By Dennis Sanders
Lent 4A: April 3, 2011
I Samuel 16: 1-13
For some reason, God just doesn't seem to pick people with the right skills for the job. God always seems to pick the smallest, or the weakest, or the youngest candidate for whatever God wants done.
This week is no different. The text opens with the prophet Samuel feeling blue. In chapter 15, Saul, the king of Israel did not heed God's instructions and was rejected as king. Samuel leaves Saul in a huff and the long-standing relationship between them is broken. Samuel was in mourning over the loss of a close friend.
We have no idea how long Sam is sad, but God then tells him enough is enough: it's time to get up and anoint a new king.
Samuel makes the trip to Bethlehem and meets a man named Jesse who has seven sons. Our man Sam gets introduced to Jesse's oldest, Eliab. The text never says that Eliab is handsome, but you can guess he had to be a looker. Samuel is excited and tells God that this has to be "The One."
"Nope," God says. "He's not the One. You see, you humans like to look on the outside, but I tend to look on the inside."
You know the rest of the story. God ends up choosing David, the youngest of Jesse's sons. The Message version of this text refers to David as a "runt." When David is presented to Samuel you hear God saying "This is the One! Anoint him now!"
Like I said, God is an odd God. The people God chooses to do God's work in the world are more times than not, people who are not qualified for the job. Gideon was chosen to be the leader of the Israelites, even though he was a fraidy cat. Jonah preached God's judgement and repentance to the people of Nineveh, even though he hated them and tried to get out of the job. Let's not even start with the disciples of Jesus who somehow were the ones that helped found the church.
Our culture, our world is always attracted to that which is new, shiny and beautiful. We are interested in the person that has the most awards and the most degrees from the finest schools.
But God tends to look at other things and as followers of God's Son, we are also called to look at people with God's eyes. God seems to be able to do mighty things by choosing the weak, the cowardly, and the outcast.
This coming Sunday, many churches will focus on the text from John 9 on the blind man that was healed. It's an important text, but I hope pastors and Christian Ed teachers will consider using the 1 Samuel text as well. In our congregations are people who are dealing with unemployment and feeling useless. There are others who deal with issues of self esteem and depression. Some struggle with substances like drugs or are in recovery and working hard to stay clean and sober. Whole congregations deal with declining membership, declining budgets and empty buildings. This text gives hope, the hope that God can use them to do God's work in the world- even if we don't measure up.
Working at an urban church, we tend to get a lot of people who come literally from off the streets. It's really easy to judge these folks and not seem them as God's own and potentially as God's anointed. But the fact is, they can be used to do God's work just like the richest person in the church.
As we walk our Lenten journey, let us have ears to hear and eyes to see when God might just point to someone we least expect and tell us that "this is the one" who will join us in God's work.
Go and be church.
Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church in Minneapolis.
Photo: Samuel Anoints David from the Brick Testament.