Sermon preached by Archdeacon Trevor Harrison at the Midnight Mass of the Nativity 25 December 2019 It’s a marvellous, wonderful,... read more
OT Reading 1Sam 17:32-33, 37 & 40-51
NT Reading Mark 3:1-6
David and Goliath is a well-known story, even politicians at times refer to that story to describe how the little man won over against Incredible odds.
While being appointed to the Bell Block Cooperating church I befriended the local policeman, sometimes he called around to say hi. He was very tall, and even standing on higher ground still had to look up to him, he really was tall and I certainly would not have wanted to start a fight with him. So I can understand the Israelites’ worry, they had agreed to a one on one fight, choosing the very best one from each army, and so found themselves confronted with the Philistine’s choice, their champion called Goliath. This challenge now for the Israelites to find their champion to fight their goliath, had gone on for forty days and no Israelite was willing to tackle Goliath.
In some ways we all from time to time face huge obstacles and we wonder how we can tackle the problem, and we postpone making any decisions. And we worry, and we worry ourselves sick. Procrastinating, wishing the problem to just miraculously to vanish.
Those struggling with the earthquake proofing of the cathedral no doubt would feel a bit like that. And I am thankful there are those willing to tackle the problem.
Today however the question is directed towards us. How can we overcome such giants when they afflict us, so that we can continue, living in freedom and victory and joy in the Lord’s service?
The well-known story of David and Goliath gives us some clues. It is a story filled with instructive contrasts. Saul and the armies of Israel viewing the situation from a human perspective (“Have you seen this man?”). While David views things from God’s perspective (“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?”).
Before David could face Goliath with his sling and his five little stones, he had to overcome a few doubters. There was his older brother Eliab for a starter, he is a jerk. So often older siblings just don’t believe their younger siblings could actually handle things, there may well be at times a certain amount of jealousy too. David in his eyes is just a kid. No chance in the world he could beat Goliath. He tells David so, “You are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.”
David’s answer is classic: “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine”.
Behind these brave words lies an important truth: Every giant in your path is also in God’s path, that is if you are going in God’s direction. In that sense, many of us face a giant right now. It may be an impossible situation at work or at home. It may be a financial difficulty or a broken relationship. Maybe your health is not too good, and you know it’s not going to improve, and yet, knowing we must accept the upcoming changes, hope to go on the same way. It may be a task before you that you know you can’t handle. It may be a dream that seems unreachable.
Giants by definition are enormous, threatening, intimidating. They fill the screen until we can see nothing else but the problem. Faith is not talking about the problem, the giant, analysing the giant, or praying about the giant. Big talk will never slay Goliath.
Faith is taking that first step, knees knocking, hands shaking, with fear and trembling going into the valley in the name of the Lord. You take that first step not because you think you can do it but because you know you can’t. Therefore, you know that if the giant is defeated, it is because God has done it through you.
What can we learn from this story?
Not to be like big brother Eliab, and stay in the way of those who want to make a difference, who are willing to find a way forward with God’s help.
Let’s not be like Saul who insisted on David wearing his armour and weaponry. It was far too heavy for him. David had to remain David and deal with this challenge remaining himself.
In our Gospel reading Jesus too had to face obstacles, people who were more concerned about tradition and status then righting the wrong, willing to procrastinate in doing the good that could be done. People more willing to remain with the status quo then finding new ways forward. As Paul expressed it, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
So how will we face our daily problems, how will we face our occasional Goliath problems? Let us trust in the Lord, and as God’s people we can have the luxury of receiving help from our brothers and sisters in faith. Together, supporting each other, with the Lord’s help we can overcome, we can be victorious.