ANNOINTING NEW LEADERSHIP
In our first reading this morning, Samuel is on a mission to anoint a new King. King Saul has been a major disappointment, and he’s just not cutting the mustard anymore. God tells Samuel to find a new king. We know from the first encounter that Samuel had with Saul that this was a talented soldier, well bred, good looking and a man of stature, so he should’ve made a good king, right? But, Saul failed miserably. Now he must be replaced.
So Samuel is sent to Jesse in Bethlehem, a father of many sons. Samuel is instructed to anoint one of his sons as the new king of Israel. Jesse brings out his oldest son, Eliab. Jesse is thinking: “this is my oldest, my brightest, strongest and best-looking son I have. Surely God will choose to anoint him.” And Samuel agrees. But the Lord speaks to Samuel. What does he tell him?
“Samuel, I see thru the outward circumstances – straight to the heart of things. If you follow me, you can learn to see that way, too. Tell them no, not this one. And let’s move on.”
So Samuel says, do you have another son? So, Jesse brings out Abinadab, his second choice, and Samuel responds in much the same way as the first. “Jesse, this is not the one either. One by one, Jesse marches his seven strong, handsome, brave sons before Samuel, who rejects every one of them.
Jesse, are these all your sons? ‘Well, I do have one other son, my youngest. But, he is out watching over the sheep.” And he’s thinking, ‘this kid is not what you’re looking for. Trust me – I’ve known him his whole life. He’s not a potential leader.’ Samuel says: “Please go get him. I will wait.” So David is summoned and comes in from the fields. When Samuel sees him, the Spirit says: “Rise and anoint him. This is the one.” Then Samuel takes the horn of oil and in front of all his brothers and father, Samuel anoints David as King of Israel.
Samuel recognizes the potential in David. David is young, but he is teachable, and he has a good heart. Samuel takes his cue from God and has learned to see things more like God does, not just what meets the eye. He recognizes in David a potential for leadership and a calling for service and confirms it to David and to his family.
Jesse, I’m sure is shocked. All David’s brothers are shocked, and David…Well, David…is shocked too. I mean he is just a kid, and he knows it. He wasn’t even invited to stand before Samuel. He was sent to watch the sheep so his brothers could go to their big interview with the big shot Prophet. Samuel was a king-maker – everyone knew that. And, David, little David ends up being the one that gets anointed! Why in the world did Samuel choose him?!
God sees thru the outward circumstances straight to the heart of things. If we follow him, we can learn to see that way, too. Samuel did, and so can you.
David had a teachable spirit and a humble heart. And you can bet there was some friction, some sparks flying in his family after Samuel left. But he hung in there, and was willing to learn and to be trained in his new calling. And eventually, everyone could see that Samuel had got it right. But it took a while. It wasn’t obvious at first.
Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” In my last parish, our organist and choir director was blind. She has been blind since birth. Suzanne is a remarkable person. She lives alone, takes her dog for walks day and night on the streets of Philadelphia. She has a master’s degree in psychology and works as an independent consultant. She has a wonderful sense of humor. Suzanne says one of the humorous things that happen often are that when people discover she is blind, they tend to raise their voice or talk slower than normal, and she has to remind them that she is not deaf or mentally handicapped.
Naomi and I lived right near the Philadelphia International Airport. Downtown Philly was about a 20-minute drive away. Often, I would pick Suzanne up in Philly and we would drive to the Welcome Church meeting at Logan Square Park or to some other event. If any of you have done any traveling with me you know by now that directions and knowing where I’m at when I’m driving are not my strong gifts. However, Suzanne has this uncanny ability to know where she is at all the time. She would say things like, why are you going east? You need to turn around and go the other way. The city of Philadelphia is built around a river and sea front. The roads turn quite often and it’s easy for some people, especially me to get lost. It didn’t matter where I was in the city, I could tell Suzanne the intersection, and she would give street by street and turn by turn directions to get to wherever we were going. It was like she had this uncanny GPS thing going on all the time. She laughed at me and told me that she was thankful I was not blind, because I would be totally helpless.
Suzanne and I talked about this verse and others in the gospels where Jesus addressed blindness. She said this passage made perfect sense to her. When Jesus says, He has come to open our eyes it means that we view and comprehend things from a completely different perspective than we did before. When you allow Christ to unlock your inner vision life takes on a new transparency. Suzanne said that to her, this verse means that Jesus opens the inner paradigm of our heart, exchanges our worldview with the worldview of the Kingdom of God, and all things become new, fresh and take on new meaning that was not there before.
John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus. Even before his birth he was linked to Jesus through his mother Elizabeth and Aunt Mary, the mother of Jesus. In birth and in ministry he went before Jesus, preparing the way for the coming ministry of Jesus. John preached that “every valley shall be filled, every mountain made low, the crooked made straight and the rough ways made smooth”. So, it is in our spiritual journey. Like John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit levels out the rough areas in our lives, straightens out those things that need straightened out. And it’s a work in progress, this “opening up of our eyes so we can see “. It’s not a onetime thing. This transformation process is a continual thing that goes on all our lives.
Just as David was called and anointed, so we too have been baptized and christened with oil, marked as one of God’s own, anointed and called to follow Jesus, wherever and whatever that means in your life. We are all called to follow Christ.
God sees thru the outward circumstances straight to the heart of things. If we follow him, we can learn to see that way, too.