Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 and Psalm 9:9-20 or 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16; Job 38:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
Narrative Lectionary: Series on Jeremiah, Letter to the Exiles, 29:1, 4-14
This week, there are two choices for the first selection of the Hebrew scriptures, following the rise of the kings of Israel. The first choice is the famous story of David and Goliath, a story of mythical proportions. The champion of the Philistines, Goliath, was a giant of a man, and challenged Israel to send out a warrior to fight him. David, the youngest and smallest of his brothers who fought with Saul, offered to fight Goliath. Saul was skeptical, for David was too small, but David shared how he protected his father’s sheep by fighting lions and bears. Saul relented, allowing David to challenge Goliath, but clothed David with his own armor. However, David wasn’t used to the armor and couldn’t walk in it. Instead, he took three stones and his sling, and declared that God would deliver Goliath into his hand. He struck Goliath in the center of his forehead, and the giant fell dead.
Psalm 9:9-20 is paired with this first reading. This song praises God for acting in justice. God is on the side of the oppressed and hears their cries for help. The psalmist turns personal in verse 13, calling upon God for mercy because of their suffering. God is the one who brings deliverance, and God has been made known to the psalmist. Other nations who oppress the poor are caught in traps of their own making, “snared in the work of their own hands” (vs. 16). Though the wicked nations will be forgotten in the place of the dead, the poor and needy will not be forgotten by God. The psalmist concludes by calling upon God to remind the other nations that they are only human, and that God is the one to be in awe of.
The second choice for the first selection follows right after the first selection: David’s return to Saul with the head of Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16. When Saul asked who David is, he told him he was the son of Jesse of Bethlehem. David was introduced to Jonathan, and their relationship is of legend: their souls were bound to each other. David was taken into Saul’s house to live, and he served Saul over his army. However, the people loved David. Every time David was praised, Saul became tormented by an evil spirit, and set out to kill David. Saul was in awe, but also envious of David’s success and praise, and the people loved David.
The psalm paired with the second selection is Psalm 133, a wedding song blessing family that comes together in unity. When family joins together, it is a blessing, like an anointing of oil upon Aaron the priest’s beard. It is like the blessing of dew that refreshes the ground at Zion, where God’s blessing is ordained: “life forevermore.”
The third choice for this Sunday (which is normally the second selection), is from Job 38:1-11, God’s answer to Job. After Job faced the tragedy of losing his family and even his health in chapters 1-2, for the next thirty-six chapters, Job argued with God and with his friends. Job demanded an answer from God, wanting to know where God was when this tragedy befell him. God’s response was not what Job expected, answering Job from a whirlwind. God instead questioned Job, as to where Job was while God was forming the universe and the earth. God was setting the foundations of the earth, and limiting the sea, the waters below and above (in the understanding of the world from Genesis 1, there was perceived to be a dome of water above the earth). God was busy with the waters like a parent with a newborn, stopping the sea from breaking forth from the womb and tying a diaper around the waters above. God was even busy setting bars and doors—childproofing for creation!
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 is paired with the Job passage and the Gospel lesson, as it is a song of God’s mighty work in saving those at sea in disaster. The psalmist opens by calling the people to worship God, whose steadfast love never ceases, and who gathers the people from all directions. The psalmist praises God for rescuing those who were in danger on the waters, for God commands the wind and the waves. When the crew of the ships cried out in their trouble, God rescued them, calming the storm. The psalmist sings the story of what happened and calls for the people to give praise and thanksgiving, for God’s steadfast love that has saved them.
The Epistle readings continue in 2 Corinthians with 6:1-13. Paul urges the church in Corinth not to accept God’s grace in vain, but to understand the hardship that comes with following Christ. Paul shares the difficulties he and others have faced, and yet they have remained true to Christ even when they’ve been called “imposters.” Paul appeals to the church to listen and receive him and his companions, and their teachings, for it’s up to the church whether to open their hearts and minds, or not.
Jesus and the disciples crossed the lake in Mark 4:35-41, but Jesus fell asleep in the back of the boat. When the disciples woke him up in the middle of a storm, they were already taking on water, and demanded of Jesus, “Don’t you care that we’re dying?” (vs. 38). Jesus woke up from his comfy cushion, rebuked the wind, and told the water, “Peace, be still!” Immediately (one of Mark’s favorite words), the storm stopped and there was a dead calm. Jesus asked the disciples why they didn’t have faith, and why they were afraid. The disciples were amazed, wondering who Jesus was, since the wind and waves obeyed him.
The Narrative Lectionary continues its series on Jeremiah, with his letter to the exiles in chapter 29. Jeremiah wrote to those who had gone into exile in the first wave of Babylon’s control of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar. Instead of hope for return coming soon, Jeremiah instead wrote that they needed to build hope where they were: to build houses and live in them, get married, have children and plan for their children’s future. Instead of hoping for an immediate return, they ought to hope for goodness in their new home in Babylon. God has plans for a future with hope for them (vs. 11), but it will not be immediate. It is not what they want, but what God desires for them, since there is no turning back from Babylon’s domination.
Remembering that God is in control and that we are not doesn’t mean a literal “Jesus take the wheel.” We all have aspects of our lives we can control, but there are at times things we cannot: natural disasters, economic collapse, and yes, pandemics. We all know what happens when we don’t take precautions and assume the pandemic isn’t as big a deal as people made it out to be: we end up with hundreds of thousands dead in the U.S. and cities that experienced their hospital systems overwhelmed. We have seen it happen recently in India. In Jeremiah’s day, the king of Judah and the priests and other leaders didn’t want to listen to him while Babylon made war against them. They wanted to assume God was on their side and they would win, instead of understanding that God was with them wherever they went, and that they had to accept the consequences of their previous actions. For the disciples on the boat, going out on the lake means a storm might rise up. Just because Jesus was with them didn’t mean a storm would come up. However, their response was to blame Jesus for not caring about what happened to them, instead of trusting that Jesus would bring them through the storm. God doesn’t promise our lives to be easy, or for the outcomes to be what we want, but God does promise to be with us.
Call to Worship
Gather us together, O God,
Bind us together in Your love.
No matter where we are, online or here,
We are Your body, O Christ.
The same Spirit that stirred the water of creation,
Stirs in our hearts and calls us to justice.
Guide us, O Holy One, in this time of worship:
Remind us that we are one in Christ Jesus.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of Creation, we confess that we fret and worry about little things that we will soon forget, but still, they consume our thoughts. We confess that we are disappointed when things do not go our way, unable to see that a better opportunity may come before us at another time. We become stuck and dejected, angry and hurt, when we are passed over for a promotion or recognition, when others do not observe the hard work we believe we have done. Forgive us, O God, for holding on to hurt feelings at times instead of participating in the greater work at hand. Grant us the wisdom to discern when injustice occurs, or when it is simply a mistake or different point of view, and help us instead to pause, reflect, and seek Your guidance, through the wisdom of those we trust. For it is in Your Wisdom we pray. Amen.
God has searched us, knows us, and discerns our thoughts from far away. There is no place we can go, nowhere we can hide, where God is not with us. God restores our soul.
God forgives you, for you are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, and God loves you madly. Go and share the good news: no matter what the world has said to you, you are God’s beloved child, very much needed in this world. Amen.
Prince of Peace, may Your peace reside in our very souls. May the reverberations of yesterday’s actions be stilled. May the feelings that consume us be quieted. May the thoughts that invade our minds and refuse to leave be silenced. Instead, may Your peace prevail in us. May the violence of the world not touch us, even if only for a moment, as we accept Your embrace and trust in Your love. May we find peace, one moment at a time, as we follow You, Gentle Shepherd of Peace. Amen.