Trinity 3: Consequences & Moving Forward

An acrylic painting on wood illustrating the bible verse in Mark 4 describing the kingdom of God like a mustard seed. Jesus is seated with a child under the yellow-leafed branches of a tree showing her a tiny mustard seed. Jen Norton.

Trinity 3

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
Mark 4:26-34

If you can cast your minds back to last weeks or even better – read the readings for this week, we will continue to look at leadership and politics in the Old & New Testaments. Tis the season! Things have moved on for Samuel and Jesus.

We are a few chapters ahead in 1 Samuel. Israel’s first king Saul was anointed, it was a complete disaster as predicted and ended badly. Saul died by suicide and all his sons were killed by enemies. Saul was almost constantly at war and profited greatly from the plundering of his enemies. God had warned the Israelites what would happen; and it all came to pass in Saul’s kingship.

It was so bad that 1 Samuel 15:34 says “the Lord was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.” Think about God’s sadness for a moment. God was sad. Sad that the people disobeyed him, turned away from the plans and purposes he had. I suspect he was sad over Saul’s awful death and the deaths of his sons. Sad about the loss of life. There are events and people in this world that make God sad.

As a king, Saul was the ideal candidate. He was handsome, from the right family as he had a wealthy father. You know what he did at his coronation? Saul hid! Samuel the prophet had to go and find him to present him to his people. Imagine King Charles running out of Westminster Abbey! Saul tried at the beginning. He was given two jobs: reign over the people of Israel and save them from their enemies. Yet Saul acts out of turn, does not obey God, makes his own decisions. God would have established Saul’s kingdom forever but does not in the end. We pick up the reading this morning where God has finally had enough; He is sorry that he made Saul king over Israel. Samuel and Saul part company too.

The whole of the OT is the story of a people who messed up and the God who loved them anyway. Part of the problem with the Israelites is that they keep worshipping other gods along with God. They make some decisions that they did not consult big G God on and they are punished. Samuel pleads with Israel to return to God with all their hearts and put away the foreign gods and God will deliver them from the Philistines. The Philistines are one of the biggest and most troubling enemies of Israel. Goliath was one of them.

If we are feeling frustrated at the state of this country or community, Israel provides an excellent example of what it is to get what it wants and then realise it isn’t that great. The story would have been totally different if Israel had sought out what God wanted for them.

How often do we do that in our own lives? Demand things of God, want him to do things our way? Sometimes he will give us what we want and we learn the hard way! God wants our obedience, we are to listen and follow him. Not the other way around.

In the end God will get his way. It is a new day for Samuel at the start of chapter 16. He is to put Saul and the past behind him so that he can anoint the next king, one of the sons of Jesse. David. The ruddy faced and beautiful boy.

We do well to remember that God does not look at outward appearances, but on the heart. It is jarring to think that God can be sad. I do not want to be the cause of God’s sadness nor be part of a country or community that makes God sad.

Mark – Jesus is still going strong. He remained in Galilee where he appointed his 12 apostles who were sent out to proclaim the good news. The crowds are growing as more and more people come to listen. Jesus begins teaching in parables about the kingdom of God. He uses analogies of the seed and sower, lamps under bushel baskets, more scattered seed and the mustard seed.

Why these things? Lamps and mustard seeds represent everyday miracles. We all know how they work. The kingdom of God is in the everyday stuff of life. This is drastically different from the kingdom of military power that many people thought Jesus would bring including the disciples.

Jesus is saying no. This Kingdom of God starts small and grows large; much larger than we can ever imagine. Once a mustard seed starts growing they need very little care and not much water. And they grow! They spread quickly, not exactly something you want in a well-tended English garden! Mustard seeds have small beginnings and also make a delicious mustard. The greatest of all condiments!

The kingdom of God starts small and grows as it spreads out and changes the flavour of the world around it.

As a church and I mean as a parish, we need to spread out and change the flavour of the world, the village and our families around us. Church is not contained to these four walls, this hour on a Sunday and only the people sitting here. Lord help us if that ever becomes our view of His church!

What we do as a church may feel small but it will grow like a mustard seed if we let it. If we choose to learn from the example in Israel as Samuel pleaded with them to serve God and follow him. If we focus more on our hearts, and the hearts of others and not on outside appearances – then we live in obedience and it will be well.

Author: Sue Lepp

I am currently the Lead Chaplain of Gatwick Airport and the Priest-in-Charge of Charlwood St Nicholas and Sidlow Bridge Emmanuel in the Diocese of Southwark. I served my curacy in the Parish of Langley Marish and trained at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Former Nurse in both Canada and the UK. Specialised in Palliative Care, Gynaecology-Oncology and a bit of Orthopaedics (just to keep me travelling). Worked as a MacMillan Nurse Specialist in a few specialities in London.

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