Proper 7-b; June 24, 2012
1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23
Mark 4: 35-41
During the summer, the lectionary takes us on two different train rides, on two different tracks. We travel along at the same speed on each of them, so there is the possibility that we can talk across the rails time and again. It may make for some interesting conversation, but you might just be interested in where one lesson-thread is going, and not pay that much attention to the other one.
So the lectionary gives us highlights from the life of King David for most of the summer, and today, we have this extraordinary story of David and Goliath. I am glad the lectionary gives us this opportunity to catch up with these old Bible stories – for the last time some of us read this story, we were small children ourselves. The characters in this story look very different to children – isn’t David like us, we used to think. Ruddy and handsome. A superhero at a young age. Confident and assured not only of his abilities, but that he is loved by God.
But think of Saul and Goliath, warriors in mid-life, at the height of their powers – men of power and ability, brought down – in different ways -- by this young whipper-snapper. By changing times and circumstances. By someone whose star is rising while theirs is falling. Do we, people “of a certain age” think differently of Goliath’s experience than we did when we were children? Are we now perhaps not so ready to toss aside Saul as little more than yesterday’s news? Are we not able to see more shades of gray in such tales of triumphant heroes? David may be perfect now, but later, as we shall see, he gets into a lot of trouble.
At whatever age, to be called by God to take on some task can be difficult. It seems to be God’s aim to get us to put it all on the line, to put even our lives at risk. The disciples cannot even go sailing – they cannot even ply their trade as fishermen – without Jesus leading them into treacherous waters.
“Let’s go over to the other side,” Jesus says. “The other side” in Gospel of Mark talk means the other side of human experience – the gentiles instead of the Jews, the foreign instead of the familiar, the unknown and alien. Mark’s Jesus preaches a critique of the established order. His Good News is that there is a way to live that is not dominated by Roman oppression or life-less religious observance. He breaks down that old order as he seeks to build a new one – and to understand what he has in mind perhaps we have to get over to the other side and look back on what we could leave behind forever.
But where does Jesus take us? Into the whirlwind, into chaos and danger. “Jesus, wake up! Don’t you see we are dying here. We don’t want to know about the other side if this is the price we have to pay. Let’s go back – to the familiar shore, to the way things used to be, to the way things are supposed to be.
Change is never easy – unless you are young. Think about all those graduates at this time of year – commencing on to the next phase in their lives. Legions of young Davids ready to replace those outmoded Sauls and take down the Goliaths in their paths. Change is all around us, upsetting every imaginable apple cart. Our boats seem to be riding on endlessly stormy seas, and not even Jesus seems to care. Jesus has even called us into this turmoil – taking us to “the other side,” to see who is on the other shore. People are there, people we do not yet know, waiting to hear some smidgen of good news, astounded to see the storm subside, and the seas grow calm, wondering just who could be in that boat.