5 Stones

 

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A sneak preview of tomorrow’s sermon for those who might not make it to church….

David versus The Underdog Goliath

The following is a confidential report on several candidates being considered for a church vacancy:

 Adam: Good man but problems with his wife. Also one reference told of how his wife and he enjoy walking nude in the woods.

 Noah: Former ministry of 120 years with not even one convert. Prone to unrealistic building projects.

 Elisha: Reported to have lived with a single widow while at his former church.

 Deborah: Strong leader and seems to be anointed, but she is female.

 Paul: Powerful CEO type leader. However, short on tact, unforgiving with younger ministers and women, harsh and has been known to preach all night.

 Timothy: Too young!

 Jesus: Has had popular times, but once his church grew to 5000 he managed to offend them all, and then this church dwindled down to twelve people. Seldom stays in one place very long. And, of course, he’s single.

 You see no-one has it all. No-one is the perfect leader, the perfect man or woman, the perfect person to stand up to the giants in this our world.

 The story of David standing up against Goliath is a great one – it’s the wee boy against the bully, the mouse against the cat, the weak against the strong. The idea that David pegged Goliath with nothing but a leather strap and a pouch you swirl in the air made the story all the more dramatic. However, the main reason we loved this tale was that we identified with David as the underdog, and better yet that God seemed to side with the underdog.

It is the stuff of movies – you know the kind. Erin Brokovitch the untrained legal assistant takes on the big guys and wins, the football/basketball/baseball/toboggan team, the has been golfer, the injured dancer, the guy from the poor background – choose which ever one you like, add a film script – all taking on the challenge, being inspired to take on the heavy weights and winning. That’s the story of David versus Goliath!

 Except it isn’t.

 The idea that David and Goliath is about the underdog triumphing over the big is all wrong. Because you see David is not the underdog we all think he was. In fact Goliath is the real underdog.

 Now I hope you will forgive me for turning lifelong held assumptions on their head. If David was your hero and you think I have just dismissed him – please bear with me – he still is a hero!

 You see David is no underdog for one very big reason – God was on his side!

 David is instead a tool of God. This isn’t a story about little David’s triumph over the big giant against all odds. It’s a theological statement about the power of God over everything that seeks to bring us down. God is the main protagonist on this stage, not David. God is the main actor who drives the story.

 Goliath represents evil and sin and all the destructive practices of abuse and injustice we fight against every day of our lives. The good news is we aren’t fighting them all by ourselves. God is fighting in and through us – that is, if we trust in God enough to join the battle. For some of us Goliath is fear, for others of us Goliath represents worry. Either way, we are immobilized the way Saul’s army was when it came face-to-face with the Philistine giant.

 Too often we only want to see David and Goliath meeting at high noon at the OK Corral. However, when we forget God is Goliath’s real foe, we turn this story into another version of Star Wars where good and evil are equal, duking it out for who’s in charge. This story really is an answer to the question, “Who’s in charge here?”

 God of course!

 God did not send David in unprepared. David in preparation picks up five smooth stones and pops them in his pouch. If we think of these five smooth stones as David’s five weapons against Goliath then what might they represent?

 Well I read a wonderful description of these stones this week that I hope you will appreciate – I certainly do – and not just because it made my sermon much easier to write but because the description make beautiful sense!

 The five stones reminds us of five truths: (take 5 stones from pocket and place one by one on pulpit saying…) God Loves You, God Knows You, God Treasures You, God Forgives You, and God Is With You.

 God Loves You, God Knows You, God Treasures You, God Forgives You, and God Is With You.

 The first Truth is God loves you. One of the things a lot of us have trouble with is the image we often get of God through some of the stories in the Old Testament. Some of the passages make God out to an Angry Vengeful God. But this is not God – God is a God of love and he loves you! Yes you! To understand God fully we cannot and should not take the Old Testament stories in isolation – they belong together in the Bible as a whole. God is love the Bible tells me so!

 Another Truth is that God knows you. God loves you and God knows you. Scripture even says that God loves you so much that your name is tattooed or written on the palm of God’s hand. In Isaiah 49:16 God says, “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands….”

 Some people have a hard time comprehending that God knows each and every one of us by name. Or that God desires a personal relationship with each of us. These people sort of view life like a giant Ant Farm. We’re the ants and God is the owner. We go about our business and God just sits back and watches. Every now and then God might throw a treat or a morsel our way, just because. Or God could be angry and capricious and just pick up the whole Ant Farm and shake it up, just to see what will happen.

 But we know that is not right either – God knows us but he allows us to make our own choices – granted he wants us to make the right choices – and we don’t always do that. But he trusts us and we should trust Him – remember he knows you – yes you!

 God loves you, God knows you and God treasures you. There are a lot of people in the world who suffer from low self-esteem. There are a lot of reasons why but there are even more reasons in the Bible for us to have good self-esteem.

 We truly are Treasured by God. Remember, we are the children of God, we are heirs of the Kingdom, brothers and sisters with Christ and Friends of Jesus. Those are just a few things the Good Shepherd called us.

 In John 10:14 Jesus says: “I am the Good Shepherd, I know my own and my own know me.”

 If that doesn’t convince you, then remember that God sent His Only Son just for you. Yes you!

 God loves you, God knows you, God treasures you and God forgives you. Jesus didn’t come just to be a good example. We already had plenty of those in Scripture. Jesus came to save us and bring us back into a loving relationship with God.

 John 3:16 reminds us just how much God loves us and wants our relationship to be healed and continue. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”

We’ve heard that quote so many times and seen it in so many place that a lot of times we just turn off our mind and don’t even listen. But this is one of the best Treasures in all of Scripture.

 God forgives you. And that lifts such a burden from our heart and spirit. No matter how far away we get from God, no matter how LOST we become, God wants us back. And when we turn around, when we head back to God, God comes running to greet us. And that’s when you discover God forgives you. Yes you!

 God loves you, God knows you, God treasures you, God forgives you, and God is with you.

 In Matthew 28: 20, the very last words of the Gospel, Jesus tells us ” And I will be with you always, to the end of the age..” We are not alone. God is with you.

 There is a lovely story about a father who listened as his son told him about his first serious conflict at school. He had been picked on by three bullies who punched him and knocked him off his bike as he was riding home. These bullies had made life difficult for the boy, and he told his father that they threatened to do more harm the next morning. The boy was greatly disturbed; he didn’t know what to do.

 That evening the father taught his son some basic techniques on how to defend himself. Together they explored all the possibilities, including the possibility that he might try to win them over as friends. The father worked hard to build up his son’s self-confidence.

 The next morning the father and son prayed together. And with a reassuring embrace and a handshake, the father smiled confidently and said, “You can do it, son. I know you’ll make out all right.” With that assurance the boy got on his bike and rode off to school.

 What the son did not know was that his father followed him in the car that day. He stayed just far enough behind to remain out of sight, but close enough to come to his son’s assistance if needed. If there was trouble the father would be there. The son might have thought he was all alone, but his father was behind him all the way.

 That is God – with you always – yes you!

 God loves you, God knows you, God treasures you and God forgives you and God is with you.

 Simply put, David picked up Five Smooth Stones before facing Goliath. He placed them in his pouch and coupled with his faith, he overcame the Giant obstacle in his life. These Five Truths, these Five Smooth Stones, when placed in the pouch or treasure chest of our faith, can help us overcome any of the giant obstacles we might face in life.

 So you see David had so much weaponry in his wee pouch, not such an underdog was he?

 And that makes us no underdogs either – we have the same weaponry in our hearts.

 The world is a challenging place – we face many battles, many temptations and many things that challenge us. But we need not be defeated.

 At Tuesday night’s Bible study we were discussing the closing verses of the Book of Revelation – one of the questions posed was about what we might want defeat in our world today. I was perhaps a bit unchristian in my response. I suggested I wanted Jesus to defeat the apparently growing Humanist movement. Not that I mean any individual humanist any harm – but I want Jesus to put a stop to the aggressive ‘anti christian’, ‘anti-faith’ rhetoric that comes from the Humanist movement.

 This is just one of my wee bug bears at the moment – Christianity is not under attack from other faiths – it along with other faiths is under attack from the faithless.

But we like David have a powerful armoury – we have God on our side. We have our five smooth stones. Christianity will not be defeated.

 We have to have faith. Think about the disciples in today’s Gospel reading. They were there with Jesus in the boat, in the storm and Jesus is having a nap.

 And then the disciples voice their doubts. Jesus, it has to be said was a little short with them. ‘Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith?’

I think quite understandably Jesus is more than a little grumpy with them. I know what I am like if my sleep is disturbed – I am apt to be a bit snarly.

But just what were the disciples expecting from him? He wasn’t a fisherman – he wasn’t an expert boats man or seafarer. Had they become too accustomed to him solving all the problems?

Undoubtedly Jesus did care – after all he did calm the storm.

But perhaps he had thought that the disciples needed to take a bit of responsibility themselves.

He was not always going to be around – he knew that. A day was coming when the disciples would be on their own. Except he knew they would not be on their own. He knew the promise he would make to be with them to the end of time. But – here’s the but, he also knew that they would have to be making decisions for themselves that he would not physically be there to lead them.

They needed their faith – they needed to be like David – ready for the challenge.

We need to be ready for the challenge, we need to have our armoury stocked up.

We have to have faith – we have to trust. Jesus promises us so much. Our faith is what gets us through the tough times. It is our faith that enables us to let go. God is constant. He does not waiver.

 He has shown us over and over again – how we can trust him. This is a lesson we continually need to learn – we are just like the disciples – our faith can and does wane.

 The good news for us is that God’s love is not like that. No matter what state our faith is in, how full our spiritual tank is – God’s faith in us is as strong as ever. His heart if full to bursting with love for his people.

 He has cut the apron strings and lets us go – and can do so because he loves and trusts us.

 If Jesus was a little short with his disciples – perhaps it was because he wanted them and us to understand that.

 How does that song go – ‘when the going gets tough – the tough get going!’ Armed with our five smooth stones.

 (Take the 5 stones and put in a pouch one by one saying…)

God loves you, God knows you, God treasures you and God forgives you and God is with you!

Amen

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