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June 25, 2000
Second Sunday after Pentecost 

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LECTIONARY READINGS
from the Revised Common Lectionary

* 1 Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49 and Psalm 9:9-20
or
Job 38:1-11 and
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41
* Used as today's sermon text

[ Read the texts at the Vanderbilt Divinity On-Line Library ]
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The Goliath Factor

Have you met Goliath?

Goliath is that great big giant of an obstacle that seems unbeatable, insurmountable and impossible.  It is that one huge problem that you think just might be your undoing -- a difficulty so great that it has you entertaining the thought that you are close to throwing in the towel.

Have you met Goliath?

Perhaps you have met him in the past.  Or maybe Goliath is troubling you even now. It could be that he is a vague fearsome figure in your future.  No matter, most of us have a Goliath or two in our lives.

I want to encourage you to confront Goliath today -- to deal with this enemy that robs your life of hope and joy.

If you pay close attention to the people around you, you will discover that every one of us is now or has in the past been living in Goliath's shadow. I've been there too and it is from biblical truth as well as personal experience that I say to you freedom from Goliath is good news indeed.  Freedom from Goliath is the gospel!

I feel quite safe today in saying that much of the pain in our lives can be traced to the "Goliath Factor."  The Goliath Factor is that something within us that shrinks back in fear or anxiety when life's giant difficulties show up.

***

1 Samuel 17 contains all the clues we need to confront and overcome Goliath.  In fact the story is one of the all time great insights into human potential.  (Which turns out to be rooted in Divine potential.)  I would like to let the story pretty much speak for itself today.  There is power in this bible story when we simply watch it play out on the backdrop of our imagination. As you listen to the story, imagine Goliath to by your own personal Goliath.

We set the scene:

King Saul of Israel had been fighting tooth and nail for most of his days for every inch of the Promised Land. Even though the land was "Promised," it did not come easy. (Most promised lands are that way - we have to work and struggle for them.)  Ever since the day Joshua took over the leadership of Israel from Moses, there had been a struggle.  On that very first day when they crossed the Jordan River to head westward to their promised homeland, there was no welcome sign saying, Welcome to the Promised Land!"

Lately, the Philistines had been gaining the upper hand. King Saul was getting older and very weary. Now things had really taken a turn for the worse.


Discussion and Reflection on the Texts

Connections in the Text

The Psalmist captures the sense of today's readings in 27:1 - "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"  Goliath falls to a boy whose trust is in God, Paul recounts the trials his ministry has endured, yet he is sustained by God and the disciples discover the One who gives peace in the midst of the storm.

A key to these texts is a question, "Where can I safely put my trust?"  Biblically, there are two answers:  I can trust in the Lord - which will lead to peace, or I can trust in something other than the Lord and be let down in the long run.  "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help." [Ps. 146:3]  Or again, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." [Ps. 20:7]

The drama of David and Goliath is an outward expression of the spiritual principle - "The Lord is the stronghold of my life."

1 Samuel 17

The story of David and Goliath recounts the earliest, purest days of David's journey and sets the background for the long narratives of the greatest King of Israel's life.

King Saul of Israel had been plagued by the Philistines throughout his reign.  The contrast is between the chief warrior of the Philistines and the King of Israel who along with his troops is "dismayed" and "greatly afraid."  The threat represented by Goliath is too much for them.

When young David (who is not yet old enough to be conscripted into military service) comes to camp, he sees past the obstacle to the source of all strength.  It is clear to him that the contest is between Goliath and God - not between Israel and Goliath.

A central point of the story is that God's strength is sufficient.  Saul's armor is too much for the young lad to bear - he could not even walk in it!  His armor is the Lord and his weapons are the simple tools he has used in the past.  The purpose of this contest is, "...so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand." [vv.46-47]

Mark 4:35-41

The gospel story of the disciples and Jesus in the midst of a storm on the sea is another telling of the spiritual principle illustrated in David and Goliath.  The outward obstacles of our lives are not able to overcome the Lord in whom we trust.  However, the theory is easier to enunciate than the truth is to embrace!  When we face Goliath, or storms that threaten to overturn our boats, we tend to loose heart as did Israel and the disciples.

The disciples' question to Jesus is important - it is something most of us have at least wondered - "God... don't you care that this is happening to me - to us?"  Of course the answer is that it is never God's care that has been withdraw, but rather our faith that has weakened in the face of trial.

When the storm is calmed, the response of the disciples is one of awe.  Here is the heart of worship.  "Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?"

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

The epistle is a fitting conclusion for the Old and New Testament lessons.  Having been confronted with every kind of hardship and persecution, the apostle is nevertheless not defeated.  It is, he says, "...the power of God," which has sustained Paul and his companions in ministry.

Even in the midst of difficulty, Paul is able to see past the present difficulties to the source of his strength and describes the result when they are,  "...sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything." [v.10]

Paul says that he has opened his heart to the Corinthians to share this victory in the midst of trial and he asks them to also open their hearts.  It is in the opening of our hearts to others that we frequently discover the strength of God for our lives.

 


 Worship Helps

Call to Worship  (Based on Psalm 9)

Leader:   Place your trust in the Lord all you people of God.
People:  For our God will never leave us or forsake us.
Leader:  
Let us worship the Lord and lift up our praise.

People: 
Let us make known far and wide the mercies of our God.

Prayer of Confession

Lord of grace and mercy, we humbly come before you today to confess that we have come short of all you have designed us to be.  You have created good works that we might walk in them and have entrusted us with the good news of Jesus Christ.  Yet, we have kept your good gifts to ourselves when we should have shared them with others.  We have missed opportunities to stand up for you and share our faith.  O forgive us of our sinful ways and renew our spirits today for the sake of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Nehemiah spoke these words, "...you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love..."  [9:17]  Let us rejoice in the grace and love of God as we receive the forgiveness of the Lord.  Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Gracious and loving God, we are surrounded by the evidence of your might and power.  We rejoice in the beauty of a new day and the joys that await all those who look to you for the substance of their lives.  If we will but look and listen, even one day is filled with more miracles than we can imagine.

The rising of the sun over misty fields,
The first birdsong of the morning,
The glory of a flower opening to the sun's warmth,
The laughter of children at play,
The cheery "hello" of a neighbor,
The touch of a friend's hand,
A child's, "I love you."
The first taste of our favorite meal,
The pillow's feel at the end of a long day,
All come from the bounty of treasures
you open up to us each day.

Lord, give us we pray just one more gift.  Slow us down, open us up and fill our hearts with the ability to see you in every waking moment of our day.  O how we have let the moments slip by and in hast close the treasure store you have opened to us.

We love you Lord, and this day we lift up our grateful hearts in wonder and joy. . Speak to us now and send us from this time as renewed persons in Christ

Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

We bring our gifts to you, O Lord, knowing that you can change the world through the offerings we make.  Now  give us grace to offer the whole of our lives that you might make a difference in this world through us. Amen.