32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”
38 Saul clothed David with his armour; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armour, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”
48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.
1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,
“At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you.12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. 13 In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.
Jesus Stills a Storm
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
1 Samuel 17: 32-49.
It can be a fearful thing to take on those who seem to be more powerful than yourself. The Samuel reading is the story of David and Goliath. In today’s world this story has passed into common use in the sense of how the underdog overcomes the odds. In terms of its biblical context this story is set within a cycle of stories to do with David. The people of Israel had wanted a king like ‘other nations’. Saul had been chosen but now the Lord had rejected him because Saul had failed to carry out the demands of the Lord in the people of Israel’s victory over the Amalekites. David, the youngest son of Jesse, has been chosen by the Lord to be a new king; he has been anointed with oil by Samuel and the Spirit of the Lord has come ‘mightily upon him’. Immediately prior to the story to do with David and Goliath the writer of 1 Samuel informs us that the Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul and that an evil spirit torments him. Saul is told by his servants that someone who plays the lyre well will be able to make him feel better at such ties. It is arranged for David who is ‘skillful in playing’ to come to fulfil that role: we are told that David is also ‘a man of valor, a warrior, prudent in speech and a man of good presence’. We are also told that the Lord is with him. It is evident that David is not yet ‘king’. This request from Saul to Jesse that David should come to his court is a way of bringing David into Saul’s company, mindful that immediately prior to Samuel’s anointing of him, there was a sense of fear and tension in the land.
The story of David and Goliath is also a story of David and Saul. David has entered Saul’s service; Saul loves him greatly; he becomes Saul’s armour-bearer. The unfolding saga depends upon Saul’s being ‘dismayed and greatly afraid’. Saul’s fear can be compared with David’s willingness to confront Goliath; the way in which Saul seeks to give David the loan of his armour (which is too big for him) can be compared with the way in which David’s strength lies in the Lord. David also reassures Saul that the people should not be afraid because David has previously protected the flock from wild animals.
Saul and the Israelites are facing the Philistines near the valley of Elah. It is unclear who the Philistines really are – though they are said to have come from 5 cities including Gaza, Askelon and Ashdod. They are Israel’s main enemy until they are replaced in that role by the Assyrians. It is likely that they were not a Semitic people. Twice a day for forty days Goliath has taunted the army of Israel. The deal proposed by Goliath – let one champion from one army fight the champion of other – is unusual in the history of Israel – although it is a practice to be found in ancient Greek myths. In this personal encounter reside the hopes of two peoples – the people of Israel and the people of Philistine. It seems like an unlikely contest. Goliath is the champion of the Philistines; he has been a fighting man all of his life. As for David his brother Eliab reckons that he is an ‘impudent young rascal’ who has left behind the tending of a few sheep in the wilderness to watch the fighting. The prospective contest will be a mismatch. At the point of encounter David responds to Goliath’s taunt by declaring that this is the ‘day of the Lord’ and the Lord will deliver Goliath in his hand. David also declares that God saves not with sword and spear. This is the same God who judges by the heart and not by outward appearance.
Here the cross-cultural experience is one of armed conflict; it is a time of war. It is a time of fear and the odds being stacked against, in this case, David. There is a fear of imminent defeat, the seemingly stronger other, the taunting and size of other, and the fear of an uncertain future and the possibility of being cast in servitude to an alien power. There is here a telling reminder of fear and violence which can accompany cross-cultural encounters.
2 Corinthians 6:1-13.
Paul is defending his apostleship and actions in this letter to the church at Corinth. He is seeking to work with them for their salvation. Once again we see an emphasis on what might not be obvious on the surface. Paul is identifying those virtues and ways of relationship which is the way of righteousness and how these may be to the contrary of what even the Corinthians have imagined.
There can be a great deal of uncertainty and jumping to conclusions where two or more cultures are dealing with each other. There can be competing world views which lead to misunderstanding. It is easy to settle for first impressions. From a cross cultural perspective (Paul is a Jew and a Roman citizen writing to a Gentile church) we might say it is time to take a step back from those impressions and consider who, how and where a spirit of kindness, patience, genuine love etc is being manifested.
This passage from Mark follows the conclusion of the section on Jesus’ parables. It is one of those texts where Jesus ‘crosses’ over. He moves from one space to another. The crossing of lakes /seas was always at risk of sudden storms and squalls. Jesus is in the boat asleep. There are other boats as well. The story evokes how difficult and demanding it was to be a disciple of Jesus in this gospel. They are afraid: they call out ‘do you not care?’ Jesus will storm through a rebuke and a word of peace: the disciples will marvel at him and by his command over sea and wind.
All of our readings have a dimension of fear. From a cross cultural perspective we might say that crossing over in anoher territory can be stormy; it can involve a journey where fear and vulnerability are part of that journey. This is the kind of reading we might ask boat people, asylum seekers crossing the Andaman Sea and the Mediterranean what they ‘see’ and ‘feel’ lies buried within this text.