Gifts God sees in me
Lectionary: 1 Samuel 15: 34 – 16: 13
Mark 4: 26-34
2 Corinthians 5: 6-10, 14-17
Today we chose the theme of “God’s role for me” based on the material in Seasons of the Spirit because we thought the readings reflected the importance of our gifts, our skills, being chosen to be used in God’s work.
But we could have easily chosen other themes based on these readings – the fact that no matter how small we can have an important place in God’s world, or spiritual growth, or planting seeds, or being a chosen one.
We all have some skills – even if you don’t think you do! It might be a skill of baking or being a good listener or being an administering or being a change maker. What do you think your skills are?
Now that you have decided what your skills are, how do they become useful for God? Of course, we say that God already knows our skills and set them in place for us before we were born so there is a plan of how the skills will be used. Sometimes we just don’t know how it will happen.
So many times you hear of someone who was born to be a leader but equally so often you hear of someone who rose through the ranks and took on an important role; a learning on the job type situation.
The Samuel reading for today talks to us about someone who is chosen for a job – in fact two people who are chosen for a job – one who was successful and one who was not. In this situation even God made a mistake! The anointing of Saul as king was one that God thought would fit the job. Saul thought he was following God’s instructions but he never did so to the fullest extent – in some cases he looked to his own glorification by building a monument; in some cases he showed mercy by not killing King Agag; in some cases he thought keeping the best sheep and cattle to use as sacrifices was better than straight killing as commanded.
The story of Saul in this preceding part of chapter 15 is not nice; it shows a God that wants control and a people who are prepared to enact revenge.
Yesterday in our Prayer Breakfast study of Revelation we were looking at chapters 8 and 9 with the vision of the angels with the seven trumpets who caused major disasters of fire, earthquakes, water poisoning, destruction of animal and plant and human life and the loss of light. All terrible stuff!
As the introduction to Revelation says these were the visions of God revealed by Jesus Christ to John to be recorded for us to see. We all thought how these reflected a God who was upset that people had not learnt to change their ways and follow his way and that it didn’t reflect the love aspect of life that Jesus had taught; it is a story that is not for teaching to children. A third of the people are killed, a third of the living creatures died, a third of the earth and world destroyed.
The Samuel story shows that God is prepared to say he can make a mistake – we remember that he also said he made a mistake in Genesis and was prepared to wipe out almost everything with the great flood and start again.
It is important that we are prepared to admit that we also can make mistakes. Our politicians rarely are prepared to admit mistakes because they think it reflects weakness when really it reflects good leadership – to show that you are only human and do not have all the skills needed to do a job. People are much happier to accept an apology than to hear excuses or lack of comment of how something went wrong.
In today’s reading God gets Samuel to anoint a new king without a straight announcement of who that would be. For Samuel this is dangerous, treasonous, and at that time likely to lead to his death by King Saul. Revolution or coups are still activities today that can play out with disastrous results. But Samuel has faith, strong faith. He is an old man who has been through a lot as a prophet of the Lord.
Samuel goes to Jesse as directed to ask to see his sons. As God says you judge the right person not by appearance but what is in their hearts.
When I was working at Deakin one of the hardest jobs I had to do was to interview people and decide who to employ, who fit the bill for what I was after. Because like God, if I made the wrong decision it could be disastrous – at least I didn’t have the need to lead a coup to get rid of someone, to say they weren’t doing the job properly, although there were occasions when I had to say that improvement was needed – equally not a nice job.
Jesse promotes all but his youngest son although we are not told how Jesse knew that his sons were up for a special selection. Why did he ignore David? Was it because he was his youngest and he needed to keep him close; was it because the youngest would be the one to look after him with special tasks, even though there would have been daughters to look after his food and household needs; was it because he was a shepherd who although having an important job was likely to be away in a daze playing his flute or harp or composing songs and poems? God has looked within his heart and chosen him for his skills that will be developed over time. A shepherd stayed with the sheep, led them to food and water, protected them from animals and thieves, tended their injuries, and disciplined them – all good characteristics for someone to be the countries leader.
We know that God directs Samuel to anoint him as the future king. This is done publicly because the city leaders were there as well as the family but Saul does not know who has been chosen and we know that it is some years before David finally gets the job. Did his skills meet the requirements? I’m sure there were times when God would have said “oh dear, I’ve made another mistake” but David became an important ruler and an important person in the family line to Jesus.
While we are not David, not destined to be rulers, we still ask that important question: What is my role, in God's eyes? And how will I be able to do what God calls me to do? Don't we begin, as always, with trust in God, who holds us, who holds our lives, close to God's heart? Doesn't God look at us as a parent does, whose heart is full of tender love and surprising confidence (great dreams, even) for each child of grace, each child of promise? Don't we trust in God's spirit, which fills each one of us?
No matter how "small" and powerless we may feel (or be told that we are), no matter how unlikely or unqualified we may seem to others, we can still feel the power of God's spirit at work in us, and dream the dream that God has for this world. We look around and see the influence and effects of others, and we realize that we too can be a blessing in our individual lives, and in the life of our communities.
Pastor Chris Russell from Veritas Church in North Carolina lists eight vital keys to knowing God’s will.
Here they are:
1) Walk with God.
2) Surrender your will to God’s.
3) Obey what you already know to be God’s Will.
4) Seek godly input.
5) Pay attention to how God has wired you.
6) Listen to God’s Spirit.
7) Listen to your heart.
8) Take a look at your circumstances.
But knowing God’s will and knowing what role is right for us may be quite different. Do we have the right to question that difference?
In David’s case God’s will was passed on by Samuel. It was witnessed by the city leaders giving it extra legitimacy. His brothers would have felt put out that they were overlooked – the youngest should never have been given such a task.
As Pastor Chris Russell said one of the important keys is to listen – to listen to God, to listen to others, to listen to yourself. The Hebrew word for listen also has a meaning of obeying so to be chosen means one needs to listen and to respond.
Paul in the 2 Corinthians reading says that we must surrender our old ways and should look at the world through God’s eyes.
When we were planning this service and looking at what lectionary readings to include Claire made the comment that she wished Paul could have been brief and direct in his comments so that it would be easier for us to understand.
I think one of the important messages in Paul’s letter is about our faith – our life is a matter of faith and not of sight. This relates to God telling Samuel that we should look not at physical appearance but what is within their hearts. How do we see that? Of course it is by actions – what they do and how they do it. We should not judge a book by its cover!
We have our skills but we have to decide if we use them for God’s good or just for our own or not at all. We can be like the mustard seed – something very small – but are able to become some worthwhile – worthwhile for God. Farmers take a chance by planting their seeds after preparing the ground; they have faith that the rain will come in sufficient amount to make the crop produce a great result. We have a chance to make new beginnings for ourselves or for someone else through what we do. We have a chance to show that our faith is strong in what we are capable of achieving with God’s help.
There is an old joke about the man who bought an abandoned farm, cleared the fields, ploughed, planted… Then, as his crops came in, the local preacher said to him, “Look what God has done!” To which the farmer replied, “Well yes, but do you remember what it was like when God was working this farm alone?”
We can work alone or we can achieve more by working with God. He has chosen us; he has anointed us; he loves us. By using our skills we express our love for God. Amen.