Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 6, 2021 – the Rev. Dr. Elaine Ellis Thomas

ASEP Sermons

1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15+Psalm 138+(2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1)+Mark 3:20-35

I imagine that you could approach any adult person in this country and ask them if they are satisfied with how the government is working for them, and no matter their political persuasion they are likely to say, “not very well.” At best.

Government is too big/too small.

Government provides too many/too few services for those in need.

Government spends too much/too little on defense.

Government should forgive student debt/you accrued the debt, you pay it.

We should open our borders/close our borders to immigrants.

The president has too much/too little power.

The filibuster should be abolished/should be maintained.

The list is endless.

The people of Israel in the days of the prophet Samuel were not all in agreement, either. At that time, there were twelve autonomous communities, established by the twelve tribes when they arrived in the Promised Land, and each had its own governance under a person called a judge. This was not a standing office but was generally given to a wise or courageous leader in the community. You know some of them – Deborah the warrior and Gideon with his trumpet. Samuel was also one of the judges.

It was a time in the history of Israel when the Philistines, among others, threatened  these communities. The Philistines had weapons of iron, something the Israelites did not have. They were a coordinated unit, an army, while the Israelites were disparate bands of people. The Israelites were tired of being under threat from their more developed neighbors, and they were convinced that the secret of the Philistines’ success was that they were united, each city having its own king working in conjunction with the other kings. And so, the people of Israel went to Samuel to demand a king to lead them.

Samuel did not like that idea and prayed to God for guidance. It turns out that God did not like that idea much, either, because God was to be lord and ruler of the people. But God instructed Samuel to give them what they wanted, but to warn them that a king would plunder their wealth, send their sons and husbands off to war, make their women servants in his household, and take the best of their harvests and their labor.

Samuel warned the people of all these things, but still they demanded a king who would lead them into battle.

All the things Samuel warned them of came to pass. Wars and plunder and unscrupulous kings, one after another. Sure, King David was one of the kings, and while he is considered great and beloved of God, we know that his track record included rape and conspiracy to murder.

But the thing is, even though some of the kings were really awful, God was not. God was faithful to the people through war and exile and disobedience. God sent prophets to warn the people when disaster loomed, but the people were determined to do what they were going to do. But God never abandoned them.

What was true then is true now. Presidents come and presidents go. The same with legislators and governors and mayors. Whether we think everything is going great or not so great, God is working in and through it all.

We seem to have a hard time trusting that.

The people couldn’t trust Jesus, either. He came as a healer and a teacher, proclaiming God’s reign, and they accused him of being possessed by Satan, mentally unstable. The ones who recognized him for who he was were the demons he cast out, the outcasts that he healed. His message of love and inclusion transfigured their lives, but the people could not see it. But Jesus did not reject them. He loved them to the end.

As we gather today for our annual parish meeting and elect leaders for this congregation, we are still in uncertain times. We can’t gather as we once did or engage in community ministries that are our heritage. Many of our lives have been turned upside down, detached from those we love and from the jobs and schools that were such a routine part of our lives pre-COVID.

But God is faithful. God’s love has continued to move in us and through us even over seemingly endless months of separation, fear, doubt, and uncertainty.

And here we are. Together. Lifting our voices in praise to the God of our salvation.

Kings and rulers come and go. Pandemics and wars erupt and fade. Yet here we are, because our God is faithful and just and filled with loving-kindness for all of us. God will grant us the desires of our hearts, and even when that leads to more trouble than we can manage, God is there to help pick up the pieces. In the words of our psalm this morning

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart…

The Lord will make good his purpose for me; *
O Lord, your love endures for ever;
do not abandon the works of your hands. (Psalm 138:1, 9)

Or in the words of the old gospel song

Oh, can’t turn around we’ve come this far by faith. (LEVAS II – #208)

There’s no turning around, my friends. It’s time to step out into the future, trusting that God will never fail us.

ASEPSermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 6, 2021 – the Rev. Dr. Elaine Ellis Thomas