Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts whereby we call you Father: give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that we and all creation may be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
God our saviour, look on this wounded world in pity and in power; hold us fast to your promises of peace won for us by your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.
The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’ 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.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
1 Sam.15:34 – 16:13;
1 May the Lord hear you in the day of trouble, •
the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
2 Send you help from his sanctuary •
and strengthen you out of Zion;
3 Remember all your offerings •
and accept your burnt sacrifice;
4 Grant you your heart’s desire •
and fulfil all your mind.
5 May we rejoice in your salvation
and triumph in the name of our God; •
may the Lord perform all your petitions.
6 Now I know that the Lord will save his anointed; •
he will answer him from his holy heaven,
with the mighty strength of his right hand.
7 Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, •
but we will call only on the name of the Lord our God.
8 They are brought down and fallen, •
but we are risen and stand upright.
9 O Lord, save the king •
and answer us when we call upon you.
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
[Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.]
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17
He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Sermon on Sunday Trinity 3
With many parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Don’t we now listen to people speak in parables – or are they merely speaking in a language we do not understand? All too often what we take to be parables obfuscate the answer to a question of great importance and since there are now no private spaces to our lives in this electronic age of social media, I believe that nothing gets explained to anyone any more.
Our lives have become complex and we do not have a grasp on them, in spite of the vaunted “information age” in which we find ourselves. The internet has answers for everyone else’s queries, but it never quite solves my crisis. The parables of our own lives, those metaphors with which we wrestle in our own live, these need to be explained to us in private because all the public expressions confuse us. Parables happen every day in our lives and they aren’t very clear to us.
Just how do we deal with these parables? Do we seek to find their meaning in private conversations with our friends and family? Do we go to church to listen to someone speak about parables, that Word Jesus taught, hoping that his or her language will be clear and without ambiguity?
I am not the best person for this, am I? Because, I will confess that I would like to speak through symbols and use their logic to explain things to myself and share what little I understand with you. The logic of symbols is enclosed in the metaphors and parables Jesus used to expose the Word of God, the hope of salvation, to the world.
Such a revelation of the Word is not very easy to understand, for each and every one of us gathers symbols together through for themselves in the course of our lives. Our experiences differ drastically from one to another, and so the expressions of faith can diverge radically. I say this about it, while you will talk about it with other words. None of it the same but so important.
As a matter of fact, the history of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is full of these differences, replete with the difficulties communities have with alternative presentations of the reality of a living faith. Tillich and Barth, or Bultmann and Pannenburg, or McGinn and Tracey, all of these teachers of mine, have quite different views of the religious life, and yet they all participate in that larger Church which compels us all to think seriously about the promises faith presents to us, that Word of God wrapped up in parables and metaphors, similes and imagery.
We often end up speaking about the parables and confuse ourselves, don’t we? We don’t accept any diversity in explanation as the essence of parable. At some time, we all come up against a parable which we need to understand, but there are so many ways of interpreting it. Symbols speak in so many voices, each tongue attuned to one person’s ear, like the sweet nothings which linger in the ear of a lover.
What has lodged itself in your ear from our readings this evening? Is it the story of Samuel? Or is it one of the parables Jesus used when he taught about the Kingdom of God?
The story of Samuel’s search for the one to be anointed, the one who was to lead Israel as the King, is striking, isn’t it? What do we look for in our leaders? Is Samuel’s mistaken notion of who should lead the people reminiscent of our own? – When Samuel says, “Here is a fine looking fellow, perhaps he should be the King,” as each one of the boys is presented, he is just like us, isn’t he? Samuel’s search is a parable of our own search for leaders. We certainly can see ourselves in the story, can’t we, as we listen to the honeyed words of these “great and good” men and women who would like to assume positions of influence and power in our lives.
Parables allow us to consider ourselves, don’t they? We project some of our own thoughts onto a story in order to examine them. Perhaps we find some wayward, and have to dismiss them from consideration, but amongst those unreliable thoughts are notions which are worthy of further contemplation, ideas which could lead us to better lives.
How does this happen? Is it the parable itself which enlightens us, or is it the thought we devote to it in the clarity of reflection? Or – is it those private conversations we have about the parables which grant us a vision of the reality of life? Is a parable like a zen koan – that story which jolts you from the comfortable un-knowing of the everyday?
So what about our parables from today’s readings? – Do they do anything to raise our consciousness? They don’t do anything for me immediately, except to emphasise the importance of private conversation between all of us. These are the modern equivalents of Socrates’ dialogues, in which the nature of truth and reality are examined, the result of which should be a new relationship between self and world.
Isn’t this what Jesus is doing with his disciples, transforming them from fishermen into fishers of men? These gruff yokels are no longer the butt of jokes, but they are approached as conduits of wisdom. People stop and listen when they speak. Peter is able to stand up in the synagogue to speak about the Word of life, and Paul is able to proclaim his message in the midst of the Aeropagus. What about us?
We may not all be impelled to become public evangelists, but certainly our faith should allow us to share our interpretations of a parable or two in private with special friends, maybe even with a stranger with whom we feel a kinship. I have been fortunate, some of my inhibition has been stripped away and I can stand here to gabble away, hoping against hope that my meanderings might make sense to you.
So let’s consider this a private conversation, which should help set us on our way to that unexplored territory where we should make our marks in the name of Christ.