Narrative Lectionary Reflection for October 22, 2017, Year Four
Lessons: 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 51:10-14, John 7:24
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people try to see the world and each other in ways that are aligned with how God sees.
Key Scripture: But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Psalm 51: 10-11
Don’t be nitpickers; use your head—and heart!—to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right. John 7:24 (The Message)
Oh how easy it is to look at the surface and see only a shallow and partial view of the person that God sees completely and beautifully! Our vision and judgment, however, are clouded by our sinful human nature. We learn from scripture that vision has always been a problem for humans. First and foremost, we are not God, and therefore we do not see as God sees. We see in part—not the whole—and we are quite proficient at judging what we see.
God, on the other hand, sees the big picture and the “balcony view” of each one of us, and God is able to use our broken and fragile human messiness to accomplish divine purpose. Just look at the folks God calls, equips, and uses throughout scripture. This week we have the example of David, called a man after God’s own heart. David was by no means a perfect king. He was a murderer, an adulterer, and an imperfect human if there ever was one. Yet God used him to lead the people of Israel and to accomplish the divine purpose.
God continues to use fragile, fallen, and forgiven people to accomplish the divine will. This is very good news indeed! Even when we cannot see or understand God’s timing, ways, and wisdom, still we see evidence of God’s hand at work in our world.
Just like God called Samuel to identify the second king of Israel after Saul’s disappointment, we, too, are called to see what God wills us to see. We are called to look deeper, to see the ways of the heart. We are called to see what is right, to practice discernment, and to look beneath the surface. It’s not a “worldly” way of looking, but it’s the way God desires us to look and live. Looking deeply on the heart is a way of seeing the world that requires cultivation and practice. The reward is seeing human potential, divine intervention, and the inbreaking of God’s reign, of possibility and hope. And that, my friends, is very good news indeed.
We sing “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…” in worship. But, do we really expect God to do this? I sure hope so! It’s a process, of course, but when we are sent back into the world from worship we should expect to look at the world through cross-shaped lenses, seeing more like God and being Christ’s hands, feet, and eyes in the world. Today in worship, consider singing “Be Thou My Vision” and have congregants talk about what it means to look upon the world as God does.
God Sees the Heart
How do you choose a leader? It often seems that the most popular people are chosen to lead, or the best looking, or the ones with the most money, the right set of friends, or even the coolest car. Did you ever see the movie Napoleon Dynamite? In that quirky tale, Pedro is lifted up as a candidate for class president by the unlikely and totally geeky Napoleon–and he wins. One beautiful point the movie makes is that what we see on the surface doesn’t tell the whole story of a person’s substance and worth. In the story of David’s anointing as the future king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13), God tells Samuel not to look on appearance or height because God does not see as mortals see. God looks on the heart.
How can we look on the heart of those we see and not be distracted or make assumptions based on appearances? Why should we be glad that when God looks on our hearts, the imprint of Jesus is already there?
Psalm 51: The “Divine” Wash Cycle
Bring in a small laundry basket filled with all the stain removers, pre-washes, and detergents you can lay hands on. Also bring a clear glass bowl or vase, a pitcher of water, some food coloring, a long handled spoon, and a small medicine bottle (with a dropper) filled with bleach. Label the dropper bottle with a cross.
Ask the children if they ever get their clothes really dirty. Have them tell you what sorts of stains they get on their clothes–grass, mud, ink, spaghetti sauce, etc. What does their parent do to get them clean? (You may get some strange answers here.) Show them some of the items in the laundry basket and ask them if these things might help to remove stains from dirty clothes.
Read at least verses 7 and 10 of Psalm 51. Ask the children what we can do to get the stain of sin out of our lives. Will Tide work? How about Oxy Clean? Clorox? Pour water in the clear bowl or vase. Invite the older children to think of something that’s wrong–a sin. For each sin, add a drop of food coloring. It won’t take long to have pretty yucky colored water. (Note: Be careful to avoid spilling any water and perhaps use a tray of plastic sheet to protect carpeting.)
Tell the children that only God is capable of removing the stain of sin. That’s why Jesus came to help us understand this and to save us. Drop three or so drops of bleach from the dropper bottle into the dirty water, stir it up and watch the water clear. This is what happens to our life when we turn to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. We are washed clean in the divine wash cycle–better than any detergent money can buy!
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
How’s your vision? Do you see the world through God’s lenses? Are you able to see the deep and holy potential of all human beings? Sure, it’s not the way we normally see things, but when we practice this way of seeing one another and all of creation, we participate in the inbreaking of God’s reign right here and right now. We become better stewards of God’s will for this beautiful, broken and renewing world.
Stewardship at Home
This week spend some time practicing a new way of looking at the world. Use both your head and heart to prayerfully see others as God sees them. Try to look at each person and situation as filled with God’s glory and grace. You might just be surprised at how much more you really do see!
Photos: Ken Teegardin, One Block Off the Grid, Creative Commons and © Sergiy Serdyuk – Fotolia.com. Thanks!