Online Worship Service for the 4th Sunday of Lent- video March 22, 2020
Here is a copy of the sermon from the service we posted last night. I welcome your feedback! The more I/we hear from you all, the more we know what we can do to help in this time of "exile." I miss our regular contact in person. The scriptures are 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14 and John 9:1-41.
The Peace and Hope of Christ be with you all.
Picture with me. . .a robed man perhaps in his 30s or 40s walking with a steady stride leading a heifer on a rope. The scene reminds me of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. This man is no threat to anyone. Or is he? Samuel is carrying a horn of oil to anoint the next king of Israel during his official business of offering a sacrifice in Bethlehem. King Saul has been unable to trust the word and ways of Yahweh. Saul is no longer a good king for the children of Israel. The unimportant man with the young animal plodding behind him is setting in motion a slow process -- a new king rising in Israel. This is not about Samuel. This is not about David, the least of the sons of Jesse of the tribe of Judah. It is not even about Saul, the failed king. What we have here is the movement of God. Another Divine Surprise. David is a nobody, just like Samuel, the poor priest wandering along the path defined by prayer, listening to God. The only thing that matters in this story is the God who is acting among those who are willing to be led.
At the end of the story of David’s life, that is the difference. That is what separates him from failed king Saul. He is willing, in faithful and unfaithful moments, he chooses to be led by the Spirit of God. And so he is part of the Divine surprise of grace and hope for the common folks in Israel. The surprise is that the powerful are being humbled while the humble are being raised up. The humble poor from any time rarely have much outward hope. Their hope is in the things of the Spirit. The humble are mighty in Spirit. The focus in this king-making narrative is on God who is bringing new, unexpected things to pass, and the unexpected begins with inward prayer. It did with Samuel, and David, and Jesus. Samuel pours the oil over David and reveals that he is king. It will be years before David is recognized, but he is king. The light has begun to shine. Hope is reborn. The willing servant, the shepherd king is the true heir to the throne. During his life, David will be surprised over and over by God’s mercy.
Moving forward in time to John’s Gospel story of Jesus and the blind man. After Jesus gives sight to the man born blind, the man is thrown out of the synagogue because he reminds the leaders that Jesus is from God because of his compassionate power. Jesus’ message is that those who see are blind and that those who confess their need--their spiritual brokenness--and look to God receive sight. The leaders are shocked, “You are not saying we are blind are you?” Jesus responds, if you understood how blind you were, you would see, but since you think you already see, you are blind without hope. Grace only grows out of profound need. The blind man knows his need. He receives physical and spiritual vision. The leaders need nothing. They receive nothing.
The invitation today is to open ourselves to God’s light which enlightens our darkness so that we can see. Deep humility is the open door of faith. David and Samuel are humble. The blind man and Jesus are humble. Saul and the religious leaders resist God. They don’t need to listen and learn. They are finished learning. They are no longer curious about the things of the Spirit.
We are concerned these days about our health and our financial wellbeing. We have a choice. We can trust and cling to our health and resources, or we can stretch to find our meaning and hope in the life and mystery of God. This is no simple matter. Stretching into God’s mercy and abundance in any time requires prayer. Ongoing prayer. Growth in prayer. Letting go. . .in prayer. . .of our need to control our health and finances. Instead, in prayer. . .entrusting ourselves, our family, our community, our nation, our world in the care of God. Sure, we need to be wise in our decisions, but ultimately we will find freedom in casting ourselves into the capable care of God’s Spirit. For there, we are safe, we can rest. The challenge is that we must continually give ourselves over to the care of God and one another.
May we be like David, and Samuel, the blind man, and Jesus who humbly entrusted their all to God.May we open ourselves to the divine surprise of mercy. Mercy that flows from God, to us, to our neighbor. Amen.