34Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35Samuel 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.
David Anointed as King
16:1 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.” 2 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.’ 3 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.” 4 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?” 5 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.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7 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.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 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.” 12 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.” 13 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.
6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 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.
16 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. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
The Parable of the Growing Seed
26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 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.”
The Use of Parables
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
I Samuel 15:34-16:13
This is the familiar story of Samuel anointing David, the youngest son of Jesse, as king in place of Saul. The most well-known portion has probably got to do with the seven sons passing before Samuel but none of them is to be the Lord’s anointed. The youngest son, David, is out minding the sheep and is told to come to the gathering where he is chosen. David is described as handsome, ruddy and with beautiful eyes. Samuel had been informed that the Lord judges not by outward appearance, but by the heart. There seems to be a contradiction here.
What might we say of this text reading it from the perspective of a cross-cultural intention. We know that the desire for a king was made because the people wished to have that form of government which was like “other nations”. It is now evident that Saul has lost favour with God following a successful campaign against another one of those nations and their king, the Amalekites. Saul kept for himself the best portions of their livestock and let the king live contrary to instruction. It is now evident that there is tension in the land. Samuel is grieving over Saul’s failure; he has returned to his own home, Ramah, the same place where he first encountered Saul On the other hand, Saul has returned to his home in Gibeah. Samuel makes a journey to Bethlehem, a city not far from both of these towns in order to carry out the Lord’s instruction to anoint one of Jesse’s sons king. There is much tension. Samuel is afraid that Saul will kill him; the Bethlehemites are afraid that Samuel has not come to them peaceably.
This is the kind of text where those who have migrated from one troubled land to a more stable, secure society might have some inside knowledge to share. What was it like to be an ordinary person when there is a threat of civil war following a campaign against an external enemy? What role has religion played in the dividing up of a people into sides? What it is it like to have been born and thus a resident of one of the towns which now comes to the forefront? How do you ‘decide’ which side to choose and, indeed, do you have a choice anyway?
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17
Running through this text is a contrast between being at home in the body and at home with the Lord. Followers of an Australian television soap will be delighted with its references to being ‘home and away’. The critical event is, of course, Christ’s having ‘died for all’ and being raised. The recipients of this letter are now in Christ and that means that they no longer view Christ just ‘from a human point of view’. The point of view which emerges from being in Christ is different: it is a new creation, the old has passed away, everything has become new.
The early Christians were regarded as being a ‘third race’. They were neither Jew nor Gentile. The Christian faith breaks boundaries and ethnic divisions. The old may have been associated with fear, suspicion, hate, stereotypes and caricatures. Now the life, death and rising of Christ offers a new view. Christ died for all and was raised for all. It is a revolutionary claim.
Sometimes when different cultures in the church come together there is a tendency to be wary of the other; there can be injustice as one group does not notice or dominates the other. Here we have a telling reminder not just of our common humanity but of how life in Christ makes those divisions ‘old’ and seeks to create something new.
In Mark Jesus is presented as a teacher – as well as a healer, a miracle worker and an exorcist, it seems, in this gospel – but his teaching does not include familiar ones like the good Samaritan and the prodigal son. There is a strong sense of mystery and secrecy in this gospel – and it is evident that Jesus needs to explain his parables to his disciples in private.
The parables have to do with the kingdom of God. This set of parables comes in the midst of escalating conflict. The religious leaders are already conspiring to have Jesus put to death; by the end of chapter 6 John the Baptist (who was to prepare the way) has been put to death. Just before this set Jesus’ own family come to take him home because people are saying he is ‘out of his mind’ and that he is possessed. To teach about the kingdom of God – of forgiveness, grace, what is right and just – in this kind of setting might seem to be like a forlorn hope, but a small seed has been spread.
It is thirty years since the Uniting Church declared itself to be ‘multicultural’. (It has since also said it seeks to live cross-culturally, 2012). We might liken that 1985 declaration to a small seed. Over the ensuing years there has been much growth – more cultural diversity, enriched worship through hymns and music, friendships across cultures, national conferences and attempts to propose ways of handling issues to do with the sharing of property. Sometimes the first step was taken by just one person or just one congregation. There is nevertheless a still long way to go for the seed to become ‘the greatest of all shrubs’ in which all cultures might find their rest. It is interesting to read this text in the light of the passage from 2 Corinthians where ‘all’ belong and everything becomes new – might we say ‘re-newed’?