This Sunday we continue our exploration of Community with the third of four questions: what, why, who, how.

This Note comes from Adam Marshall-Lopez, who will bring the message on Sunday the 17th.

As we work through our Community series in the Old Testament book of 1st Samuel, we arrive at the story of Samuel anointing David. Since I have regularly returned to the story of God calling the young Samuel, I confess I was a little disappointed to discover that chapter 16 was our text for Father’s Day. Nevertheless, I dove head-first into exegetical study. After an initial reading, an overarching sermon point jumped out at me. After several more readings, yet a second and then a third. Mind you, none of these arose out of my own study – but rather out of re-reading the Scripture passage as prompted by my study!

Christianity has a rich heritage of reading the scriptures through multiple “lenses,” to see and perceive different layers of truth and meaning. Several of these layers are also uncovered by many critical methods to approaching the Scripture. (For the nerdy or theologically trained, this preview and the accompanying sermon use methods of narrative criticism and reader-response criticism. In layman’s terms, these are the meanings that we ourselves take away as readers.) As you read this passage in preparation for Sunday, pay close attention to any characters you may not notice at first glance of this story.

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (CEB)
34Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah. 35Samuel never saw Saul again before he died, but he grieved over Saul. However, the Lord regretted making Saul king over Israel.

1The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found my next king among his sons.”

2“How can I do that?” Samuel asked. “When Saul hears of it he’ll kill me!”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say, ‘I have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will make clear to you what you should do. You will anoint for me the person I point out to you.”

4Samuel did what the Lord instructed. When he came to Bethlehem, the city elders came to meet him. They were shaking with fear. “Do you come in peace?” they asked.

5“Yes,” Samuel answered. “I’ve come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Now make yourselves holy, then come with me to the sacrifice.” Samuel made Jesse and his sons holy and invited them to the sacrifice as well.

6When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, That must be the Lord’s anointed right in front.

7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

8Next Jesse called for Abinadab, who presented himself to Samuel, but he said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen this one either.” 9So Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen this one.” 10Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord hasn’t picked any of these.” 11Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Is that all of your boys?”

“There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”

“Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”

12So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” 13So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.

Then Samuel left and went to Ramah.

Consider these questions:

  1. What are the functions of narrative and storytelling in the life of a community?
  2. Who is “anointed” in our current day and age? What does it mean and what do “anointed persons” do?
  3. What narratives do we tell about our individual stories? Our church’s past? Our country’s history?
  4. Who has been forgotten, neglected, or marginalized in those narratives?