Centuries ago, the prophet Samuel was sent by God to find and anoint the person whom God had picked to be the next king of Israel. Samuel obeyed; but in his mental baggage, he carried along his preconceived ideas of what a king would look like. When he was led to Jesse’s eight sons, Samuel naturally figured the oldest and strongest would be the one God would tell him to anoint.
What a surprise was
in store for Samuel! One by one God rejected them -- son after son --
till the strong, older ones were all passed by. Samuel had counted to
seven with no future-king chosen by God. When Samuel asked if there
were more sons, Jesse told him: “There remains the youngest, but he is
keeping the sheep.” And Samuel asked to see that young shepherd,
David. Amazed, Samuel was instructed by God to anoint David!
Recently, a teenager explained a high-school writing assignment to me.
The class was taken to a public place, where people were walking,
drinking coffee, waiting for buses and conversing. The teacher asked
each student to choose one of those people to observe. Without talking,
they recorded their person’s distinguishing physical characteristics:
gender, height, approximate age, body type, hair style and color, skin
color, body art, piercings, and clothing.
returned to their classroom for the assignment. Using the written
description, each student was to write a story about the individual’s
life and personality. Based solely on the brief observation or external
traits, the writer was to decide whether he or she was a business
person, an artist, a student, a criminal, an addict, good or not, rich
or not, humble or conceited. The person’s life story was to be based on
the physical traits the student observed for a few short moments.
I asked the teenager what she supposed the teacher had hoped the
students would learn from this assignment. The teenager concluded that
the students would realize that it’s dearly-held stereotypes that shape
our rapidly-formed judgments. That superficial characteristics are not
measures of a person’s merit.
The Lord does not see
as mortals see. It’s easy to see clothing, hairstyles, tattoos, and
bodily characteristics, and use them as a way to categorize people.
Looking deeper – to compassion, faithfulness and generosity of spirit –
will bring us closer to the way God measures beauty and worth. God told
Samuel: “Do not look on his appearance or 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.”
(1 Samuel 16: 7)
Throughout Biblical history, God
has made a point of selecting whoever meets her qualifications for
extraordinary work; and sometimes the people were not ones we would have
chosen. For instance, the teenage girl whom God chose to be the mother
of Jesus was not born into a family of royalty. And Jesus himself chose
ordinary fishermen to be his first disciples. Remember what matters to
God: “the Lord looks on the heart.” This is great news for us; God’s
good work is waiting for each of us.
Texts For Sunday Worship:
From the Hebrew Bible 1 Samuel 17: 1a, 3-11, 19-26, 32-50
From the Gospels Mark 4: 35-41