Mark 4:26-34

1 Samuel 16:1, 6-13

With all of Jesse’s sons standing before him, the Lord tells Samuel, “I don’t judge as people judge.” God sees things very differently than we do, according to plans we don’t know. God started seeing this way long before this passage from 1 Samuel. Just before this passage, this part of the story starts with the Lord rejecting Saul as king, feeling sorry he’d done it. That’s not how we picture God, changing the divine mind as if this was a mistake all along, repenting as we do. But as the story goes, God chose for Saul to fail as king, to prove a point. The people asked for a king, and God gave the people the king they asked for.

Saul gets the short end of this story, because this is a story about David, about God’s faithfulness to Israel through him. This is the first part of David’s story: God chooses him to be king, using a kind of judgment humans don’t have. God sees more deeply into us, farther into our future, and more broadly into the world around us, than we can. That’s what make this makes moment of anointing – of David in our story, of the baptism we celebrated this morning, of all our baptisms – so big. We see here the sign of God doing something bigger than we can see in full. We see just a hint of a God who judges in ways that we can’t.

The Lord tells Samuel, “I look at the heart.” God judges our intentions and attempts, not what we actually manage to do. We know how to judge like this, a little. We know how to look at a poorly wrapped Christmas present and see a child’s desire to do it right. Love gives us those eyes, God’s love that sees into our hearts, and God sees even deeper than we are able to.

God sure saw deeper into David than we can. With our eyes, we might wonder just what it was God saw. David’s honorable intent, maybe? I’m not sure. David was maybe pretty good as kings go, but his intentions were sure not always honorable. He was, willfully, sometimes adulterous, murderous, and greedy. But God knows desires even deeper than those we act on, and She apparently saw David seeking God in spite of himself. She knows us in the same way, as children of God, needful of love and grace, despite all that we see of ourselves. If we’re like me, we fail even to want what’s best sometimes, but we try to want it – and God sees that.

God sees what we haven’t done yet, but we can. God sees what hasn’t come about yet, what we’ll grow into eventually. It’s safe to say the legendary king of Israel was underemployed as a shepherd, but God saw him in a new context. Shepherding is not a qualification to be king, but it is good training, even beyond the sling-shooting skills David used so well. God has this habit of using experiences we’d never put on a resume to prepare us for something bigger.

As Jesus put it, God sees seeds so small they’re as good as invisible and grows them into great trees that bear fruit. God sees how the story around us will change: what will till our soil, what will prune and shape us as we grow. I doubt David would have become king if Samuel hadn’t made such a show of things. God used a human agent to do what He was up to. In another world, maybe David would have been a great shepherd-poet, but God chose to make him something else, with human help. Samuel, David, and Jesse knew what that anointing meant, but only God saw what else would go into the story of his life.

Only God truly sees how deeply and creatively She loves us and what we’ll ultimately be made into. Only God knows what joys, sorrows, challenges, and teachings God wants to share with us. We don’t see how we’ll find our roots set deep in God’s being so we can bear great fruit. We see hints and signs: oil on a shepherd’s head, water on a baby’s head (or an old person’s). We see that surface and some distance beneath, but God sees right to the heart – a heart God loves.

That’s what it’s about when God anoints us in baptism: whatever else comes, we are God’s beloved people. Whatever else it looks like we achieve or fail to accomplish, God loves us with an undying love. Wherever we are, whatever we can imagine for selves, God is making more of us than we believe. Thanks be to God.