Anchoring the Ship: Courage-1 Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49

The Philistines stood on one mountain while the children of Israel stood on the other mountain.  A large valley stood between them.  The Philistines, a sea people, had come inland and sought to destroy the pesky Palestinians.  The Philistines, great warriors, were led by their greatest warrior, Goliath.  His helmet, armor and spear were so intimidating King Saul could not find any warrior to take up the fight to decide who controls both mountains, thus controlling the inland routes where traders passed.  Worse, the losing people would be enslaved by the winning nation.  King Saul and the people of Israel were so frightened they could do nothing, but presume defeat.

Goliaths can be scary; they’re every bully we have ever met.  They employ cowardly ways; controlling with threats.  Anytime we use means to hurt in order to get what we want; our name may be Goliath. Anytime we’re scared by bullies and stand around complaining how there’s nothing we can do because Goliath is so big, our name may be King Saul.  Anytime we stand up to some threat and trust God to help, our name may be David.

David was a shepherd boy who would shuttle food back and forth to his three older brothers who were soldiers fighting the Philistines.  David heard Goliath taunt the Israelites and their God, he couldn’t believe it, after all they were God’s chosen people.  David was just naive’ enough to be willing to state his faith out loud in the God of Israel who had delivered his people from far more difficult circumstances.  David says to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because I will go and fight with the Philistine.

David says, let no one lose heart.  Losing heart is the opposite of courage.  Courage literally means to have heart.  We say a kid has a big heart, meaning she or he has courage.  C.S. Lewis said “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

We will only discover courage anchors life when we are pressed.  Courage anchors the church; keeping us from losing heart and drawing the lines of fellowship to tightly.  Big hearted courage works hard at including those outside our circle.  Courage anchors the church; keeping us losing heart and compromising the fidelity of faith by rushing to take matters in our own hands.  Big-hearted courage trusts God to provide in God’s time.   The anchor of courage in the church is honestly fearful at times, but resiliently faithful all the time.   Two words regarding courage being an anchor.

First, courage anchors the church when we’re sure we don’t face Goliath alone.  God takes sides.  The golden thread in salvation’s story is God takes the side of the weak and powerless against the strong and powerful.  David was convinced Goliath hadn’t picked a fight with Israel, but with Israel’s God, who would not abandon them.  David was anchored to courage for his heart belonged to God.  Whoever owns our heart, owns us.

Wrongs last as long as the people are afraid to say no, so they can say yes to something else.  The word no makes wrongs right.  Communism didn’t fall because capitalism won the day.  Communism fell because church ladies, line workers, and common people grew confident they were not alone and they courageously said no.  These same folk in former communist nations everywhere are struggling to say yes to a new thing.

Courage anchors our lives when our heart belongs to God and we know we are not alone.  We will stand up against injustice and insist on remedy, when we know we do not stand alone.  We will speak the needed word in the midst of confusion, when we know we do not stand alone.  We can come along the side of someone when everyone else has faded away, when we know we do not stand alone.  God is with us! 

Second, courage anchors the church when they are able to draw on lessons learned facing previous Goliaths.  David learned to trust God tending his father’s sheep.  On separate occasions, he was attacked by a lion and bear; teaching him the lessons one learns in days of danger or difficulty.  Even at a young age, courage anchored David’s life.  To David, Goliath was just another lion or bear to face with the help of a God.

It is in times of crisis we learn new dimensions of trusting God.  Courage does not become an anchor in a casual or accidental way. As we experience new aspects of God’s faithfulness, courage becomes a stronger anchor in our lives; building our resume’ of trusting God more and more.  Courage becomes an anchor over the course of a lifetime of experiences where we learn God can be trusted and we are not alone.

We won’t suddenly be anchored by courage when unexpectedly unemployed if we’ve not been a good steward of life while employed.  We cannot expect to be anchored to hope when facing an alarming diagnosis if we’ve spent a lifetime sweating little glitches.  Courage begets courage; allowing us to intimately experience the nearness of God’s faithfulness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor and theologian, spent his life trusting God in difficult circumstances.  Time and time again he stood up to the Nazi machine in WW II.  He had to ultimately trust God in way none of us ever will; facing the death penalty for his stand.  Courage became such an anchor in Bonhoeffer’s life that God used him to show how weak and foolish were the Nazi leaders.  Through his life, the German people were able to see they need not be intimidated by such evil cowards.  In the midst of facing crisis, Bonheoffer knew he was not alone and what he had learned would be used to help others.  Courage is confident in a redeeming God who is faithful when the frightened call upon heaven for help.

King Saul doesn’t get it.  He offers David ill-fitted armor and heavy artillery to go into battle with Goliath.  The scene is laughable-a smallish boy putting on the grown up armor; standing in place of a fear ridden army.  It is ironic the persons who should be closest to God, namely the king, can’t see God at work.  The person who gets it is a young lad, who embodied simple childlike truths; enabling him to demonstrate courage before Goliath.

Courage has been an anchor at FUMC, Irving for more than a century; persons confident in God walking these halls.  They are reminders to the congregation of lessons learned about the faithfulness of God who is always with us.  Some of our anchors are sitting in the pews this morning.  Don’t weary in doing good!  Continue to help us not be tempted by the Saul syndrome; leaning to heavily on what is safe because of our unnecessary anxieties.  Churches that are anchored to courage make a choice to live with the awareness God is constantly present; actively trusting God in the everyday things.  They know they are walking on a path of trusting God that will lead them to trusting God in larger and sometimes scarier ways. 

I know we’re well intended when we speak of marketing the church to make it more appealing.  But, it can feel like we are Saul dressing up David in his armor.  Jesus would not engage a Hollywood Studio or Madison Avenue to get his message out.  The power of the gospel is connected to we who have received the gift of grace by faith, and to offering it freely to others as God gave it to each of us.  The more people demonstrate a trust in God as they face their own Goliaths, the more authentic our life changing message will be to those who need to hear courage can anchor their lives, no matter how large and intimidating Goliath may be to them.

David ditches the gear, grabs his slingshot, and a few stones; simple things he knew best as a shepherd.  He walks toward Goliath with a heart attuned to God; facing him with courage that already anchored his young life.  Goliath laughs; calling him a puppy dog.  David shaking in his sandals did what the king and his army would not-STAND and TRUST God to provide as he hurled a stone.  His shot landed on the mark and Goliath fell.

I say with unashamed simplicity, when we stand and face the Goliaths in our lives with faith in our God we will not fail; and giants will fall.  May we anchor our lives and church with courage; trusting in a living God as we sail together in the days ahead!  I thank God for the courage that has, is, and will anchor the people who make up this Mother Ship, our portion of the Body of Christ called FUMC, Irving.  Thanks be to God, AMEN!

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