On David, and Goliath, and Fear.

June 20, 2009 at 11:08 pm 1 comment

I have been thinking a lot about fear, lately. And although I wasn’t supposed to preach this week, it sorta happened that now I am.

One of the most wonderful things about our scriptures is that, often, each time we approach a well-known text, it can still speak to us in new ways. We can see in it something we’ve never seen before. How amazing, the power of the Holy Spirit, to speak to us anew through ancient texts! Thanks be to God!

When I found out that I would be preaching today, I had occasion to contemplate again the well-known story from our Old Testament Lesson. And because we hear this story at the beginning of the summer, every three years, I was looking at it, through preacher’s eyes, for the first time since before Ruth was born.

And what occurred to me this time was…

Oh, Mercy, that poor boy’s mother!

No. Really. Just last week, we heard the story of how David, the youngest of Jesse’s 8 sons, was anointed by the prophet Samuel to be King over Israel.

And this week, old enough to care for the sheep, too young for battle, he has been sent by his father to take provisions to his brothers.

I picture a young man- no, an older boy. Headstrong, (as the stories we hear over the rest of the summer will reveal), and drawn with awe and wonder and hero worship to the glory and pomp and heroics of war. A boy filled with all the natural recklessness and belief in his own immortality of youth.
I can just hear him, as he leaves the sheep in the care of another, and returns to carry provisions to his brothers:

“Chill, Mom. I can handle myself. I killed a freakin’ LION. You worry too much.

And the last parting shot:
Honestly, mom. I’m God’s ANOINTED remember… what’s the worst that could happen?

And as she watched her youngest son swagger off, all full of youthful arrogance – as she watched him go, to look for word of how her oldest three boys were faring in battle– as she compiled her mental list of all the things worst that could possibly happen to any of them–
I wonder if “single unarmed combat against a Philistine Giant” even made the top 20.

Next week we’ll hear how David didn’t return home from this battle- he went instead to the King’s Court. I wonder if the wrath of the wife of Jesse the Bethlehemite held more terror for him than did Goliath of Gath.

And in contrast to this story of young David’s fearlessness, we have the Gospel reading– of disciples in a boat, in the midst of a storm, terrified.

“Why are you afraid?” Jesus asks them. “Have you still no faith?”

Fear and fearlessness are the threads that bind these two stories, this morning.

The disciple’s fear. And David’s arrogant fear-less-ness.

It’s been on my mind a lot, lately. Fear. And its opposite.

Because I believe we live in a time and a place where it is very, very easy to be fearful. We live in a time and a place where almost all the information that reaches us- news, entertainment, opinion, all of it- is sold to us. Either directly- when we buy a paper or magazine, or indirectly- when a broadcast or website needs to attract our attention in order to attract advertising revenue.

And, I believe, when everyone is clamoring for our attention- one of the most reliable ways to get it is to suggest that there is something to fear- and that this paper, this magazine, this news segment will tell us what we need to know to protect ourselves from the world, and all that is in it.

I took a look at the front page of yesterday’s Star.
In all honesty- Canada’s largest daily newspaper has information that will save me from swine flu. And economic collapse. And ice-cream. And rubber duckies. Yes. Killer Rubber Duckies.

And if this is the sort of world we live in, I believe that the Good News of Jesus Christ has something to say in that world… to that world. To us.

Something along the lines of:
“why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

I spend a fair amount of time on a parenting site devoted to helping live with a little bit less fear. And there’s a general perception that if we as parents, and in general- if we aren’t living in fear, then we’re showing a Davidic, foolish, reckless sort of fearlessness.

It’s foolish and reckless and naïve to believe that there is no evil in the world- or that it can never touch us. That every child is safe, every stranger is a friend, and every story has a happy ending.

Some argue that the right, the good, the only way to live is to spend every moment thinking, “what’s the WORST” that could happen, and then taking every possible action to prevent it…

Which, I guess, is a fine, if exhausting, stressful, crazy-making sort of way to live.

How much life do we miss out on, how much joy? if we get drawn into a world-view of fear? If we put that kind of energy into protecting ourselves from the potential dangers of life- how much life to do we miss out on?!

And, fearfulness brings with it a strange sort of pride- almost as arrogant as David’s fearless-ness. Because of course, if we can anticipate the danger, we can prevent it. Because we are masters and makers of our own destiny. If we’re careful enough, cautious enough, if we prevent and protect at every turn… then nothing bad will ever happen to the people we love.

And of course, that sort of thinking isn’t foolish, or reckless or naïve at all.

Because, of course, the opposite of fear is not fearlessness. The opposite of fear is faith.

It is trust. It Is hope.

The opposite of fear is the awareness that we are not, in fact, in control of much of anything.
There is, most assuredly, and to our great sorrow, evil in the world. Sometimes the worst happens. Not every time. Not nearly as often as your favourite magazines would like you to think. But it happens.

It would indeed be foolish and reckless and naïve to believe otherwise.

And yet, Jesus has the power to still the storm. And Jesus has the power to calm the waves. And Jesus has lived and died and risen again and defeated the power of death. And Jesus said to them, and says to us, “I am with you always”.

And I cannot help but wonder what it would look like, in this world where fear so often carries the day-

I wonder what it might look like for people of faith to live lives of less fear. Not lives of foolish, naïve fearlessness- but of powerful faith.

Faith that even if the worst does happen- the worst of this world is not stronger than the God who created us, loves us, and redeemed us.

Faith that would have us live fully in the world- eyes open to both the worst- and the best- of what the world has to offer.

Faith that would have us always ready to delight in the wonders of this world.

Faith that would give us courage to reach out to those in need – as the Samaritan reached out, without fear (or perhaps despite it), to his neighbour.

By the 6th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy had lost her mother, and was failing badly at raising her younger sister alone. She tried to protect her from boys, from harm, from the pain of growing up, from child protective services… In the closing moments of the finale, as apocalypse is averted yet again, Buffy realizes something needs to change. She tells her sister:

“I got it so wrong. I don’t want to protect you from the world – I want to show it to you. There’s so much that I wanna to show you. “

And then this terribly secular, terribly silly little bit TV looks for some additional wisdom on the subject. The music swells. The voice is Sarah Maclachlan. But the lyrics are ancient.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. And where there is sadness, joy. O divine master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love. For it’s in giving that we receive, And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Somewhere, there is a path for us to walk- not of reckless fearlessness, nor of limiting fearfulness. But of faith. Of trust. Of hope. Of peace.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
What’s the worst that could happen?



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