As the calendar prepares to turn over to the summer season, we give thanks for the beauty of Creation, and all that the Creator has blessed us with! What are you excited about this summer? As we have now moved into the second phase of our Provincial Health Restrictions, perhaps there is much to be optimistic and give thanks for! One of the celebrations around Northwood is the re-opening of our Thrift Store. We have been closed since late November and the second phase of the health restrictions allows us to now reopen, with some restrictions, in both the sanctuary and in the house. Thanks to our many committed thrift store volunteers for helping us re-open! We are now open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays! Please spread the word.
Also, just a reminder for any people wishing to purchase an official orange shirt, similar to the one I wore during the June 6th worship service which lamented the tragic discovery in the former Residential School in Kamloops. If you would like to be included in this order, please advise the church office the size and number you wish to purchase over the next few weeks. Here is a link for further information and sizing: https://www.orangeshirtday.org/shirts--gifts.html The cost is dependent on volume and will be under $30 each and will be placed next week.
“You’d Better Wait…Till Your father Father Gets Home”
1 Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 38-40 ~ Northwood United Church ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook
There is a phrase that have been blazed in the psyche of many children. These words caused anxiety and deep fear in many hearts. Hopefully, they were reserved as an extreme measure. Reserved for those days when things REALLY got out of hand, when the children were REALLY misbehaving and out of control. And you likely remember them: “You’d better wait until your father gets home!” And when the car parked in the driveway, and when the front door opened, the keys set on the table, and when the father walked into the home…the dynamics of family life unfold. “You’d better wait until your father gets home!”
I want to begin by being sensitive and acknowledging that the scene I am setting is emotionally charged, I think, for many of us. It is emotionally charged for children; it is emotionally laden for mothers; and it is emotionally filled for men and fathers as we continue to discern our role. These emotions are fueled by so many of the prescriptions and pains of the past, and they provide an opportunity on a day like ‘Fathering Sunday’ to pause and unpack these social expectations of the past. And we also consider how they might inform our future roles. I believe that ‘Fathering Sunday’ provides an apt opportunity to shine some gospel light on the role of all men: be they fathers, brothers, uncles, coaches, all of us. And for those of us who support the men we love, I think there is something here for us too. Looking back, there is a need, in some cases, to find healing from the past. And, I think for all of us, there is always a need to find guidance in faithfully living into the future. What is the role and call of men today? How should we shape our young men to live faithfully into the future? What is their role in their family, in society, and in culture? These are questions that, following the heavy-handed prescriptive ways for our men in the past…the pains of yesterday, these are questions that we must ask as we faithfully move ahead living into the kin-dom realm of God.
The text before us is certainly a classic! It lifts up two ways for men to be. To be sure, it is a testosterone-charged tale that centres our conversations on power: power-over, power-with, and power-through. In the story, we meet two very different characters; with two very different approaches to conflict; with two very different understandings of the nature of power. The story of David and Goliath.
Goliath is the prototypical ‘macho-man.’ He was something of a legend in his day. The text reports his height to be 6 cubits and a span, which by today’s measurements would translate to 9’6”. This would make him the tallest human to have lived! But as we receive this text from an oral tradition, one of telling stories through the generations. So, we can receive this story as remembering Goliath as ‘larger than life’. Goliath, whatever his actual height, was absolutely massive. He was as tall as he was wide; a feared Phillistine warrior, feared for his physical prowess and power-over others. He was a legend. Legends of power and dominance allowed order to be maintained by overpowering others. And so the Philistines continued to expand. Much like the feared-father soon to arrive home, the Philistine warriors were feared! The Philistines lived by the principle of power that ‘might is right’. They inflicted punishment; they held power-over any who would oppose. How many of us were raised to value physical prowess? We raise our boys to be ‘big and strong’. As we know, this has been in the air we have breathed for a long time, and in many ways, we are just now realizing the consequences of it today. Beliefs such as: bigger is better…only the strong survive…might makes right. And so, as culture idolized Goliath, it came to instill these values in so many of us, and power…order…the basis for ruling an empire or a household slowly took these principles on.
By way of contrast, the other character in the story is David. The text just introduced David a little earlier in 1st Samuel. Goliath is a legendary warrior…known by all. What do we know about David? This far into the story….not much. David was the youngest brother of 7 other siblings. The one that no one had ever heard of. As a youth, he did not sport a rugged beard – something prized by the men of the day. And finally, he was noted as inexperienced as a soldier. While he lacked age, rugged masculinity, and battle-prowess, David had established himself in other areas. He was a faithful shepherd, caring for the sheep of the field. He was also a talented musician, talented with the stringed lyre. His music was so soothing, that he became known for it. He was invited into Saul’s court, to play for him, with the hopes that it would bring healing his illness. Aside from being a musician-shepherd, we realize that he is also a gifted speaker…giving us some of the most memorable lines in the Old Testament as he will speak to both Saul and to Goliath as the story unfolds: David will address Saul, convincing him that he is the one to meet Goliath. Later, in battle, David will address Goliath. The battle does not go even come close to going the full 5 rounds of an MMA fight. It is more of a Connor McGregor battle that concludes before it gets started. And the rest, as they say, is history: David defeats Goliath. The Philistines flee. Yet, we are left with some profound wisdom to unravel. Wisdom…that, I think, might further inform our conversations for ‘Fathering Sunday.’
So, what do we learn from David and Goliath? The first area pertains to the tools we carry into war. We may not be warriors walking into battle; however, we all walk into conflict situations in life. What tools do we carry with us? The text paints quite a dramatic image of the massive Goliath wearing battle armour and carrying massive weapons of war. When David was first outfitted with his own set of armour, he was unable to move. It was almost comical…it didn’t fit him; he couldn’t move under the tremendous weight; his weapons held him back. And so, David shed the traditional weapons of war. But he did take some equipment, didn’t he? He did not arrive completely naked and unequipped. What did he take? Three things: his shepherd’s staff, his sling-shot and 5 smooth stones. His shepherd staff reminds us of his identity: just like his sheep, he was shepherding and caring for the welfare of the Hebrew people. However, this care was arriving in a new way…it was a new way to encounter violence and force…it was a way that David would shepherd in through his role as King (but I’m getting ahead of myself, he isn’t declared King yet…sorry…the story is so exciting!).
Aside from his shepherd staff, he also carries his slingshot and five smooth stones. A weapon ~ mostly used for hunting ~ but a weapon, nevertheless, used to hunt and survive. The number of stones is significant. 5 stones will also be the same number of books in the Bible that form the Hebrew Law – The Pentateuch ~ The Torah. So, we see David going to battle, armed with God’s guiding presence ~ the sling and the 5 stones. And to be clear, this is not a story that teaches passivity. Remember that David was the shepherd who had battled lions and bears whenever they threatened his defenseless sheep. And as the story demonstrates, David will fight when need be! And here, David is armed with God’s power, here to protect God’s sheep. He comes to battle to protect the Hebrew people against the oppressive Philistines. And, in the end, he uses Goliath’s sword to decapitate Goliath and win freedom for the Hebrews. Scripture teaches action when necessary. The gospels record a violent and angry Jesus who tears apart the temple when it is not being used as a place to worship God. And, our modern day soldiers acting as peace-keepers demonstrate this same principle. This text asks us to consider what we carry into battle with us? Do we take God’s guidance? Do we place God at the centre of how we act in our community? Our family? All of our situations? There MAY be a time for violence, a time to protect and shepherd, however, we must ask God first if this is the way.
Another informative section in the text centres on David’s gifts. It causes us, each, to pause and take inventory on what gifts we are blessed for use in the world. David is remembered as having some tremendous gifts that God blessed others with. Many of the Psalms throughout the Hebrew songbook in the Bible are credited to David. His music was, in fact, so powerful that Saul invited him into his court with the hope that it would have a healing property. David is also remembered for his acumen with speech. His words continue to be remembered, informing people’s faith journey to this day. Meeting Goliath on the battlefield, David is recorded as saying: “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin: but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” Music and speech…David’s gifts. What are yours? When the Spirit was hovering over you in your creation, what gifts did God infuse into your being that are essential for God’s kin-dom realm to unfold? Your gifts are critical for the health of your family…for the well-being of your community…of the groups and teams and organizations you are part of. If David had stayed out in the sheep fields, the world would have been impoverished for his greed in not sharing his gifts. Yet…he did not stay isolated. He shared his gifts…he became King…the divine anointed King. And through his lineage is traced the birth of Jesus! I was given a pillow after the birth of my first child. The words on the pillow, say “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad”. What that means to me is that active participation with my children…that ‘being there’ for them…that ongoing parenting…that loving act of being a Dad is the most important. My father was adopted, and my Grandpa was his Dad…actively choosing to be involved…actively choosing to share his gifts….his life with his children. What are your gifts that you share?
‘You’d better wait...till your father get’s home!’ We started considering those threatening words held over the hearts of fearful children…shaping the actions of men in the past. I wonder if a revised usage of that term might one of considering how God’s presence ~ one that Jesus warmly names as “Abba” ~ “Father” might arrive through you. What if you brought God’s presence home with you through the gifts infused in your being? ‘Wait till your Father gets home’. And you brought God’s peace, compassion and care to a hectic situation? What if you brought God’s presence into your community? Your teams? and organizations? We’d better wait till the Father arrives. God’s hope, peace, joy and love is needed here too.
You’d better WAIT till your father gets home…or Let’s wait till the Father ~ God’s presence arrives.