David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”
Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “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. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, 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.”
When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.
~ 1 Samuel 17:32-49 (NRSV)
Sometimes it feels like the world is crashing down around us, doesn’t it? We face loss and change in our personal lives. We struggle to find the right path, and many times even when we think we do, we hit a detour and we need to search for a new way. In the news, we hear of horrific things happening in our town, in our state, in our country, and in the world. And because of it, we are filled with sadness and worry, frustration and anger – all of which are brought about because of fear and anxiety. Fear of having to live by the choices that others have made. Fear of losing control. Fear of the unknown. And fear of the giants, the stumbling blocks, and the difficulties that we face.
Now the good news is that even in the midst of our fear and worry, anxiety, and anger, we have a safe place here in Oldtown where we can come. A place where we are surrounded by others who walk similar paths. A place where we are reminded that through it all, we are never alone. A place where we are assured that not only does God love us no matter what, but that we are surrounded by a congregation that loves us and accepts us for who we are. Now, does that mean that we all see eye to eye? No. Does that mean that we have to believe the same things and agree on everything? Absolutely not.
Friends, one of the things that I love the most about this congregation is that it is like the “peaceable kingdom” that we hear about from the prophet Isaiah. Do you remember? The “peaceable kingdom” is a place where the prophet says: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”
Friends, our church, as small as it, is made up of very different individuals, with varying backgrounds and lifestyles. We’ve got people from all kinds of different religious backgrounds, and some who come from no faith background at all. We’ve got Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, old and young, gay and straight and transgendered. And we’ve got people who live in different towns and cities and even different states. But when we come together, we don’t look for the things that separate us. We don’t search for the stumbling blocks and the difficulties; instead, we celebrate the fact that we are all children of God who are trying our best to follow Jesus. Folks that is what makes this a peaceable kingdom. But just because we may find this church to be like the peaceable kingdom, does that mean that things are always perfect here? No. Does it mean that we never disagree, or get frustrated with one another? Absolutely not. And does mean that we never face giants, or stumbling blocks, or difficulties? Unfortunately, no. But because of the faith of this congregation, and because of our belief in God’s unconditional love for all, this church has not only survived but it has thrived for three hundred and six years!
I’d like to take a minute to a look at a few of the giants, or stumbling blocks, or difficulties that this church has faced and lived through over the past three hundred and six years. Now this may sound like a depressing activity, but actually, I find it quite awe-inspiring to think of the strength of faith, the firm foundation, and the amazing place of support that this church has been for so many generations.
Over the past three hundred and six years, our church has weathered earthquakes that have deemed buildings uninhabitable. It’s faced hurricanes that have blown off our steeple and blizzards that have closed our doors for weeks at a time. If you remember, our church family began as British citizens and survived the Revolutionary War and the beginning of our nation. Can you imagine what the celebration was like here in Oldtown on July 4, 1776, when Declaration of Independence was signed?
And just to name a few, other things, this church survived the Civil War, World Wars 1 and 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Can you imagine the countless hours of prayer and the cries of “How long, O God?” “Keep them safe, O God!” that have been cried out from this place over the last three hundred and six years? Friends, this church survived the great depression, the assassination of two presidents and the horrific happenings of Sept 11th and the Boston Marathon bombing.
This church has seen forty-four Presidents of the United States come and go, and they have invited thirty-four settled pastors into their lives who have since moved on.
There have been years of abundance when our pews and our offering plates were overflowing, and years when our numbers were down, our pockets were empty, and our budget was in the red. Passionate Oldtown church committee members and deacons, Sunday school teachers, and choir members have moved away or passed on. And we have had to put more than our share of volunteer hours in, fundraising to keep our doors open. All of these changes and these difficult and heartbreaking things have happened in and around this place. Wouldn’t you think we’d get tired of it? Wouldn’t you think we would give up? Wouldn’t you think the doors would have closed? Wouldn’t you think we would throw in the towel? Wouldn’t you think we would toss up our hands and say, “Forget it!”? After all, we are just a small church. How can we survive, let alone trying to make a difference in our community and in the world?
But friends, here in Oldtown, we don’t give up. And do you know why? Because for the past three hundred and six years here in Oldtown, we have had a community that has supported one another through thick and thin. We have a faith that holds us up no matter what the circumstances are and allows us to have difficult conversations. We have a boldness that won’t let us give up, because we have a God who never leaves us alone! How blessed are we, church?
My friends, this community that holds us through the storms of life, this belief that assures us that we will make it through, this boldness and these gifts of faith have been handed down for generations. They are gifts, and they are ours. But it’s also our job to make sure that we continue to share them, not only through our words but more importantly through our actions as we teach our children and our grandchildren and our community about God, helping them too to learn to stand on a firm foundation in Jesus.
Friends, here in Oldtown, it’s true that we are just a little church made up of simple individuals. So how can we fight the giants? How can we climb over the stumbling blocks? How can we face the fears and the difficulties in our individual lives? Well my friends, the first step is remembering that we are never alone. And the next step is remembering that with God, all things are possible.
In today’s scripture reading, we heard about a shepherd boy named David. Now, David was nothing special. If anything, he was small and humble for his age. He had six older brothers, all of whom fought for King Saul in the Israelite army. One day, David’s mother called him – obviously not on a cell phone or anything like that, because they didn’t have those in David’s day! – she called out to him in the field where he was taking care of his sheep. She asked him to bring a basket of bread and cheese to his brothers. When David got to the place where King Saul’s soldiers were supposed to be, David’s brothers where nowhere to be found because they were so afraid of Goliath that they ran away. David was very sad because he didn’t want the war to go on anymore. So, David went to king Saul and said in his little voice, “I will fight the Giant!” King Saul said, “But you are only a boy.” David then went on to tell King Saul that he was not afraid because when he was out in the fields watching his sheep, there would many times that a lion or a bear would come to steal his sheep. And deep in David’s heart, he knew that God was with him and that God would help him to fight off the wild animals and keep his sheep safe. David then went on to tell King Saul that he knew that God would be with him as he fought Goliath too.
Now friends, today we don’t have giants like Goliath that come to fight with us, but we do face metaphorical giants in our lives. Giant concerns, maybe things we are afraid of or things that worry us or things that we see happening in the world around us that we just don’t think are fair or right. And we are all like David. No matter how big or small, strong or weak we are, if we have faith, God will help us to face any problems or concerns or “giants” in our lives.
We have to remember, as we discussed last week, that praying is important, but we also have to pay attention to the ways that God works in and through us. So folks, pay attention to what God might be telling you. What do you feel passionate about? What strengths and gifts do you have that others are longing for? How might you be able to reach out to make a difference in the world? Friends, don’t ever be afraid that you aren’t enough or that you don’t have the strength or the ability. Because if God calls you to step out and face a giant, God will also give you all of the gifts and graces that you need.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, listen for God’s call in your life. What might God be saying? Where might God be leading you? Don’t be afraid of the detours or the stumbling blocks. Just keep moving forward, remembering that God is not only leading you, but giving you the strength and courage that you need.
My friends may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen.