The following service was be streamed live via Zoom on June 13th at 10:30am.
The entire text for the service is printed below for home use by those who are not ready to return to public gatherings or who are otherwise not able to be at church on the day. Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions. If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church.
There are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for some of the text, including the sermon . [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip] When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the ‘back’ button of your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons (and daughters) of God.” Rom. 8:14
“The ‘only son’ symbol is a classical image
for the anointed one, God’s active agent,
Messiah or Christ, in whomever it appears at the moment. Saying Jesus is the Christ is one thing;
it central to Christian belief. Saying that
the Christ is nothing or no one other than
Jesus is quite another.” (Paul Tillich)
CALL TO CELEBRATION
Come into this place of worship!
Come in and find peace and rest,
inspiration and aspiration, fellowship and love.
R: Should all else collapse in a heap, we shall stand up tall.
L: Do not be impressed by the outward appearance of a person, for God does not see like we do, but looks into the heart.
R: If anyone travels with Christ, there is a new creation, old things are obsolete, all things become new.
L: Let us worship this God who looks into the human heart and through Christ Jesus makes all things new.
PRAYER OF AWARENESS
God, help us to listen to our inner spirit; to the inner yearning to belong to something greater than ourselves.
Help us to listen to our inner spirits and find there the presence of your good encouraging spirit. Amen.
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
Meditation: “Let us be gentle with ourselves” by B. Cheatham
Let us be gentle with ourselves just now. For a few moments, let us release ourselves from a world that is ‘too much with us’, too noisy, too frantic, too demanding, too judging.
Let us be gentle with ourselves just now.
For a few moments, let us release ourselves into the calm, still world that waits to receive us, where the quiet is broken only by sounds of our own making, by those of our children near-at-hand, by passers-by in the street outside, by a bird, an airplane high overhead.
Within this welcoming quiet, let us befriend ourselves. Where we would unfairly and endlessly berate ourselves for our imperfections, let the tongue of harsh judgment be silent. We will do better tomorrow. We will rise to the occasion.
We will surprise the world with our goodness and achievements. For now, let us simply rest in the gentleness of this moment, letting the healing hand of self-understanding and forgiveness touch us with peace.
Let us now commit ourselves to be in silence, to rest for a moment, to enter a time of peaceful reflection.
Let us allow this space, this place, to offer its care to us,
restful in its quiet, away from the busyness of our everyday life. Let there be a time of silence between us…
(30 seconds Silence)
PRAYERS OF CONFESSION
If we have slipped back into old ways, preferring a shabby comfort to the cost of forging ahead with Christ. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.
If we have been lured by the side-shows of the world, and turned aside to dally in things which we which are not of Christ. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.
If, drawn by the bonhomie of those who do not know Christ, we have compromised our values for the sake of some shallow fellowship. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.
If we have whinged when Christ’s narrow way becomes rough, and sulked when asked to climb a mountain pass with him; Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.
If we have barged ahead, thinking we know the way better than the Lord who makes all things new; Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.
If we have taken a much needed rest, but have allowed it to turn into a prolonged stay among those who talk a lot yet do very little. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.
If, while stopping to enjoy the view from a mountain pass, we have been tempted to build a chapel for ourselves and stay put. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.
Let us give thanks for our living Lord who is more patient than we are, and more generous with mercy than we can ever estimate,
Let us give thanks that forgiveness is forever, and we need never to revisit old regrets and guilt again.
Let us give thanks that grace is free and always will be, and that we are being saved in ways that as yet we cannot begin to comprehend, and so I declare to you…
INTRODUCTION TO READINGS
Today we continue the excursion into the book of Samuel, albeit in reverse. As Samuel unfolds, the people clamour for a king. The idea of a monarchy was clearly the people’s idea, not Yahweh’s. Well, the reign of that first king, Saul, has run its pitiful course, as we heard last week. Today we backtrack a little to the selection of God’s nominee for kingship. Yahweh steps in, takes matters in hand, and sends Samuel on an errand to anoint a new king. This time the king will not be chosen on the people’s terms, but on Yahweh’s. There is tension here because Samuel is on a risky errand of treason. The way God does business is a real pain for those, like Saul, up at the top. We will hear from the gospels a timely reminder that the kingdom of God grows from very small beginnings.
FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES – 1 Sam.15:34-16:13
34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 35 And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.
16 Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”
But the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.”
4 So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”
5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8 So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”
And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
HYMN 597 – “Master, Speak Thy Servant Heareth”
(click here to listen)
FROM THE GOSPELS – Mark 4:30-32
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 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.”
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS “Why are WE here?”
“…for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam.16:7)
In my younger days, I really enjoyed playing sports. Some of the best memories of my childhood are of gathering on Saturday morning with a group of my friends and playing a game of baseball. The first thing we did was to choose teams. Two players would be chosen as the team captains, and they each took turns choosing players for their team. I imagine that most of you had similar experiences.
You will remember that the captains did not choose the players who were the best looking or the ones who wore the coolest clothes. Nor did they choose the ones who were most popular with other kids in their class at school. They chose players with speed and skill. They chose players who could think quickly and make good decisions. They chose players that could get the job done when the game was on the line. It didn’t matter how popular they were or what they looked like.
I have other memories of those Saturday mornings that caused a bit more anxiety though. I remember standing there and being afraid that I would be the last to be chosen. You see, I was a capable baseball player, but I wasn’t the tallest, I wasn’t the strongest, and I wasn’t the fastest. However, I had a lot of heart, and I knew I could do the job if someone would just choose me.
In our Bible story today, God has decided to choose a new King for Israel. He told the Prophet Samuel to go to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse, because He had chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king of Israel. When Samuel arrived in Jerusalem, he went to Jesse’s house and told him to bring his sons so that God could tell him which one He had chosen. As each of Jesse’s sons passed by, God told Samuel that he was not the one. Samuel could not understand it. They were all such handsome men and very strong. Surely one of them must be the one. But God said to Samuel, “Don’t consider his looks. I have rejected him. Man looks at outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
After seven of Jesse’s sons had passed before him, there were no more sons in the house. Samuel turned to Jesse and asked him, “Are these all of the sons you have?”
“Well, there is David, my youngest son,” Jesse replied, “but he is just a boy. He is out taking care of the sheep.” Samuel told Jesse to send for David. In a little while, David came in and stood before Samuel.
“He is the one,” God said. “He will be the next king of Israel. Rise and anoint him with oil.”
He wasn’t the oldest, he wasn’t the tallest, and he wasn’t the strongest. He was only a shepherd boy. But when God looked at David, He saw a king. Why? Because God does not look on outward appearances, God looks at the heart.
So much for the past. Why are you here? Not why are you here, here at church, but why are you here, you of all people, (and you, and you and you). Why, of all the people in the universe, did God choose you to be a disciple of Jesus, to witness in word and deed to the truth of the gospel? Sure, you do the best you can in life, but you know your weaknesses, all the ways you try, but fail. Why you? And yet, here you are. Maybe that’s why we love this story of the prophet Samuel’s surprising designation of little David as the one chosen by God to the King of Israel. Here is the story of the little guy who makes good, the story of the girl in the chorus line being chosen to fill in for the big star at the last minute and, surprise, “A Star is Born.”
All the great sons of Jesse parade before him, but God is not sucked in by the slick public relations tricks, nor fooled by all the campaign hype about “good family man” and “teaches Sunday School” and “just one of the people.” After all of them have been rejected; there is no one left, at least no one but little David who is out minding the sheep. Surprise! David is summoned and everyone gasps as Samuel pronounces, “This is the one.”Now why would God choose a boy? We are not told. God’s choices are often inscrutable, beyond our ability to figure out – surprising. God chooses whom God will choose, and hence was the greatest King of Israel chosen.
From the least came the greatest. Those words, “from the least came the greatest,” sound familiar because, even if you have never heard this story of David’s selection, you have watched God at work before, lifting up the lowly, choosing those who are on the bottom, making the first last and last first.
“To what can I compare the Kingdom of God?” asked Jesus one day before his disciples. The Kingdom of God is like, well, it’s like a tiny mustard seed. Yes, the Kingdom of God is like that tiny, insignificant mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on earth.” Yet when that seed grows, says Jesus, it will germinate, grow and grow until, until – you may have seen a mustard bush – it will grow until it becomes a weed about two feet high.”
“A weed? The Kingdom of God is a weed?”
”Yes,” continued Jesus, “a plant so impressive that small birds can perch on its branches – very small birds, that is.”
”Well, that’s impressive,” said the disappointed disciples, “but only moderately impressive. We don’t like being compared to a weed.”
Evidently, judging from this parable of the mustard seed, God looks at things differently from the way we look at things. Surprise. What we regard as common, small, of little account, God regards as miraculous, wonderful, the essence of the Kingdom of God.
So getting back to my original question: Why were you chosen by God to be a disciple? Why are you here? God’s choices, as I have said, are often inscrutable. God sees more than we see when God looks at people. God sees more than we see when we look in the mirror, too. Yet God knows who is able to do the job. Think about your life, the people with whom you come in contact each day, the things you do, the places you go. Perhaps God has chosen you to be the divine representative in those places, among those people, so that they might see something of God in you.
Samuel anointed David, poured oil on little David’s head as a sign of divine choice, holy commissioning. David was God’s messiah, because that’s what messiah means: God’s anointed one. Surprise! Tomorrow, on the farm or at school, in the office or over the kitchen sink, that’s you: God’s anointed one, God’s messiah.
Lord, we live in a society that exalts those who are big, proud, successful and self-sufficient. We don’t like to be small, needy, dependent. And yet we are. We are the new kid in year two at school, we got the lowest mark on the maths exam, we were the only one in the craft group to get a divorce, we grew old, our friends died, and we were left alone at a nurse home, needy, dependent, small. Remind us of your love for the smallest and the least of those among us. Strengthen us by your presence standing beside us. Use those times when we feel very vulnerable, very small and dependent, to draw us closer to you. Amen.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
R: We are called to pioneer forth toward a future yet unnamed. As we venture forward, we leave behind our desires for a no-risk life, worldly accumulations, certainty of answers. Let us travel light in the spirit of faith and expectation toward the God of our hopes and dreams.
L: Let us be a witness to God’s future breaking in.
R: We set off as a sojourners in faith secure in the knowledge that we never travel alone.
INTERCESSIONS: WE SHARE GOD’S CONCERN
God, the truest Friend of the earth that ever was, is or will be, assist our prayers. Let them echo your love for the earth and all that is in it.
We pray for those who live with us in this church community.
Keep the strong gentle, empower the weak, and make us all more merciful.
Comfort those grieving a loss, heal those recovering from illness, guide those facing tough decisions, and make us all more patient.
Keep the clever wise, forgive and straighten out the foolish, endow the meek with quiet confidence,
and make us all the true children of your love.
We pray also for our wider community and nation.
Guide our leaders, forgive their blunders, humble their pride, work with their strengths, divert them from grave errors, and turn even their weaknesses to good use.
We ask you to likewise bless our world.
By using us and all other people who love justice and compassion, heal the pain of the nations.
Relieve the oppressed, feed the hungry,
stand with those enduring warfare, bless your peacemakers, house the homeless, provide a welcoming place for refugees, and bless any statesman who trusts you more than their own prejudice or fear.
We pray now for ourselves.
Where we are strong in faith, use us sensitively;
where we are weak in faith, help us to believe more daringly;
where we are weak in body, give us delight in the strengths we do have,
where we have abundant energy, let us employ it generously;
where we are large in compassion, enable us to use it efficiently,
where we are surrounded by many possessions, help us to give more freely,
where we must live more frugally, let embrace the special blessings that you have promised to the poor.
God of new creation, let us live as those who really are the reborn creatures of your realm of grace. To your praise and glory. Through Jesus our brother and lord, who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name;
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us in the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen.
THE SENDING OUT
As you leave this time of sanctuary,
much privilege and responsibility awaits you.
Travel confidently and humbly, serve enthusiastically and wisely, pray eagerly and thoughtfully, forgive thoroughly and gladly, and love deeply and generously.
The grace of the Christ Jesus be within you,
the loving providence of God surround you,
the zest of the Spirit drive and enable you
this day and forever. Amen!