March 22, 2020

Fourth Sunday in Lent - Year A

 

You'll find a video of the entire service at

https://www.facebook.com/StStephensSLO/videos/241750816957287/

 

2020 Mar22 Lent 4 - Year A

A Sermon preached by The Rev Ian M Delinger on March 22, 2020


I cannot think of a better Psalm to be set for the first Sunday of Lockdown. I’m going to propose that as a new liturgical season: Lockdown Season…we’re not sure how long it lasts, but we know that Jesus is with us! The Holy Spirit is with us, too. The readings were set years ago. The hymns chosen over a month ago. With the state of the world as it is, it can’t be just coincidence. It’s God.


The 23rd Psalm is probably the most well-known scripture after John 3:16, which we had in our readings 2 weeks ago. This Psalm is used at many funerals, and many older people know the King James translation by heart. It is comforting, that is why it is recited so often. The imagery is soothing. Yet, scholars don’t know anything about its original context or usage. But, here we are, thousands of years later, with it everywhere! And, as you can see, the window depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd is behind me, a comforting image you see every Sunday when you worship here. I have no idea why it’s paired with the reading from 1 Samuel, the rejection of Saul as God’s anointed King, and the choosing of David as the person to replace him. Perhaps the link is in the guiding force of God in both stories.


David was the youngest of 8 sons, and Jesse wasn’t even going to bother presenting him to the Lord and to Samuel.


Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these. Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.”


Jesse had no intention of presenting David. And any of you who are the youngest child like I am totally get it! Jesse had no intention of presenting David. But, the Lord is his shepherd, and God likely guided David along right pathways for God’s own sake. Certainly, after that day, David carried out a lot of deeds in God’s name!


So, I see David as the underdog.

We all love an underdog,

but none of us ever want to be the underdog! David is out there tending sheep, and as the 8th brother, he knows that he doesn’t have a hope in the world of achieving or receiving any more than this sheep gig. Many of the movies, TV shows and books we consume, both fiction and non-fiction, are underdog stories. Even the foundation of our country is an underdog story. So, this story of David, which goes on for a long time in the Bible, is a story we love that goes from underdog to hero.


More recently, and maybe a story that you can better identify with than a shepherd becoming the mightiest King that the Israelites have ever known, and who is theologically linked to our own Savior and King, Jesus. There is another king, or should I say queen, who was also the underdog, and almost passed over. In 1976, the producer of the film “King Kong”, Dino De Laurentiis, said in Italian to his son, in front of the actress auditioning: “This is so ugly. Why did you bring me this?” Unknown to de Laurentiis, the 27yo Broadway actress Meryl Streep understood Italian. She replied, “I’m very sorry that I’m not as beautiful as I should be, but, you know – this is it. This is what you get.” Meryl Streep is a multiple academy award winner, holding the record for the Actress with most total nominations for acting with 21, having won 3. From the de Laurentiis’ anecdote, this is an underdog story. And of course, the most recent underdog story was the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs winning for the first time in 50 years.


The beginning of David’s story is an underdog story, and we love underdog stories. David’s reign if fraught with the murder of a giant, torrid affairs, thwarted attempt to build a Temple for God, and of course, the supposed author of many of the Psalms. With God on-side, an underdog can achieve greatness; and as in the Gospel story, a man blind at birth can see. The connection between Psalm 23 and David’s anointing, the connection between all of our readings today is FAITH.

We are all the underdogs righ

now. It may feel as if we are

walking through the valley of the

shadow of death. This is wha

faith feels like.

But by our faith, we know that God is with us, and that God’s goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives. We know that, like the Blind Man in the Gospel, our eyes are being opened. And by our faith in the healing and grace of Jesus Christ, our sight will be restored, and we shall fear no evil.


The Lord is my shepherd; * I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures * and leads me beside still waters.
He revives my soul * and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.


Amen.

 

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