Sermon Notes - March 18, 2020
Sermon Notes - April 5, 2020

Samuel 16 – Forth Sunday of Lent

Samuel 16: 1-2
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.’
Last Sunday was the first in which we experienced a total shutdown of church worship due to the Corona-virus.  So, Natalie, kids and I gathered together for family worship and Sunday School. There I faced one of the most challenging sessions since my early struggles with New Testament Greek. The focus was on the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well.  The questions were “Why did Jesus ask her for water if He had His own water? (John 4:7) Why would He ask for dirty well water if He had living water?  Oh, did I miss the safety of the pulpit.  Jesus is constantly seeking to meet us where we are in order to move us into His realm. Faith is about the possibilities which may lie beyond both the known and the feared.

This lies at the heart of the dialogue between God and Samuel. Samuel was overcome by grief of the despotic reign of Saul and struggled with guilt of making the decision to choose someone who clearly was not prepared for leadership.  He was crippled by the fear of Saul who he knew was incapable of leadership and vicious against any threat to his reign.  Samuel was also overcome by the fear of making another mistake; much like our Congress paralyzed in the face of impending danger!  In other words, the fate of a nation laid upon Samuel’s shoulders.  Saul’s reign paralyzed a whole nation, and Samuel was immobilized by grief-stricken fear.

We are now living in a world where fear is rampant.  Our President is ill-informed and is a habitual liar.  The information coming from the Oval Office is inconsistent and often wrong.  Fear grows out of this lack of consistent messaging.   My friends, fear is a powerful tool.  It can corral us into heards separating us from the ones we love and depend on.  It keeps us off balance, and often times, it forces us to make specific decisions for good or for ill.  Fear can keep us from danger, and it can keep us from doing things that may be good for us as individuals or good for our families.  Fear needs to be identified quickly and needs to be approached carefully and thoughtfully.  If we don’t, we are consumed by it. Brown and black people know the power of fear and have an intimate relationship with it; as do the poor. Fear now drives us to hoard not only food and necessities, also but guns and ammunitions.

It is into this malaise of fear God breaks and declares a strong message of hope and faith. Faith does not drive away fear, but over-rides it and allows us to push forward and beyond fear’s boundaries.  In our readings, God challenges Samuel to break his shackles of fear and doubt.  In Ephesians, God wants us to leave the darkness of fear and begin to understand that He is the light.  In John, Jesus tells us to forget the fears and to live fully believing in His light (John 9:5) “I am the light of the world.”  Now, we need that Jesus who is able to transform our lives by an application of a new spirit; a new spirit that blinds fear and opens the eyes of those who are willing to follow Him in all things.
In all of our lives there is a place for cautions, but these fears, trepidations and anxieties should not and cannot stop Christians, us, from walking in Jesus’ steps.  We follow the rules of the CDC not out of fear, but because we love and do not wish to harm others. We self-quarantine not out of fear but out of love. We share goods with others in crisis, because our love of God overcomes our fears.  We share the gospel of Jesus in new and exciting ways not to end hysterical fears, but to implement the recreation of our church and society fully aware of the important values we bring to the regeneration of our world.  The time will come when we will again hug, shake hands and greet each other with the human touch. We will get through this learning period as we live out the songs of Christmas, Emmanuel God is with us! My Friends, there is doubt, stumbling blocks, failures, grievances, disagreements, anger, hate and fear all around us.  Yet, like Samuel and St. Paul, we are called to walk in faith.  Ephesians 5:8-9   For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light.  Live as children of light for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true

Our nation is at a crossroads very much like in the time of Samuel. Do we allow this epidemic to stop us from using new approaches to worship God?  Do we allow our fears of the incompetency of a despotic leader cripple us? No! Because our spirit and our faith are the same no matter where we are or how we worship.  Should we fear technology or fear new surroundings?  Should we succumb to our fears of new places, new ideas and new people and just stand still? No!  Because we are children of the light.
God bless you and keep you safe and healthy.