31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
September 19, 2021
1 Samuel 17:1-11, 31-45
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
He wasn’t even supposed to be there. He was just the little brother – youngest of eight – sent back and forth with food for his older brothers and to bring news of how these “real” warriors were doing in the battle against the Philistines.
He wasn’t supposed to be there; however he was. David was there at just the right moment to hear the Philistine’s champion, Goliath, challenge the Israelite armies. David was in the right place to hear God’s call.
His eldest brother didn’t think so though. Eliab thought his pesky younger brother had abandoned the sheep just to be a part of the action and witness the battle.
The Israelite soldiers likely didn’t think David belonged there either however all of them were too afraid to to fight Goliath. Despite the reward of great riches and the king’s daughter as wife, none of them were going to step up. What they were going to do was offer young David up to the king as a sacrificial lamb, I mean “potential warrior”.
King Saul agreed with everyone else. When David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of [Goliath; I] will go and fight with this Philistine.”, Saul responded ‘You can’t do it. He’s a seasoned warrior, and you are just a boy.’ (1 Samuel 17:32-33)
You can’t do it. You are just a boy; you are just a girl. These are demeaning words; they are words that sometimes make us question ourselves and our call from God; they are words that often cause us lose heart.
Not David though. David had heart, which is the root meaning of courage. David had courage, and not the courage of the young. David had the courage of the faithful. Just as God had been with him in the past when he had had to battle lions or bears to keep the sheep safe, David knew God would be with him in this competition. David knew God would be with him and that God would save him.
David had the courage of the faithful. David had such a strong relationship with God that when God put David in this place, at this time, David trusted in God’s call. David trusted that every experience up to this point had led him to this moment, this moment to say yes to God. With the courage of the faithful, David had clarity of purpose, clarity of mission, clarity of call.
In the face of David’s conviction and having no other options, King Saul relents, and likely without much encouragement, says “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” (1 Samuel 17:37). Then Saul tries to dress David up like a “real warrior” in Saul’s own armor. None of it fits. David cannot even walk and so David gives the borrowed armor back.
David gives it back because David not only has the courage from God to face Goliath in battle; David has the courage to do it his way – with his own God-given gifts. David did not need armor and a sword to fight off the lion and the bear. David only needed the gifts God had created him to have. David only needed the gifts that God had nurtured in him already. David only needed his slingshot and five smooth stones from the nearby streambed.
With the courage of the faithful and clarity of call, David had the courage to face Goliath in battle; David had the courage to do it his way; David had the courage to be his God-created and God-nurtured self.
Pastor Tom Berlin in his book, Courage: Jesus and the Call to Brave Faith, writes:
Courage is not the rare attribute of a small set of great men and women who are more daring or braver than the rest of us. It is the gift God gives ordinary people when we seek a clear vision of what God would have us do throughout our lives, or at this moment and time in our lives. (Berlin, Courage, pg 34)
David’s courage and clarity were gifts from God. They were the result of David’s relationship with God, of David listening to God, of David being willing to trust in God – trust in God’s call and trust that God had provided David with just the right gifts for the challenge ahead.
Courage is not a rare attribute given to a few extraordinary people. Courage is a gift God gives to every single one of us, a gift we receive when we spend time with God, when we keep time and space open for God. Courage is a gift we receive everytime we pause and ask for God’s will to be done in our live, everytime we silence the world for a moment and ask God to guide us, a gift we receive whenever we trust in God’s gifts and purpose for our lives.
Courage is a gift we receive from being connected to God and connected to others. Yes, the courage of the faithful and clarity of purpose also come from being in community with others. The pandemic and advice from experts to social distance has led many to believe that community is not possible, even that community is dangerous. Community does not require physical closeness though. Community is about connection, relationship, knowing and caring about the details of one another’s lives.
I am in community with a group of clergy on Facebook, many of whom I have never met, and yet their support throughout the pandemic and even before has been invaluable. Being connected to them helps connect me with God, which enables me to have the clarity of purpose to keep going in these challenging times and the courage to be me, exactly the way God has created me to be, with the courage do to exactly what God is calling me to do.
Courage is needed in every time and in every place and that is especially true right now. Courage is God’s gift for all of us.
So as Pastor Berlin writes:
If you want to be courageous, take time to find clarity of purpose, or clarity about what is really going on in your life, society, and the world. Seek the will of the Holy Spirit and then begin to act. (Berlin, Courage, pg 34)
You may surprise others at how an ordinary person like you can defeat the Goliaths of fear, division, and hopelessness, bringing Christ’s peace, healing, unity, and love to the world. You may even surprise yourself!