What a week – hasn’t it been awful, too much violence, too much sorrow, too much craziness.[…]
[…]The giants where marauding around the world wreaking havoc and causing all sorts of pain and confusion this past week, it made one want to flee in fear, to go back inside our homes and pull the covers over our heads and close our ears and eyes to the pain around us…..you know what I mean by Giants – those great big huge enormous things that seem insurmountable – that appear all powerful – that strike fear in our hearts. Giants are what we face in the world, and are so powerful and overwhelming and they appear that they can’t be beaten that ‘outsized challenge’ as Malcom Gladwell calls them. This week in the news it has been giant battle after giant battle it appears that the giants may be winning.
The great big ferocious giant of racism reared its ugly head is Charleston South Carolina on Wednesday. 9 people murdered at a prayer meeting, by a man who spent time with the folks beforehand, and has confessed to the police that although they were nice people and he had second thoughts, he shot the people because if he didn’t who would?
The wily sexism giant was all too present in General Tom Lawson’s interview with Peter Manbridge – was it as insulting to men to hear him say that it was biological wiring that caused men to behave inappropriately and press themselves on woman as it was to woman? The sexist giant is so pervasive and wanton that in moments such as the one that General Tom had this week we often do not even realize that the giant has struck until the words are out of our mouth.
The giants struck closer to home as well – in London Ontario – The giant of senseless violence – he sure was mean taking the life of an 18 year old boy just trying to retrieve his cell phone.
And in Ottawa the giant called immorality thundered into the private life of Conservative appointed Senator Rev Don Meredith when a young woman came forward this week to the Toronto Star to tell of an affair they had while she was still a teenager. This allegation is on top of ones already being investigated of staff harassment and bullying.
And speaking of senators and giants – the Mike Duffy trial continues and the Giants of entitlement continues to rear its ugly head.
And south of the boarder, the giant of arrogance that looked remarkably like Donald Trump as he made a speech announcing he was running for president of the United States– He said he would build a great wall between the US and Mexico in order to keep out those who are not born in the US. The arrogant giant says things such as: “”I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I will bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places. I’ll bring back our jobs and I’ll bring back our money.”
The giants of greed and fear and oppression all over the world, were stomping around, doing damage, taking lives…what we needed was this week was a David and a slingshot to rid the world of some of these marauding giants.
Remember David, Jesse 8th son, the one we first heard about last week when he was called in from the sheep field to appear before Samuel the priest where he was anointed. David at this time is just a boy, training to be a shepherd, keeping watch over his father’s flocks in the hills surrounding the small community of Bethlehem.
Since that time, Samuel has died and the King Saul is in the midst of protecting his kingdom from the Philistines who have come to lay claim to the land. When we join the story this morning the two armies are camped on opposite hillsides with a valley in between. Neither side can move for if they find the courage to send their warriors down into the valley, it is a sure suicide mission to have them climb the hill on the other side to face their opponents. As they camp there on opposites sides, the mighty Philistine warrior giant Goliath lumbers down into the valley, wearing all his battle gear, carrying three weapons and with a shield bearer walking ahead carrying the shield.
Goliath the giant stands in the middle of the field and yells up to King Saul and his army – send down a warrior to fight me and let’s settle this – if I beat your warrior, we win and if your warrior beats me, you win.
This hand to hand combat strategy for war was a very common practice 3000 years ago in the ancient Mediterranean world. When armies faced these places of stalemate, one warrior from each side would be chosen to represent the army, and a battle would be fought and who ever won the battle, won the war.
The Philistines had chosen their warrior well, Goliath of Gath was a huge man, well over six feet tall, some say he was 9 feet tall – tall and strong, very strong – his armour alone weighed over 100 lbs, his tunic was made of bronze that had things like fish scales overlapping each other, and then he had shin guards and arm plates to protect his flesh, and on his head a bronze helmet. He was an opposing figure, just his very appearance frightened King Saul’s army, had them quaking in their shoes, so much so that when the challenged was issued from Goliath, no one, not one single soldier volunteered to fight Goliath.
Enter David – he is still more boy than man in this story, still tending his father’s flocks. He has left the fields today to run an errand for his father. Some of his brothers are fighting in King Saul’s army, and army’s must be fed, but they are not always fed well, so David is bringing extra provisions for his brothers. He arrives just at the time to witness Goliath’s decent into the valley and to hear him call out his challenge. As David waits to hear who will challenge the giant, the silence is palpable….no one speaks…not one man’s voice can be heard…and it becomes clear that no one is going to volunteer to fight this giant.
Can you blame them? Look at the foe they are facing – for not only is the giant a giant of a man covered in shiny bronze chain mail. He is armed to the teeth. He carries with him three weapons of destruction, a javelin for throwing at his opponent, a honk’n huge spear, that was the latest model of bronze age technology and highly destructive instrument, and if either of those weapons failed he had at his side a sword, with a shiny sharp blade for good measure.
As Saul’s army stares down at the giant in fear and trepidation, David, this young man, this small of stature, non-soldier youth, volunteers to go and fight the giant. At first, the King is not buying it – he will not let a boy go off and fight a man’s battle….or will he….as the tension builds and no one else volunteers for the task, it becomes clearer and clearer to King Saul that David is the only one who will face the foe.
So Saul, still thinking in the rules of hand to hand warfare rules that govern Goliath’s challenge, dress David up in Saul’s army clothes – a bronze tunic, to rival Goliath’s – to protect against spears and javelins – Arm guards and shin guards to protect against blows from swords…and a helmet to protect against blows to the head….and there stands David in this over-sized, over heavy garments of war – barely able to move…here is the first clue that this battle is not going to go down as battles have before…as David removes all of his protective gear and begins to tell Saul about how he will face his foe.
I am a shepherd says David, I do not use armour to protect my sheep, I use my speed, I use my sling, I use my head.
And with that he picked up five smooth stones placed them in his pouch at his side and started down the side of the hill to face his foe.
We know what happened next – but it takes Goliath a while to understand what is going on, that the Hebrew army has really sent a small of stature youth to fight him in hand to hand combat…Goliath begins by hurling insults, more than likely that this too is part of the battle strategy, to intimidate and insult the opponent so that they lose control and make mistakes… but David is having none of it and he continues his walk into the valley unruffled.
David then takes one of his stones, and puts it in his slingshot and sends it flying to the only unprotected part of the giant warrior, and hits him square in the forehead – the giant staggers, the giant sways, the giant falls to the ground – thud! David then takes the giant’s own sword, cuts off his head. The battle is won, King Saul’s army are the victors….yeah for the underdog….
We have just heard the greatest underdog story ever told, and the names of David and Goliath have become synonymous with stories of underdogs coming out the victor…it offers us hope in times of trials especially when we feel that the big outside forces around us are pressing down on us and there is no way of winning – when the giants of the world stand outside our doors and threaten to destroy us – stories of boys with slings defeating giants give us hope. But be careful when we listen to this story…
For it is not a about a random act of good luck that defeats giants, nor is it about fluke accident that helped David slay Goliath – this story is about looking at problems from a different perspective – about shifting thinking and inverting power….for David is actually the strong one in this story – he actually already has the upper hand before he walks into the valley to face the giant – for David knows that he is a slinger – he knows his own skills, he understands the power of a rock in a slingshot, for he has killed bears and lions to protect his sheep. And David knows something else – he know that Goliath is not expecting a slinger – he is expecting a hand to hand combat soldier to fight this battle with him, for that is how it is done – that is the box that he is thinking in – David is thinking outside the box. And most importantly – David walks into the valley in faith, believing that God is with him and that God wants him to fight this battle and beat this opponent – Goliath on the other hand, is fighting this battle in arrogance – look at me he says, look at my armour, look at my size, look at my strength – I am better than you and I can prove it – come to me shepherd boy and let me tear you limb from limb….very different places that David and Goliath are operating from
David from skill, thinking and faith – Goliath from intimidation, arrogance and self-importance – very different places indeed,
This is our message from this story today – that giants are slayed when find the skills that we have, to use in our battles – you do not defeat giants by fighting them with their weapons, you defeat giants by thinking in different ways than they do…
Look at how Martin Luther King fought the giant of prejudice and injustice for African American in the 60’s, with marches and speeches and standing in solidarity so that eventually, rules of segregation were defeated…
And Mahatma Ghandi who used hunger strikes to defeat imperialism in India
Perhaps we enjoy these stories so much because we all face challenges that seem enormous against us. And when we get there it behoves us to remember that we have gifts and skills just like David that we can use to fight our giants. And we also can remember the ways of the past that God provided, sustained and protected us. And in doing so find strength and inspiration and hope that we need to help battle our giants
And then when we face that enormous giant, whether sickness, family breakups, financial disaster, addictions, shame, the same God who protected and provided will do the same thing for us again. And we can prevail against our giants when we stand with God. Amen.