“The Heart of the Matter”
The Sanctuary Sermon for 7/12/20
The Sanctuary Sermon for 7/12/20
“Heart of the Matter” 1 Samuel 17:23 & 24
23 As he [David] was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
David heard Goliath’s threats, defying the God of the armies of Israel. He was a champion, a Philistine, a giant of a man. He stood nearly ten feet tall. I don’t know how much he weighed but his coat of mail, the upper armor he wore, weighed 125 pounds. By itself, the head of his spear weighed fifteen pounds.
Any way you picture it, he’s a ‘wide load’ and he’s talking trash to the Israelites. He’s challenging their identity, security, well-being and their God. He’s threatening to dominate, and if he can, eliminate them.
I wonder though if David heard more than just Goliath’s words. Saul and the Israeli army heard the same words and “they were dismayed and terrified.” What did David hear that would cause him to say, “Let no one lose heart”? What was it that caused him to stand up to Goliath? Maybe David was listening with the ears of his heart. Maybe he heard a call upon his life. Maybe something about this situation touched his humanity and connected him to something beyond himself.
I wonder when that has happened for you? What are the giants in your life today that threaten and challenge? When have you encountered a Philistine champion? They are as real today as in David’s day.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed and overpowered by circumstances? As if you were up against something bigger and stronger than you? What was that giant? Have you ever felt you just weren’t up to what was being asked of you and you felt small and inadequate? What trash was Goliath talking to you?
We all face giants, Philistines, in our lives. Sometimes it’s personal and unique to our particular situation. Goliath might be an illness, loneliness, the loss of a loved one. Maybe a rift in a relationship is standing tall. Or maybe it feels as if your life is moving out of control and you’re powerless to do anything. Other times Goliath might be more relentless and systemic. Currently it’s the Covid in our country with unease and violence throughout the nation, cries of racism and plenty of culture being cancelled. Goliath shows up in lots of ways.
Every time Goliath shows up the battle lines are drawn. The battle is not, however, what we often think it is. We tend to see the battle lines today as Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal. Or those who support President Trump and those who oppose him. Sometimes we name the battle line as between Christian and Muslim, black and white, rich and poor. There’s a battle line between those who refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple and those who refuse to serve supper to conservative Christian politicians. There’s a battle line between citizen and immigrant, legal and illegal. There’s a battle line that runs between us and them, between me and the other, in personal as well as global matters.
None of those, however, are the primary battle of the day. They are manifestations of a deeper and more consequential battle. The primary battle is the one for the heart, for my heart, your heart, the heart of humanity. This is the battle to determine who we are, how we want to live, and who we will serve. That’s the wager Goliath threw down to the Israelites. That’s the battle line to which David stepped up.
Every time Goliath steps up to battle, he comes weaponized. He comes with brute strength and force desiring anarchy. He came to David with taunts, with spear, sword, and javelin. Today weapons are a little more sophisticated, but military might and power are not the only weapons. Intimidation and discrimination are weapons. So are rhetoric and ideology. Policy and law or lack of, can be used as weapons to hurt others. Maybe the most dangerous weapon, however, is a closed mind and a hard heart. The weapons Goliath carries today are many and varied.
In the face of a giant like Goliath the temptation will be to respond in kind, to arm ourselves, weapon for weapon. We think we ought to have at least the same strength weapon, or better yet, something more powerful. But you know as well as I, that all this does is escalate the fighting. Listen to the talking heads and the national conversation. Read the Twitter and Facebook threads.
Even Saul thought David needed to meet Goliath on Goliath’s terms, as if that’s the only way to face Goliath. Saul dresses David in Saul’s armor; a bronze helmet, a coat of mail, a sword. Do you remember what David says and does? “I can’t go in these. I’m not used to them.” So, he takes it all off. It doesn’t fit him, that’s not who he is. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s who we’ve become, whether we’ve grown used to the armor and weapons, and that’s now our way. But is it Jesus’ way? Is it really the only way?
Maybe David has something to teach us here. He removes Saul’s armor and sword and steps up to the battle “in the name of the Lord Almighty.” Let’s be clear about this. To come in the name of the Lord is not about reinforcing our position, our politics, or our authority with a divine fist. It’s not about co-opting God for our side. It means standing in the truth of the gospel, engaging the world around us, opening our eyes and turning our hearts “to the least of these” in need of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Who did Jesus spend time with? What got him into trouble? It wasn’t because he was hanging out with the rich, the politically powerful, the beautiful, and the acceptable. He spent his time and energy on the poor, the oppressed, the suffering, the needy. He hung out with the outcasts and ate supper with tax collectors and prostitutes. He touched the untouchables, the lepers. He found more faith in the foreigner than in Israel. As soon as he drew the line between the children of Israel and the dogs of Syrophoenicia, he erased it. He expanded the borders of his life and ministry.
To draw up for battle in the name of the Lord means we are willing to reclaim our heart, to hold the values Jesus holds, to be mediators. It means we see the poor, the hungry, and those who weep as blessed and the objects of God’s attention. It means we work for impartiality and treat all persons with human dignity. We offer compassion instead of indifference. We love our neighbor, the stranger, and yes, our enemy with whom we all struggle. We open our arms and soften our hearts to each other. All the while keeping six feet away, I might add.
That’s what I want for my life and world. I want to stand in the name of the Lord. I want to be David, don’t you? Don’t you want to bring the name of the Lord into the difficulties and complexities of life? Into the marketplace and institutions, at least what’s left of them? Hmmmph. I want to reclaim the heart of humanity. I want to stand in the name of the Lord for what is godly and God-like. I want to speak for and defend the dignity that every human life matters; being—yours, mine, the stranger’s. Sometimes I do this. Sometimes I am David.
But I also know there are other times, times when I have not been David, times when I’ve come to the battle as Goliath. I become a Philistine in someone else’s life, a giant who wants to dominate, even eliminate the other. I weaponize myself acting out of fear, anger, and frustration.
The battle between David and Goliath is not just a story in the Bible or an event in history. It’s my story and it’s deep within me. It’s your story and it’s deep within you. It’s a reality in each one of us. I suspect you know that battle and, just like me, can name times when you’ve been David and times when you’ve been Goliath. It’s a choice we make every day. Do we bring David to the world and our relationships or do we bring Goliath?
Sometimes the choice is made in big ways on a global scale for all the world to see. Other times the choice is small and private, known only to God and our own self. Either way the battle line has been drawn. It’s a line that runs through and divides our heart. It’s a line that divides and separates us from each other. It’s a line that divides and separates us from God and the way of Christ.
To the degree we do not win this battle within us, we will continue to project it onto the lives of others. And there will be casualties, them and us. No one will win. This isn’t about where we are on the socio-political spectrum. It’s about where we are on the David and Goliath scale. Where we stand on the issues of any given day does not matter nearly as much as whether we stand in the name of the Lord.
So, how’s your battle going? I ask of a friend frequently, “How is your soul?” Maybe I need to ask of myself and you, “How’s your David?” Who are you bringing to the line? What would it take to bring more of David? What would it look like for you to stand in the name of the Lord?
This isn’t easy work and not for the faint of heart. Here’s the thing, we can’t do this by ourselves. I need you to stand with me in the name of the Lord. And I want to stand with you in the name of the Lord. We need each other. To borrow a new cliché, “We’re all in this together.” We’re all in this together and together is the only way through this. If we do not stand together in the name of the Lord, as a nation and as the Church, we will surely fall. Let’s purpose to stand in the name of the Lord this week as we face our Goliath’s, however imposing, posturing or intimidating they may want us to think they are. Oh, and pick your stones wisely, you get five.
No weapon formed against me shall prosper—don’t tread on me.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.