Five Smooth Stones

There are few stories that are more familiar than the one of David and Goliath. Even the most secular people have some sort of understanding of the story. It comes from more than three thousand years ago, but still has echoes today.

Israel has come into the Promised Land and become a significant presence there. With Saul as king, it is enforcing its identity and rights against the power of the Philistines.There are two stories of how David came to Saul’s attention. The one we read today emphasizes his role as shepherd, who will eventually lead the united kingdom of Israel and Judah, with God’s blessing. In this story, told, naturally, from the Israelite point of view, there is a real moment of crisis, in which all could easily be lost, as two champions face each other, winner take all! (Scripture Intros – Rev. Stew Clarke & Rev. Catherine MacDonald)

Let’s listen as the story unfolds in 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-40:

17:1a Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.

17:4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.

17:5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze.

17:6 He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders.

17:7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him.

17:8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.

17:9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”

17:10 And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.”

17:11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid

17:19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.

17:20 David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry.

17:21 Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army.

17:22 David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers.

17:23 As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

17:32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

17:33 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.”

17:34 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,

17:35 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.

17:36 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.”

17:37 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!”

17:38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail.

17:39 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.

17:40 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.

Five smooth stones to vanquish a much larger enemy.

Five smooth stones and all could be lost or all could be found.

Five smooth stones and the future of a community hangs in the balance.

Riverview: This reflection could be entitled six smooth stones because on the communion table are stones with the words that you said were most important for Riverview United. A picture of them is also on the front of the bulletin and up on the screen. These are the stones that you have said are most important. The things that form the bedrock of this church.

cccAcceptance, Caring, Community, Faith, Family, Friendship.

Nine Mile River: This reflection could be entitled three smooth stones because on the communion table are stones with the words that you said were most important for Nine Mile River United. A picture of them is also on the front of the bulletin and up on the screen. These are the stones that you have said are most important. The things that form the bedrock of this church.

xx

Caring, acceptance, faith.

What do those words mean in a world where children are torn from their parents at the US border, whose only crime was seeking asylum, which under US law is perfectly legal. What are the ‘enemies’ for which we need these stones?

Is one of the enemies a feeling of helplessness? That we can’t make a difference? Or apathy? That it couldn’t happen here and so it doesn’t matter? Or feeling overwhelmed and so we stick our heads in the sand and ignore it?

How many of you are familiar with Jann Arden? Canadian singer/songwriter, frequent special guest on The Mercer Report. She lived next door to her parents in rural Alberta.

On November 21st of 2017, Arden released the Canadian best seller “Feeding My Mother – Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss” The book shares insights, loss, irony, and yes humour, as mother and daughter face the journey together. (FB post https://www.facebook.com/JannArden)

This is the post from July 18, 2014:

When tragedies happen now, they feel both global and incredibly personal. It’s like a shard of grief pierces the hearts of people all around the world at the same time and uniteds us for a moment, crossing all borders, all enthic lines, and religious beliefs.

We are bound together for that moment by an incredible sense of compassion and loss and empathy for people we do not know, but feel a connection with. More than a connection – we ARE those people. Even if it’s just for a moment or two. Even if it’s just for a moment or two, we are those who are lost and we wince with a surreal kind of shock. Who could do that? What makes people so evil?

She wrote that just as the Syrian refugee crisis was starting, images of bombing and drowning… And even as those things are still taking place, we also know how so many people responded to them. What do the three smooth stones of our community tell us about responding to the cries of children taken illegally from their parents?

I was feeling really helpless this past week… for indeed, it is not Canada’s crisis, it seemed as if there was little I could do to help, until I read an article from the United Church Observer, which gave me some guidance.

This is how the article started: Anger. Disbelief. Grief. Outrage. Many of us are feeling emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted as we grapple with the news reports coming out of the United States. As part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, over 2,000 migrant children have been forcibly separated from their parents since April.

 And yes, the president of the United States signed an executive order to end that practice, there are NO plans in place to reunite those children with their parents. https://www.ucobserver.org/justice/2018/06/canadians_children_separated_border/

The article named three/four things we could do:

  1. Call on Canada to end the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S.

While we can’t exert influence as voters in the American system, we can pressure our government. Citizens for Public Justice, an ecumenical organization that supports justice in Canadian policy, suggests calling on Canada to sack this agreement, which requires our border officials to turn away refugees and asylum seekers at the Canada–U.S. border. The U.S., after all, is no longer a “safe country” for people fleeing persecution.

 2. Fight for migrant rights here at home.

We like to think that refugee rights are respected in Canada. But advocates say that’s not always the case. The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children(CCRC), among other organizations, is working to end the detention of refugee children this side of the border. “The numbers are smaller and the treatment is better, but we are advocating for alternatives,” writes a staff person with CCRC.

 3. Use your voice.

If there’s a message to take away, it’s this: your voice matters. “Sometimes people think that it’s just a letter; it’s just an email. But every voice amplifies the message,” says Deborah Mebude, Public Justice Intern at Citizens for Public Justice. She says that we need to debunk the myth that collective action is no longer possible. Get your friends involved, she urges. Email your MP and copy and paste the message to the people in your circle so that they can do the same.

4. Donate as your dollars allow.

Take up an offering for the United Church of Canada’s communion partner, the United Church of Christ (designating your gift to Keep Families Together), or another organization working to end this atrocity. After all, the Christian message is ultimately one of compassion, not cruelty.

If you wish to donate something this morning, you can do so through your offering envelope, we will figure out a way to get it to the United Church of Christ.

Do you remember this part of Jesus’ story?

jj

13 Now after they(meaning the wise men) had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph[h] got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod.

The remainder of Jann Arden’s post that July 2014 day says this:

As the dog and I walked home with the wind at our back and the sun streaking through the trees, I thought to myself how good people are. How kind and helpful and hard-working and empathetic. Even though my faith in the human race is challenged at every turn, I still believe tha tgoodness is abundance and that bad people will not be able to turn us into the bitter, hateful souls they seem to want us to be. They want us to be like them, full of dark and dread and doom, to become wicked beings set on causing pain for the sake of pain. I will find the good people and I will suround myself with them. I’ll keep trying to be decent and thoughtful and helpful and creative. I’ll leave good things behind me when I pass. I promise this to myself.

(RIV) Acceptance, Caring, Community, Faith, Family, Friendship.

(NMR)Acceptance, Caring, Faith

Six small stones. (Three small stones)

Six big concepts. (Three big concepts)

Opportunities to be decent and thoughtful and caring and creative.

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of living them out, vanquishing the enemies of apathy and hate, amen.

1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-40

June 24, 2018

Elmsdale Cooperative Ministry

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