Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

What Part of "NO"?

June 17th:

June 17, 2012   (Fathers Day; HS Graduation;  Children's Day)
Call and Text:  1 Samuel 15: 1-3, 10-23, 16:13

                                What Part of "NO"?

Is there anyone here who actually
likes the scripture with which we were called to worship?

I don't.

When I read or hear it
I want to complain - and complain rather loudly -
 that God is being unfair
I want to make it clear that God is being inconsistent
        With what I understand of our relationship
As I have come to understand it through Jesus Christ.

I get upset with this story.
I even get somewhat embarrassed by this story

For each week I stand up here and talk about how good God is
        And then we hear this story
        And it makes me seem like a fool.

How good                can God be
        When God punishes Saul for sparing the king
        And some of the animals?

That doesn't sound like the God we are talking about
        In that liturgical exchange in which the worship leader says
                "God is good"
        And the congregation responds
                "All the time"
        Often followed by switching the statements
                With the leader saying, "All the time"
                And the congregation responding, "God is good."

We are taught not only that God is good, but also that God is love
        And that God expects us to show love.

We are taught that God is merciful
        And that God expects us to show mercy.

And then we hear or read this story.    We shake our heads.

God sends Saul, the first king of Israel, to destroy the Amalekites
        And tells him not to spare
man or woman,   child or infant ox, sheep, camel, or donkey

Saul wins a great victory over the Amalekites.
        He utterly destroys those people

But     he spares their king Agag
And     he spares the best of the sheep, cattle, etc

So God tells Samuel     "I regret that I made Saul King
                For he has turned back from following me
                And has not carried out my commands."
As Samuel relays this to Saul, he adds
        "Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
        He has also rejected you from being king."

The Lord had rejected Saul and as our scripture closes we see God, through Samuel, anointing Saul's successor:
        "Then Samuel took the horn of oil,
and anointed him [David] in the presence of his brothers;
and the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward."

For me - and I suspect for you - this scripture begins with what we see as God's awful command
        "Punish the Amalekites for their behavior
        Do so by killing all men, women, and children
                And all their animals as well."

Saul kills all men, women, and children - with one exception.
Saul kills all the animals - except the best ones
        Which he takes to sacrifice to God.

And God gets angry and, in essence says to Samuel,
        I told Saul to spare NO man, NO woman, and NO child.
        I told Saul to spare NO sheep, NO cattle, and NO goats.
        But he has spared King Agag and the best of the animals.

        Samuel,         ask Saul whom I made king
                "What part of NO don't you understand?" [pause]

How do we Christians reconcile this story
        With the life, death, and teachings of Jesus Christ?
First, we have to understand that this story is about obedience
Not about killing and punishment.
And so we have to identify what it is that Saul did wrong.
What he did wrong       was turn back from following God
By substituting his own judgment for God's.
        By rejecting God's words and commandments
        By choosing instead to do what he wanted to do.

That behavior   is what is inconsistent with what Christ taught.

The lesson here is taught in the negative to give it greater impact.

It tells to not do something rather than to do something
And what it is that we are told not to do
        Seems in human thinking
        To be something that would be appropriate for us to do.

Making our reaction one of arguing with and even criticizing God
        Thus making the story more memorable
And the lesson that much more powerful.
        Like our reaction to so many of Christ's parables

What you and I need to take from this scripture is
To do as God directs
Rather than to think we know better than God does.

Christ says,
Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength
Love your neighbor as yourself

And when we don't,      God can respond
        "I said, all your heart, all your soul and all your strength"
        "I said all your neighbors."
                "What part of 'all' don't you understand?"

Christ says,
        "Be my witnesses and make disciples for me"

And when we don't,      God can respond
        "What part of 'be' and 'make' don't you understand?"

This upsetting and anger inducing scripture offers us a basic lesson:
        "We can't substitute our judgment for God's commands."

We do need to worship regularly
We do need to pray unceasingly
We do need to give generously.
We do need to love extensively
We do need to make disciples and to witness constantly.

When you and I are tempted to not do those things
        We are Saul
        People who substitute their own judgment for God's

When we find ourselves doing that
Let's remember this story
Let's ask ourselves
                "What part of God's commands don't we understand?"