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Worship and Sermons
June 17, 2018

“Set Apart” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, June 17, 2018 [Pentecost 4 B] –  1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13 and Psalm 20  •  2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17  •  Mark 4:26-34


FOCUS:  God has ordained all of us to love the lost and the least.


      Are any of you fans of Harry Potter?

      I am.  There’s something truly magical about those 7 movies.  They appeal to us Muggles on a primal level. 

      There’s also something magical about the way those stories were created.

      Joanne Rowling, a newly divorced mother, wrote them down on slips of paper and napkins in an Edinburgh coffee shop.  She had no idea that, within a decade after the first book was published, she would be richer than the Queen of England.

      Whenever there’s a media phenomenon like this one – think Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Downton Abbey – a lot of very smart people try to explain it.

      One of the most insightful of those folks is Dr. Robert Cialdini.  Bob, as his friends call him, is a professor of Psychology and Marketing.  He’s spent his entire career researching the science of influence.

      He says the compelling power behind the Harry Potter stories is “the addictive appeal of mystery.” 

      In each movie, J.K. Rowling raises questions in our minds.

      Why is Harry able to tap into the mind of the villain, Lord Voldemort?

      Is Albus Dumbledore being naïve by trusting the haughty and antagonistic Severus Snape?

      Will Harry be able to find and destroy all seven Horcruxes that give Voldemort his power?  

      And behind all these questions is the one that runs through this series from beginning to end.  Can an 11-year old orphan grow up to lead the forces of good to victory over the forces of evil?

      Nowhere is that question more immediate than in the first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. What makes it all the more poignant is that young Harry doesn’t even know he’s been chosen for this task.

      And that is the very same situation in which we find young David, as he is anointed by Samuel to succeed Saul as King of Israel.

      Saul, you’ll remember, has failed.  His mentor, Samuel, is grieving.  Samuel invested a lot in Saul.  And Samuel is not used to failure.

      Saul had real potential. First of all, he looked like a king.  He was tall, head and shoulders over everyone else.  In person, he was good looking.  On the battlefield, he was impressive.  As king, he led Israel to a series of important victories.

      But Saul had two major flaws.  Despite his height and good looks, he had a huge inferiority complex. 

      Even worse, he was disobedient.  He took matters into his own hands when he should have stuck to God’s plan.  And, in God’s eyes, that is strikes one, two and three.  Saul has struck out.

      Samuel is the one who has to deliver the bad news. “You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you. . . The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you.'”


      At that very moment, Saul’s successor is tending his father’s sheep in the sleepy little village of Bethlehem ten miles south.

      And, so, that’s where God sends Samuel next:  to the house of Jesse.  Among Jesse’s seven sons, there is one whom God has chosen to be King.

      This is where things get complicated.  If Saul were to find out where Samuel’s going and why, there’d be hell to pay.  

      So, to keep things under wraps, Samuel gathers the people of the region for a sacrifice.  He makes a special point of inviting Jesse and his family.

      Then he watches intently as Jesse’s sons come forward, one by one, beginning with the eldest, Eliab.  Eliab is tall.  To Samuel’s eye, he definitely looks the part.

      But, no – he’s not the one.

      And so it goes as seven of Jesse’s sons pass by.  None of them are God’s chosen.  Samuel is perplexed.  “Do you have any more sons?” he asks.

      “Oh,” Jesse says, “just the youngest.  My little guy’s back home tending the sheep.”

      Right there, that tells us something.  In the eyes of his father, David isn’t even important enough to invite to the sacrifice.  So, we might ask, what qualifies him to be King?

      The answer is “nothing” – at least nothing visible to the human eye.

      But God sees differently than we do.  He knows David’s heart.  And he likes what he sees there.  He may be a young boy, but David will follow God.

      And now Samuel knows that, too.  This is the one, the one God has chosen to be Israel’s next king.  And so Samuel sends someone to fetch him quick.

      Can you imagine what David’s brothers are thinking?  “Didn’t we leave that little runt out in the field for a reason?  Who’s gonna watch the sheep?  What is such a big deal that we all have to wait while someone goes back to get him?”

      David’s brothers resent him the way many an older sibling resents the baby of the family, and for the same reason:  they think he’s spoiled.

      Something big is definitely happening here, and they know it.  Anointing is how God sets apart those who will serve him in a special way.  Only three kinds of people get anointed in ancient Israel:  prophets, priests and kings.

      David’s brothers may or may not know which of these roles their baby brother is being ordained to fulfill, but it’s suddenly dawning on them that God sees something special in their youngest brother, something that sets him apart. 

      Put yourself in Samuel’s shoes.  It’s your job to pick Israel’s next king.  Who would you have picked?  It wouldn’t have been David.

      For that matter, would we have picked any of the ones God chose to serve him?

      Would we have picked a run-away murderer with a bad stutter to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?  God did – when he chose Moses.

      Would we have picked a prostitute to help the Israelite spies check out the town of Jericho for occupation?  God did - when he chose Rahab.

      Who among us would have picked a sheep herder and fig farmer to call Samaria to repent – before it was too late?  God did - when he chose Amos.

      Would any of us have chosen a 13-year old Jewish girl from a poor family of no repute in a backwater village of bad reputation to be the mother of the Messiah?  God did – when he chose Mary.   

        How about you?  Would you pick you to serve God in a special way?

      I have news for you: God already has.  He’s calling us to be set apart, to serve him in a special way.  He’s got people for us to love.

      God’s not looking at our height.  He doesn’t care what color our skin is or what tattoos we have.  He doesn’t care whether we come from a happy family, or a broken home.  

      He’s not judging our ability to serve him by our sexual orientation or political affiliation.  He’s not looking at our age, our eyesight or our mobility, either. 

      He’s not concerned whether we’re a lawyer, a doctor, a student, a single mother or an unemployed janitor.

      When it comes to setting us apart for his work, there is just one thing God sees: our hearts.

      When our hearts are open to God and his word, when we’re willing to trust God and follow her wherever she leads us – we are worthy.  That’s all God needs to know to choose us and use us.

      That’s what God saw in young David, despite his tender age. 

      As the fragrant olive oil flowed down David’s forehead, over his ear lobes and onto his robes, David didn’t say a word.  Nor did Samuel, and nor did Jesse and his other sons.  They just took it all in.

      They could see what was happening on David’s face, but what they couldn’t see was his heart.  In that moment, God was at work filling David’s heart with his Spirit.

      God’s Spirit took David from the fields to the throne, because that’s where God wanted David to serve him.

      And, friends, God’s Spirit will guide each of us to the place where he wants us to serve him.

      Now, since Hogwarts Castle is once again safe for Muggles, I’m pretty sure God’s not going to send you there.

      But wherever he wants you, you can bet your last Golden Galleon coin he’s chosen you to love his children there, especially the lost and the least.

      In our baptisms, all of us were set apart for that service.

      May it be so.

Last Published: June 28, 2018 3:09 PM
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