deliverance the psalmist has more of an eternal and universal understanding of God’s grace, mercy and sovereignty. And in light of a very real and passing crisis, the psalmist fulfills the vows to God which he made under great pressure and in fear. He then celebrates in community with a common meal, a preview if you will of what we now do in our Communion meals. Deliverance for the believing psalmist who suffers causes him to reflect on the sovereign rule of God with which he may now look forward to the universal eternal praise of all the saints in Kingdom Come. While I will not state with certainty that he would have understood that reality with the same insights or perspective that we are blessed with at this time in history (on the other side of the cross as we can look back) it would be clear that God’s deliverance announced and witnessed by many would have impacted those present, those approaching death and even those yet unborn.

Child Catechism – Can we both trust and count on God’s deliverance and protection in our times of crisis? Yes, we can trust God and count on God and we are even called by God and empowered by God to do so.

Discussion – How can or how does one grow in faith when reflecting on the crises in our lives? Do we make vows today that we need to pay, and what are some examples?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and heavenly Father, O God we see you deliver Your people over and over in the Scriptures and yet when in the middle of trouble we worry and fear and even at times wonder if we’re going to make it through. Please O God help us as with the psalmist to have a stronger faith and to trust and fully count on you for deliverance in our difficult times. Heal us O God and bless us Father, comfort us and give us a special peace today as we reflect on all You have done for every generation. And we pray this with great thanks in Jesus name, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Lent 1 – Ash Wednesday – Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 6:2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6:3 “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 6:4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 6:5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.  . . . 6:16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6:17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 6:18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 6:20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 6:21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Ash Wednesday Meditation – “The Secret Life of Disciples”

As we enter once again into the season of Lent, we remember Christ in the wilderness.  Christ’s wilderness journey was a time of training and finally of testing. The 40 days of Jesus paralleled the 40 years of Israel in the wilderness. God “led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Dt. 8:2). Christ passed this test, though it was clearly a human struggle, which shows His full humanity. He emerged victorious over the very real temptations of Satan. The struggle of Jesus in the desert led to His overcoming temptation and ultimately the victory of the cross, His resurrection and His ascension to glory; because all of the temptations were in place of suffering and provided a “glory” without the cross. But Jesus did not forsake the way of the cross. He fully prepared to be obedient to the death of the cross.

Now if Jesus, the very Son of God, took upon Himself 40 days of fasting in order to prepare for His ministry, then are we not misled to think we should be like Him without any such discipling? If Christ Himself thought it needful to fast and pray before engaging the enemy and leading in His public ministry, then how will we make any progress in pursuing godliness without such testing? If God’s purpose throughout our lives is to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) and this is what Christ did, should not our lives conform in a some measure to Christ’s example?

Matthew 6 indicates we are to practice righteousness. But our motivation is the difference between that practice being evil or good. Two people may do the same religious act and for one it is evil and the other it is good. Religious people have all kinds of motivations. Jesus highlights the desires of the Jews of His day to be seen by others as righteous and pious. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them” (6:1). We may want to “sound the trumpet” when we give to others (v2), to pray publicly so as to be admired (v5), to be seen doing the ultra-spiritual discipline of fasting (v16). These desires all arise from that most basic human motivation: pride. We would rather lie about who we are and look righteous, than be authentic and be seen as who we really are. This lack of honesty is a great cause for unbelief in the world. Jesus calls this storing your treasure on earth (v19). It is misplacing values in our life. Where is your secret vault for treasures in life?

There is another place to store our treasure, however. Jesus does not call for us to have no desires for approval in our pursuit of righteousness. He does not say a desire for “reward” is evil. He simply redirects our desire for approval toward God. Our secret desire (or perhaps not so secret desire) for the reward of others to commend us, is placing our treasure vault for earthly corruption. This shows were our heart’s focus. Our godly secret life as disciples is to be doing what we do for God’s approval alone. We are to carryon a God-ward focus in our actions and reflections on our motivation.

What do you desire? There may be periods of time when our secret desires, rolling in our minds like TV reruns, endlessly play episodes of sin. We covet scenes of worldly wealth, putting others in their place, secret lasciviousness, retirement from into a secluded and unending vacation in a tropical paradise to disengage from all the demands on us. We are tempted by these desires. Inasmuch as we give-in then we are accepting the lie that there will be godliness without discipline; glory apart from the way of the cross.

If we find the grace to lay aside these impure ambitions and remember that we are bought with a price, then what is our deeper desire. What is our secret desire? Is it not for our character to be transformed into Christ’s likeness? Isn’t that what you know to be your most truly right ambition? When we can scrub off the dirt of our lusts and covetousness and even the dead skin of our flesh-provisioning habits, then we stand with a stringent burn since we have scrubbed away much that was precious to us. In these times we actively advance in being more like Jesus. In these ways we are like Christ who endured temptation and endured suffering for our salvation unto great glory. “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:17-18).

God, it appears, often brings us to these places whether we want to go or not. Wildernesses our part of the journey for every believer. Israel could have passed through the wilderness in about 40 days, but God found it necessary to test them for 40 years and a whole generation failed the test. Our willingness to enter into times of self-discipline apart from God-created wildernesses or “frowning providences” evidences our desire to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). Whether our self-conscious discipline prevents such dark episodes in our lives, is not something that I can say with any certainty, but I can say that the Lord wants us to embrace trials and hardships with this attitude. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). In the words of James 1:2, we are to “consider it all joy” – that is we must actively see it in terms of what God will do in us through it. We are to know “that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:3).

The faithful use of this Lenten season trains us to scrub away habits that hinder us (even if not sinful, per se). It surely helps us exercise the muscles of abstaining from worldly lusts which wage war against the soul by training ourselves to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, to limit our appetites, to listen in quietness, to forsake anxieties, to be motivated by pleasing God rather than men, and to yield ourselves more fully to live by faith.

A foundational lesson in our pursuit of godliness, beyond the fact that it requires effort in intentional times of training, is that it requires a secret life. True righteousness requires a secret life which is directed toward God and God alone. All motivations to be seen by others and get their approval undo our righteousness. Our secret life as disciples is to intentionally “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v20-21).

[contributed by Rev. Gregg Strawbridge]