1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry to have had made Saul king over Israel. And God said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
Mark 4:26-34 Jesus also said, “The kin-dom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, they do not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once they go in with their sickle, because the harvest has come.” Jesus also said, “With what can we compare the kin-dom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Every time I look around our backyard from this view I melt a little bit inside. It's not just that all of you look so good each week, but its that as I get to know each of you, and realize the gifts that God has brought together for this season at FBCM, it almost overwhelming. It feels to me that there is a core here of what can become- if you'll not get scared away at this- a movement. If you've talked to me in the past few months, you've no doubt heard me say, "we are poised at a fantastic place," and I believe that. And both of today's passages can teach us a little more about ourselves, and how our community of faith can "change, shape and transform us to live out our called identity as the beloved community of God."(As we said in our new members covenant)
Pastor Jennifer read you the story of the anointing of David- and who did that anointing? (Samuel) The last time we talked about Samuel, a few week ago, he was 8 years old, and he had just heard the voice of God, calling in the middle of the night- "Samuel! Samuel! (I knew it would come back to you) Old Eli helped him figure out that he was hearing the voice of God, and Samuel began a relationship with God where he was constantly listening for that voice, and he became a prophetic voice for God. Samuel is all grown up, and he hears from God that he is to anoint a new king over Israel- and God gives Samuel directions to go to Jesse's house and then wait for the voice of God to tell Samuel which of Jesse's sons he should anoint. It's an easy enough assignment- yes?
Except Jesse has many sons- and as each one passes before Samuel, he thinks, surely this must be the one- he has all the qualities of a great leader- charismatic, confident, classy- but, as each one passes before Samuel, you can almost hear Samuel think- oh, here he is- but God says, "nope, not that one- wait." Finally all of the sons have passed by, and God still has not made it clear to Samuel which one has been chosen to be King of Israel. So Samuel asks Jesse- is this all of your sons? And Jesse sends for David; a ruddy little kid who got stuck doing the grunt work of watching the sheep. And I can only imagine what David must have looked like coming in from the field and being presented to Samuel- not to mention the smell- but, the text tells us, God isn't concerned with appearance- instead God sees what's inside- at the heart, the scripture says- meaning- God sees what is at our core.
I'll come back to this, I promise, because I do realize I've just sent some of us into a tailspin" "Oh no! God sees what's inside of me? My core? Oh no...... I don't have a very good core..." Relax- we'll get there.
And then we come to the parable of the mustard seed. Such a weird story, right? But remember, Jesus was talking to a specific group of people every time he spoke. The gospel of Mark was written to a very small community who were, as no small aside, being persecuted. Most of the people Jesus would have been talking to were farmers, so he would use metaphors that they could understand- its why we see so many scriptures about sowing, and seeds.
And the story itself is simple. Jesus likens the Kingdom, Kin-dom, New Reign of god to this: Someone sows the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed, on the ground, and it grows to be the biggest of shrubs- the Gospel of Luke calls it a tree- where birds can rest on it's branches. I was taught about this passage as a child, and how our faith is like a mustard seed, it can start so small, but grow into a strong vibrant faith- where I'll be able to help others who need to rest on my faith, like the birds nesting on the branches of a giant tree! Of course I was responsible singlehandedly for that growth. My faith, after all was my choice... "you have to have faith..." We sang this song in Sunday School, faith of our fathers- and I knew my father had faith- so I figured I must have gotten it from him! (There's my father's day reference by the way, for anyone ho was looking to hear a sermon on fathers today) I even went out and bought a little necklace with a mustard seed inside a glass sphere so I could remember to water and nurture my faith- be good- read the bible- be good- pray- be good- go to church- be good- and when temptation comes or times get rough, hang on to that little glass ball and remember, be good- you're a Christian!
But it's interesting- Jesus isn't talking about our individual faith in this passage. He is taking about the Kingdom of God- about how the beloved community of God works in the world. The Mark is written to is small and in the midst of being persecuted- these are people who are societal outcasts- they are the throw aways, the marginalized, the demonized. They are the ones who do not fit in church, or who clearly have lifestyles and made life choices against scripture by believing Jesus to be the Messiah and following his teachings! They are born the wrong color, or in love with the wrong person, they are the unclean, according to the religious law- less than- second class- people who have been made to "feel like weeds in someone else's garden." (1) These are believers in a God of inclusion and grace- made flesh in Jesus- they are those who understand that God's love and mercy extends beyond the boundaries set by the temple. And they suffered for it- many at the cost of their families, friends, and even their lives.
And so Jesus sows into this community, seeds of hope, and a call to action. In the passage just before this one, Jesus names the injustice and inequity of the world, and diagnoses the gross misuse of religion in the world through the parable of Satan casting out Satan. As "The issue at stake is to either live by the power of Satan, which is the power of accusation followed by casting out, or to live by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the power of forgiveness (or to use St. Paul’s word, reconciliation). The only unforgivable sin, then, is to not believe in the power of forgiveness; the only way to not be reconciled is to reject the offer of reconciliation." (2)
But while that parable may have been the diagnosis, the parable of the mustard seed is the treatment plan. God is sowing a community, a small, mustard seed sized community into the world, a movement started by Jesus Christ. And here's how it works-
Well, I suppose I should stop there and tell you how the mustard seed actually works- as we are not first century farmers. Sowing mustard seeds into a garden back then, would be like planting dandelions in your yard. They were for all intents and purposes, a weed. They get into everything, and their roots grow so deep and are so strong that they act as an invasive plane- and the seeds can actually survive 60 years- lying dormant under the soil- and then still bring that plant back to life. The mustard plant, or shrubs overpower a garden, and quickly, whole fields. They disempower the planted crop, and subversively and strategically become the dominant power.
All of a sudden being a weed in someone else's garden doesn't feel quite so hopeless- there is a plan- set in place 2000 years ago. Yes! And we can be a part of it- in fact, in saying we are Christians we are a part of it...
And this is Jesus's plan to heal the world- and "we are reassured that these mustard shrubs will continue to grow and become substantial" This is what Jesus was calling people to do- to see that the Kin-dom of God is at hand- it's here's- the seed has been planted and each of us as believers in Christ are called to participate- how? 2 ways-
First, by recognizing that each of us are called. Though Christ, each of us have an anointing to use the gifts God has given us. We are anointed. OK- for those of us who were left in a tailspin at the beginning, knowing God, who doesn't care what we look like on the outside, or how confident we appear, or how good looking, or well spoken- see's the heart- the core of our being. And maybe you are thinking, "the core of my being isn't very holy- if God sees inside of me, then all God sees must be brokeness, and pain, and hurt- and that hurt isn't limited to me- I've hurt others too. I think terrible thoughts, I can't keep "being good" to water my mustard seed, no matter how many times I've tried. Let me tell you what God sees when God looks at you. God sees the image of God. God sees purity, wholeness, and strength. And yes, in each of us there are voices- some from our past, some from our present, that tell us we are not pure and whole and strong, and that we are not worthy of the anointing God gives. It's what causes us to sin- that we see ourselves as disconnected from God instead of as linked or yoked to God's Spirit. And the voices affirm our brokenness- see? You failed!
And when those voices cry out inside of you and cause you pain, my friends, God is weeping with you... God hurts with us when we see ourselves as less than the image of God. very different image of the God who is disappointed when we mess up... that may be the human view of God but that isn't how God sees us.
t the beginning of the service we sang a song about the anointing in the sanctuary- that we can lay down our burden and receive healing- our burden is whatever weighs us down, whatever keeps us from realizing we are God's beloved, anything that keeps us from seeing ourselves as God sees us. Are we perfect? No. Guess what? Neither was David. His whole life he did things that you or I would say- woah- that's not Godly behavior- yet God called David a person after God's own heart- anointed. God doesn't look at the outside... God sees the inside- and God chose you, anointed one.
And the second way Jesus calls us to participate is to follow his ways. I don't know where we get the idea through the scriptural words of Jesus that we are supposed to do anything other than that- follow Christ's example- follow me- says Jesus! This is our anointing and our call- to live as Jesus did- to speak out against oppression, to stand up for the marginalized and bring those who other consider weeds in their garden into the kind-dom with us. To include the disenfranchised, to show mercy to the unforgivable- and love to those who can't give you anything in return. That's counter cultural! That flips the world order on its head. It's a movement!
Now make no mistake, "living in God's garden in this day and age, may make us seems like weeds to the world- and it will feel, for sure, very uncomfortable as we try to live out forgiveness in a world based on vengeance... and to that world we must seem like weeds who must be destroyed- (which of course is exactly what the world thought they did to Jesus- that is, until the resurrection) The one cast out- Jesus- is the one who shows us that our call remains the same- we are chosen to use our gifts to sow seeds of grace and forgiving love everywhere we go. We are indeed a core of what we can become-"change, shape and transform us to live out our called identity as the beloved community of God."-and it's fantastic!