A sermon preached at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, CA
June 20, 2021
1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49,
I recognize myself in this David and Goliath story.
And I am not David.
I know I am supposed to like this story. It shows David being faithful and courageous, trusting that God has equipped him to do the job at hand. blah blah blah
But I’m more of a Saul kind of girl.
Like Saul, I want to be able to control every possible detail before I go after those impossible to slay giants. I would have studied maps. I would have considered all the weapon options available. Do I want to upgrade the shield to a titanium model? Does the 6 foot spear have enough heft? I would have looked at weather patterns and discerned the best time to battle. Because surely with enough study, enough preparation, enough of my own gumption, I can get through it. Right?
And I know that my Saul-like tendencies are also what keep me standing on the sidelines, not rushing in to do something, to do anything, paralyzed by the giants in front of me.
And this is where I really wish I were more like David. Because he doesn’t rely on anything other than God’s call in his life and the gifts God has given him.
And because he trusts that God has equipped him to do what needs to be done, he is fearless. He isn’t weighted down with armor or expectations. He uses his own gifts and skills to do what nobody else would do.
And we face giants that seem so massive and large, we can’t imagine toppling them. And as we look around the news, giants seem to be winning more than we’d like. Maybe your giant is a diagnosis that menaces and threatens, looming over you like an 8 foot tall man, blocking out the sun.
Maybe your giant takes another form.
Whatever the giants we face, we have moments of being weighed down with the armor of other people’s expectations and hopes, and we have to come to the realization that we can’t carry the weight of other people’s dreams or fears, only our own.
I’ve been praying this week, about the giants I see in front of me. What are the giants you’re facing?
In the face of my feelings of helplessness, I’ve been praying to be more like David.
Racism is a giant. And it has taken down so many people through the ages. Racism remains a tall, scary, giant in our culture. And while we should stand up to individual acts of racism when we see them, we also need to be aware of the systemic racism that pervades our culture and infects all of us, no matter how we may feel individually about an issue.
Now the world is opening up again, and people are gathering together, the giant of gun violence is returning, mass shooting events we didn’t see while people were sheltering in place.
And I don’t know about you, but I stand before these particular giants and feel helpless, unprotected, and inadequate.
And that’s been our national response to these two giants for years now. Gun massacres keep happening and we shrug our shoulders as if there were nothing we could do to change laws, policies, hearts, and minds. We stand before them, quaking and paralyzed by fear and by the enormity of the task.
Racism keeps killing our children and diminishing our humanity, and we look around, wondering who will save us. We wonder when our own giant will show up to battle Goliath. This weekend is Juneteenth, which marks the day in 1865 Union soldiers arrived in Texas and enslaved black people found out the war had ended. In the absence of our 24 hour news cycle, it seems hard to imagine the Confederacy had been able to keep the news of the war’s ending quiet for over two months (and more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation).
Of course there are people still today, trying to do the same thing. Our Senate passed a resolution—unanimously! (when was the last time that happened?)—making Juneteenth a federal holiday. I want to affirm the goodness in that action, but we have to do more than window dressing. The same senate is busy working to keep voting rights bills from passing, and trying to limit the ability for schools to teach children about our own history with racism.
The irony is not lost on me that a holiday commemorating when white people tried to pretend the Civil War hadn’t ended is being celebrated by people trying to pretend the Civil War never happened.
We’re facing some giants.
And so I keep praying to be more like David. To trust that God has equipped me to stand against the giants that are laying waste to the land I love.
God has equipped you as well, you know.
And before you start saying to yourself, “well someone else could do that because they are amazing and I’m not them”, let me just remind you that the story of David and Goliath is not about David trying to be someone else.
The slaying of Goliath only happened because David was being himself.
And being himself was enough.
So don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself.
And trust that being yourself is what God is calling you to do. Because we have giants to slay, before they kill us all. We can’t just keep waiting on the sidelines while these giants destroy another Sandy Hook, another Charleston, another Aurora, another Ferguson, another Pulse Nightclub. We’ve already had 272 mass shooting incidents in the US this year where 4 or more people have been shot or killed.
What are we going to do? As Christ’s disciples in this particular congregation—what are we going to do? The time for silence has long passed.
Jesus’ disciples faced giants, storms, and fears of their own. Jesus has, just a few chapters before this morning’s reading in Mark’s gospel, called his disciples to come and follow him.
They don’t know much about being disciples yet, but as professional fishermen, they ought to remember how to handle a boat in a storm.
And Jesus has been teaching by the shore. And some of his teaching is a little overwhelming. And polarizing. And we understand how the disciples might be wondering, “what have we gotten ourselves into. We aren’t rabbis. We can’t argue with Pharisees. We are fishermen. What are we doing here?”
So when Jesus says, “hey, let’s go across to the other side”, the disciples took him with them, “just as he was”.
Like David before him, Jesus wasn’t putting on someone else’s armor or identity. He trusts that who God had created him to be was enough.
I wonder if everything that followed was just an object lesson to remind the disciples that they, too, had been called, just as they were?
So the disciples take Jesus, just as he is. And Jesus is asleep, completely exhausted after preaching for days to large crowds. He’s with the one group of people he can trust to have his back while he rests. They are the professional fishermen and he’s the rabbi.
But when the storm comes up, the fishermen panic.
And I love their comment. “Rabbi. Don’t you even care that we’re DYING???”
You wonder if snarky, tired, just pulled out of sleep Jesus wanted to say, “Oh hey, my bad. I’m sorry. I thought I was on a boat with a bunch of guys who knew how to sail.”
Instead he first says, “Peace! Be still!”
Which might have been directed as much to the disciples as it was to the weather.
As he rebukes the demons, he rebukes the weather, he rebukes our fear, he rebukes our feelings of inadequacy.
And then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Why are we afraid and paralyzed by indecision and inadequacy? Do we have no faith?
How did the disciples so quickly forget, how do we so quickly forget, that we have what it takes?
Just as we are.
If Jesus trusted the disciples enough to sleep through a storm, then there was no need to freak out. When ‘just as we are’ is enough, we should just go about hoisting the mizzen mast or trimming the main sail, or whatever it is that sailors do in the storm.
Why are we paralyzed by inaction in the face of storms? Do we have no faith?
This story reminds us that storms will come. Even Jesus and the disciples faced them. With the chaos in our world, we don’t need much to be reminded of storms.
It is okay to acknowledge our paralysis, our fear, our inaction. But it is not okay to stay paralyzed, especially if it keeps us from trusting in God and trusting in each other and trusting in the way God has equipped us for the journey.
Because whether it is David facing Goliath, or a group of seasoned sailors facing a storm, we have been called to be who we are and to be where we are. We have been equipped with particular gifts that make us each uniquely qualified to help out the community. And this week has made it abundantly clear that God needs us to show up and act. Just as we are.
I’m going to end this sermon with a video, by Delta Rae, where she sings:
“Come on and raise your voice above the raging seas,
we can’t hold our breath forever while our brothers cannot breathe.”
We’ve got storms. And we’ve got giants. And I have great confidence in the work to which we have been called, because the HOPE of the gospel compels us to see this work through. I have great confidence in the gifts with which God has equipped you, has given us.
How will we use it to show up for our world, just as we are?
Be in prayer, and remember that prayer is only the beginning. The world needs us, friends, now. Just as we are.