Fear and Faith

    Jun 21, 2015

    Preacher: William (Tex) Culton

    Detail:

    So David goes to the wadi and chooses five smooth stones and puts them in the bag that hangs over his shoulder and takes his Shepherds rod and stalks off to the front lines to challenge Goliath!

    What was he thinking? I mean about choosing those stones. Did they represent something or some ancient rune or numerical code? There is no other mention of five in the scriptures, so the number itself has no symbolic significance. Perhaps it was all that would fit in his bag? Perhaps it was the number he carried to fight bears and lions; tooth and claw, that God gave into his strong hands and from which he saved the fearful and taken sheep of his father’s flock.

    He would only need one stone to fell his huge antagonist, but I don’t think he knew this, or he wouldn’t have chosen five! Why five, or is this the wrong question?

    If it is, then what is the right question?

    (To be determined from the results of the encounter)

    We have five core values…..Which one will we throw at the giant that dares to challenge the armies of the LIVING GOD? Which of our core values are we to reach into our bag and place in our sling and throw at the enemy of truth?

    Look them over. They are not five smooth stones to be used as weapons, but values to describe us as a people of God. It is our belief in the LIVING CHRIST and our acceptance of being the Body of Christ that we look to for the smooth stones and the courage to face the enemy.

    And the enemy exists, and like the Jews of ancient Israel forming in Canaan, it lives amongst us and challenges us and our domination of what passes as the values of our culture.

    Goliath this week is Racism, and its environment is prejudice and the fear and ignorance in which it thrives. It seeks to challenge the truth with acts of violence that are then attributed by the rationalizing pundits, to the borderline insane who were in no way nurtured by the underlying racism of the dominant culture. Arguments begin concerning gun control, confederate flags, highways named for confederate generals who fought to preserve slavery and whether or not there was any way of predicting or stopping what was termed, “senseless violence.”

    Hate crime is mentioned, and racism is mentioned and the left and the right start squaring off to defend or take advantage of the emotional state of the country resulting from this tragedy in Charleston, S.C.

    I’m going to call it as I feel it. It was a hate crime that was made possible by a culture, of which we are a viable part that does not call out evil and confront it head on.

    If I place the story of David and Goliath next to what is happening in our country, I feel that most of us stand with Saul and the army. We are fearful and unsure that we can win in a confrontation with those who deny that racism is one of the building blocks of this latest terrible crime.

    I know that most issues are not black and white. Most seem shadowed. It is not always easy to pick out the bad guy or the Goliath. And today, most “Davids” are ridiculed and called extremists or idealists with little knowledge of how a complex society operates.

    If you or I are going to use God as the basis for our defense of equality and freedom and justice, then we had better be sure of our understanding of God’s will for ourselves and for the world.

    [I don’t see the religious hunting the wadi for smooth stones or offering ourselves to face the giant. Indeed, most of us don’t know if the giant exists, or ever existed except in the imagination of the ancient storytellers of Israel. Is there a giant or isn’t there? Are there only a few racists who are extreme in their delusion and though they wreak havoc every once in a while are not to be feared? If we claim they are legion, do we turn from David into ? charging windmills?]

    The story of David begins with his anointing by the Prophet Samuel directed by Yahweh. There is no mention of his spiritual practices; only that God’s spirit dwelled in him. [It mentions that the spirit of God left Saul, the king chosen by the people who desired a king so that they could be like other nations.] We read that he played the harp (lyre?) and his music acted as a balm to the king’s anxiety. David’s music brought peace. God’s spirit was upon David.

    I guess that is the theology that undergirds our vision and five values. David didn’t seek God’s spirit. He was chosen. His courage, outrage, choices from then on came from God, I believe. He says that Yahweh delivered the beasts into his hand and would do the same with Goliath.

    How was that kind of faith nurtured? How do we nurture our faith? How do we know the Lord’s will and have the courage in it to face the giants of our age who defy God’s truth?

    [Do you know God’s truth?

    Does God’s truth dwell in you?

    Are we disciples of the TRUTH; of Jesus Christ?]

    I believe that you and I carry the Holy Spirit within us. We received God’s spirit in our baptism; some of you as infants (not of your own choosing). God’s spirit dwells in us and as Christians, we have the ability to recognize the truth as it reflects God’s will and the courage to stand up to anything that opposes that truth.

    There is a French Rabbi who lives in the community where a Jewish Delicatessen was attacked and its patrons killed south of Paris. One day he was attacked by two angry Muslim men and badly beaten. His response was to form a small organization led by him, an Imam and a priest. They meet and talk and pray and together they go about France and through Paris and talk to people about their beliefs and seek to educate people, one by one. They confront the hate and anger that has its base in lies and exaggerations. That is courage in the face of prejudice and terrorism and fear. They are confronting evil with their faith.

    What did David say to the taunts of Goliath? God doesn’t need swords or spears! He flings a smooth stone that strikes Goliath in the forehead (his delusional reasoning, his logic that might makes right and the stronger will prevail) and he falls dead to the ground and David, using then Goliath’s own sword, severs his head. Here is the symbol of faith triumphing over evil because it faced it head on and refused to be intimidated by it. David did not seek to be Goliath. He lived out his anointing in faith.

    We read this scripture and take courage from it. We read the Gospel story of Jesus calming the storm and wonder at his rebuking the wind bringing peace and stillness to the sea (like David calming the storm of Saul’s emotions and troubled soul). We think that we have the spirit of Christ in us, but we are not quite sure if we are called to face the power of the storm, stand up to Goliath, or pray fervently in our prayer closets.

    We hear the words of Jesus and are shamed by them and even sense a bit of anger at them. “Have you no faith?”

    Life is lived on the sea of human emotions. There will be storms and our organizations, our boats will be in danger of being swamped, and we will experience great fear.

    We can buy guns, or work out and take kick boxing lessons or make sure that we hold political power through representatives who will be strong on crime and high on defense. We can draw our battle lines and hold the enemy at bay and take courage in our combined strength. But the battle isn’t physical, it is spiritual. And it first must be internalized. It is first and last a battle for our souls (no matter what form it takes on the landscape of our lives where our faith must be put into action). The storm rages within us and it takes the form of doubt and fear and hatred and revenge and self-doubt and self-recrimination. The antidote for Saul was the music of David, and the antidote for us is the loving presence of the living Christ rebuking the wind (the cacophony of lies that seek to drown out the truth that we are eternally loved by God just as we are) and calming the sea of anxiety that produces nothing but panic. It is none other than simply trusting the faith we have in God’s love and facing the fear, not with spear or automatic weapons, but with five smooth stones and the courage to speak their truth into the storm and to the world in which we seek to liven not simply survive.

    If racism is able to exist in our culture, then our vision and values that seek to live love and peace can change the culture so that it produces an environment that nurtures acceptance and forgiveness and hope and eschews intimidation.

    We Christians believe that the values we hold are life changing and can renew and reform individual lives and families and communities and states and nations and the world. But not if we keep silent, and not if we continue to depend on the ways of the world and instead fear confronting our adversaries with the word of God rather than physical force.

    Jesus as much as told his disciples that their faith was able to do what he did and more! But we stand back, waiting for another David or charismatic Jesus and make the excuse that we are not ordained or chosen or the Son of God, when all the while, Jesus is in the boat with us and we are baptized and chosen and God’s Spirit dwells in us.

    We have to nurture that belief and we have to bring that belief into our community in order to nurture a culture of trust (even though it will be broken from time to time).

    Here’s a challenge. Pick some stones of faith and walk into your neighborhood and with the eyes of faith that you have, apply that value. (Walk to one of our local, mostly black, churches and be community positive seeking to get to know and understand them while exhibiting true vulnerability.) (Seek out a neighbor with whom you have had some difficulty and with complete vulnerability seek to renew the relationship.) (Trouble in your family? Is there a need to forgive or ask forgiveness?) (Find a way to serve others with imagination and love and put yourself out there on the front lines,) (Use your influence to reform a system that desires power more than the common good.)

    Hold the truth of Jesus Christ up as a template for all that you call your philosophy of life; and that means knowing the truth of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and as understood in prayer and as challenged in worship and as lived in relation to your neighbor.

    Amen