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  • Robert John Andrews

Reflection: Surprise!



Sunbury

June 13, 2021


First Reading I Samuel 15:34-16:13


15:34Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.


16:1The LORD 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.” 2Samuel 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.’ 3Invite 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.” 4Samuel 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?” 5He 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.


6When 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.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel 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.” 12He 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.” 13Then 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.


Saul still is King but Samuel sees how Saul’s sins and abuses cause God to acknowledge Saul’s behavior disowns him as a worthy ruler. He’s been rejected, though Saul going to fight to keep his throne when he realizes his mandate to rule has been taken away. Samuel then is inspired to search for a new king to replace corrupt Saul.


The prophet Samuel is drawn toward a small country town, called Bethlehem. The town elders at first are afraid of Samuel’s presence. Is he spying for Saul, looking for something for which they might be punished? Saul was the kind of king who ruled by fear. The difference between being ruled by and governed by. Or, worse, is Samuel going to incite something that will get Saul angry at them.


Samuel calms them down and explains his mission, which could get them into trouble, for he’s looking for the new king amongst one of the leading elders sons, Jesse’s sons [I Chronicles 2:13].


Each of Jesse’s sons takes his turn.


No, he’s not the one

Nope, not him

Seven pass by.

No, none was the right one.


Did the sons know they were auditioning for King? Well, you sure know something is up when big time Samuel comes to town.


What is this: American Idol? Dancing with the Stars? Miss America? Less beauty pageant, I suppose, and more like Samuel rummaging through his tool box searching for the right tool.


And by the way: by what criteria, what standards was Samuel judging whether or not God had chosen David? Was it the fact that he was the unlikeliest? The least. The one Dad didn’t bother to bring out and show off?


Did they choose the one who didn’t know he’s auditioning?


Choosing not by outward appearance but what the Lord sees in the heart.


That’s okay. I wasn’t either of my two congregations’ first choice. I’m in good company.


Samuel checks them out one by one, starting with the eldest, Eliab. Elsewhere in the Bible we learn a few things about Eliab and several of the other brothers. They are warriors. Next time we meet them they are fighting in the army of Israel against the nasty, nasty Philistines. We learn something of Eliab’s nature too. Little brother, David, shows up at the camp bringing food from home for his brothers when he hears Philistine Goliath challenging Saul’s army to single combat. David is ashamed nobody has anyone agreed to meet the challenge [I Samuel 17: 26-27]. Big brother Eliab gets angry at David (and likely himself ashamed for being too cowardly to face Goliath one on one, mano y mano), in effect, saying: “What do you know about war you little runt? Shut up and go home to your sheep.”


His brothers are warriors. Rugged men, fit men. Likely strong, tall, and proud. Men just like Saul, strong, tall, and produd. Eliab also is a bully and a coward. Men who feel humiliated tend to try to make themselves feel superior by humiliating others.


But Saul gets wise advice from God (can he get any other kind?)


“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.”


~~~


What are the qualities of a leader? Quite a few American’s looked upon the gangly appearance of Abraham Lincoln and could not imagine him a competent President of the United States. Gangly, awkward, homely, disheveled, “melancholy eyes sunken deep in his haggard face.” And that’s what his friends said. A little girl wrote his face was so thin he should grow a beard.


Yet we now acclaim him our finest President, and, as historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, describes, a man who displayed the finest qualities of leadership, for once Lincoln started talking it didn’t matter what he looked like.


Here’s a few of those qualities:

. 1. The capacity to listen to differing points of view, to let his advisors argue with him, question his assumptions. He created a climate in which people felt free to disagree without fear of consequences. 2. The ability to learn on the job, acknowledge errors, profit from mistakes, withstand adversity, come through trials of fire. 3. He showed a ready willingness to share credit for success. Harry Truman once said: You can accomplish anything in life so long as you do not care who gets the credit. 4. Even more striking than the ability to share credit was his willingness to shoulder blame for the failure of his subordinates. 5. He possessed an acute awareness of his weaknesses which allowed him to compensate for them, such as by forming a team filled with men who would challenge him, disagree with him. 6. He was able to control his emotions. Ritual of writing hot letters hoping if he put it aside he would cool down psychologically and never need to send it. If he did lose his temper, he followed up with a kind gesture immediately. 7. He understood how to relax, replenish his energies, shake off anxiety. Theatre and humor. 8. At crisis moments, his immediate instinct was to go to the battlefield, walk amidst the soldiers, visit the wounded in the hospitals, bolster morale, assess the situation directly.

9. He possessed a quiet but steely resolution to stick to his long term goals even at moments when his own popularity was at stake. 10. He had a remarkable ability to communicate his goals to his countrymen, with stories, everyday metaphors, as well as with a beauty of language.


“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance,

but the LORD looks on the heart.”


Surprise!


~~~


A fellow walking his dog noticed the homeowner sitting in a lawn chair hoeing his garden. What a lazy bum, thought the fellow, until he noticed the crutches beside the chair.


Watch out because our lazy assumptions can mislead us.


One night in a New Jersey village the police spotted an old man wandering the streets and peering into the shop windows. He was poorly dressed. After following him for an hour, the police decided to approach him. He lacked identification. He had neither wallet nor cash. He spoke with a foreign accent. They took him down to the station to charge him with vagrancy. There they discovered this vagrant was Aristotle Onassis, one of the richest men in the world. He was visiting the village so his wife, Jackie Kennedy, could go horseback riding.


Surprise!


God will surprise us every time. A friend of mine and I have feuded for a while over politics, which led us into talking about our news sources. I claim a variety of sources from print to television, never social media. My friend confessed he likes one station in particular – a TV version of buying the National Examiner at the grocery checkout. Why does he like that station? Mostly because of the way the women newscasters look – tall, long legged, short skirts, like models. I told him that he and I have a very different definition of beauty.


How do you define beauty?


How do you define intelligence? Spare us, Lord, all the smart ones who are really, really dumb.


How do you define success?


A church was asked to host an internationally renowned speaker. The congregation was excited, then they got flustered worrying over who would host him over the weekend? They agreed it had to be the finest home in town. Then someone quirky asked: “What makes a home the finest home in town?” Is it the number of rooms? A big screen TV? The number of showerheads in the bathroom? A fancy kitchen? The silverware? Or is the finest home in town the one where there is love and faithfulness, kindness and goodwill among the family? Maybe the finest home in town is a trailer in the trailer park?


Surprise!


Love ‘em and let God judge them, a friend always says. For we are not the Lord’s District Attorney.


God had a surprise in store. Not Eliab. Not Abinadab. Not Shammah. Keep going. Down the line till you come to the one you least expect. It will be him. Boy, little brother getting chosen must have stuck in the craw of the older brothers who assumed they deserved it. Maybe the best are the ones who don’t think they deserve it.


It will be the least of these.


Which is the entire story of Israel and the entire story of Jesus. The least. The unlikeliest. Look at who he chose as his disciples, as his Ministers of the Word and Sacrament.


Years ago on one of our Presbytery mission trips to Honduras – this one to the rough town of Talanga north of Tegucigalpa, every morning, every lunch break, and at the end of the work day we passed by the fancy church. The sign outside read, “La Iglesia de Jesuchristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias.” It took me a while and a quick thumbing through the pages of my worn Spanish dictionary to figure that one out. What a beautiful building it was. In contrast to every other building in Talanga, this very poor and rough town in Honduras, the church had fresh paint, two tones of brown. Being a painter and coming from a paint store background, I appreciate a good paint job. The building was two stories high. The sanctuary, visible through the locked, wide, glass doors, appeared airy and spacious. A brass plaque, advertising the name of the church, was bolted onto the front wall, high and to the left of the doorway. At one corner of the yard, independent of the sanctuary building, rose an impressive bell tower, though I never remember hearing the bells toll. A very large and handsome latrine, truly an envy of the neighborhood, was formed of concrete and sat on the shady side of the church building. Green grass, real grass, surrounded the building. The courtyard included a full basketball court of uncracked concrete, the lines painted clean and visible. The yard itself was surrounded by a cyclone fence topped with rows of silvery barbed wire. The wire was stretched between arms of metal that leaned out toward the road.


In contrast to the La Iglesia de Jesuchristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias there was the Iglesia Evangelica Santidad, which was our mission team’s host church. Its name had been hand painted on a wooden sign swinging over the dirt lane. This church was simply too busy for the luxury of being an elegant building. Our backpacks and hats hung on the wrought iron fence. The gate always was open throughout the day. The small courtyard between the sanctuary and the manse suggested a repair shop more than church. Saw horses and rebar and wire and tools cluttered the place. A perpetual parade of both Gringos and Hondurans filed through the pastor’s home to use the single toilet. In a cramped room upstairs, the pastor’s wife taught young girls how to sew with ancient foot pedaled sewing machines. When it rained, the rebar crew moved everything to the patio outside the sanctuary.


Inside the sanctuary, scattered among the pews, we ate our meals. The table at the rear of the sanctuary, ordinarily the communion table, became our daily buffet table. The water jug wobbled on another table where the crew filled their canteens. The floor was slippery from us spilling the water. After lunch, before jostled and forced to return to the hot work, we would nap on the pews, the heels of our boots dirtying the pews. On a paper mural behind the altar, above the tortoise shell drum set, the beckoning words, “Volviendos A Dios” (returning to God) were written in black across a childlike painting of a gray mountain. At the base of the mountain were sketched figures of people from a variety of countries and cultures.


It was a study of two congregations. Which one do you suppose was the real church?


Surprise!


~~~


Listen please:


II Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17


So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!








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