Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Y B

Sunday 24th June 2018

The reflections upon the readings today are a little clumsy, partly because there are several old Testament alternatives and also, due to a computer glitch and the autosave function in office 365, I lost half of what I had written because I dared to watch something on TV as I was editing the commentaries!

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

1 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2 Saul and the Israelites gathered and encamped in the valley of Elah, and formed ranks against the Philistines. 3 The Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. 4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six1  cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

 

David slays Goliath

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.

 

1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16

On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

1 When David1  had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5 David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.

10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; 11 and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.

 12 Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. 13 So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. 14 David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him. 15 When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Some reflections from this passage:

  • the significance of David’s victory over Goliath. And what it might reveal to us in struggles between those who seem to have little power and those who have much.
  • The impact of rules of war throughout human history and particularly in global politics today.
  • Saul’s jealousy of David and the role that jealousy plays in human life.  Given the tax debates recently in Australia and the role of the ‘politics of envy’.
  • David’s rise from shepherd to being in the halls of power and a tough apprenticeship, developing his talents and through the challenges that Saul put him through developing inner resilience.
  • what the relationship between David and Jonathan reveals to us about the potential of our personal relationships: ‘the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul’.
  • How are we to understand an evil spirit coming from God and impacting so severely on Saul? Is there a relationship between mental health issues and spiritual ones?

It is interesting to note that the weight of Saul’s armour in modern terms, was around 150 pounds or 68 kilograms.  Not impossible for a man of his reported stature.  The design was probably like fish scales.  Something that we might not find unusual for a people with strong connections to the sea.

It is also worth reflecting on the fact that even in those days, there were rules of war.  Two people fighting it out rather than, a great spilling of blood through both armies fighting.

One of the challenges of modern terrorism is that there are no rules!

There are various stories and narratives in the Scriptures that speak of God supporting the weak and powerless. For example, in Mary’s famous Song of Praise, the Magnificat, Mary says:

51 He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly;

 53 he has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

As we look at the world today, is hard to see how the rich and powerful can be challenged, so that there might be greater equity within human life. Yet one of the dangers in any moment of life within history, is that we don’t look for the bigger picture. Just as Israel suffered in slavery in Egypt for hundreds of years, before they were liberated by God; so, it might be that there will be a time, when the current inequities are no more.

This is a hope for life in this world and one which Jesus and the prophets encourage us to trust in, but there is also the question of our eternal destiny. Those who abuse power and wealth in this life should be troubled by the teachings of Jesus about wealth and particularly in the light of the story that he told of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19 – 31)

it is a fundamental principle of Christianity, that we read the old Testament in the light of Christ. This is particularly true in understanding the role of evil. The people of Israel tended to see everything that happened to them as either a reward or punishment from God. As observed before, it is in the teaching of Jesus that a radical distinction is made between God and Satan and the powers of evil. It is really only in this light that I can make sense of the evil spirit coming upon Saul. It was not from God. This might also help us to have some insights into the struggles that many people have with mental health issues. This is touched on briefly in the commentary on the gospel passage for today.

Perhaps Saul could have learnt from the attitude of Eli at the beginning of the first book of Samuel.

When told of the prophecy that Samuel had been given in relation to him and his sons, Eli said he is the Lord he will do as he will. As remarked then, this is a profound way to deal with adversity in our life.

2 Corinthians 6:1 to 13

As we work together with him,1  we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,

“At an acceptable time I have listened to you,

and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

 11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. 12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. 13 In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

Some issues to reflect on:

  • the extent to which we trust in God no matter what happens in our lives
  • are we openhearted in our personal lives?
  • Are we a society that encourages open heartedness?

Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians to persevere and trust God in all things, is similar to that encouragement which he gave in his letter to the Romans (8:18 – 26)

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in15  hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes16  for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes17  with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God,18  who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit19  intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.20

 28 We know that all things work together for good21  for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose

This passage has always given me great hope, in the toughest times of my life. It also gives us hope, as we reflected on in the book of Samuel, that the time of liberation will come and there will be greater equity in human life.

Paul challenges to the Corinthians as to whether they are being openhearted is still a challenge to us today. Being openhearted can often make a person seem to be weak and vulnerable. A person without guile in a society and workplaces, where guile and self-interest discourage any form of open heartedness.

Mark 4:35 to 41

Christ calms the waters

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Some reflections on this passage:

  • are there times in our life and it seems that Jesus is with us, yet he is quiet, asleep and because of his quietness, we do not trust in him?
  • Jesus power over the wind and the seas; is power over nature.

There are number of different contexts in which we can reflect upon this passage.

We do well to remember how different the times of Jesus were to the times that we live in today; certainly, in first world countries. In many of the religions of the time, including Greek and Roman ones, the gods had to be placated to temper the powers of nature. In that context, this is a powerful story about who Jesus is in the power that comes from him being God’s Word incarnate.

On another level, the story can be seen as an allegory of our psyche. Many of us suffer great tempests in our own beings. This story encourages us to awaken the Christ within to calm our storms.

Copyright acknowedgements

Attribution:

Tapestry of David slaying Goliath, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54864 [retrieved June 23, 2018]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anahon/3691415460/.

Backhuysen, Ludolf, ca. 1630-1708. Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54955 [retrieved June 23, 2018]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Backhuysen,_Ludolf_-_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Sea_of_Galilee_-_1695.jpg.

 

 

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