Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 17:32-49

Show and Tell

This is the pilot briefing from the first Star Wars (Episode IV), when they’re talking about how the Death Star can be destroyed by firing down this little two-meter ventilation shaft. One pilot protests, “that’s impossible,” and Luke retorts, “It’s not impossible; I used to bulls-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home, and they’re not much bigger than two meters.” I was reminded of this in the story of David preparing to face down Goliath, when he talks about his prowess at killing lions and bears.

It makes me think about how science fiction and other larger-than-life stories function. Aren’t they kind of like the stories about giants and warrior kings? Or if you’re more religiously inclined, like St George slaying the dragon? It’s important for some of us that these stories may actually have happened (and who am I to say that they didn’t?), but I’m less concerned about fact than about how these stories help us think. What do we hear about ourselves, and about the deep reality of life, from these stories?

Scripture Reading: Mark 4:35-41


I had a pretty bad driving record when I was younger, with a handful of different excursions into the ditch. Only one was particularly catastrophic, but a couple were pretty noteworthy near-misses. I had more than one experience when we talked about angels holding me back from something worse, or just generally about “God having plans for me.” And as it happens, the timing of those experiences, and seeing them through the lenses of “God’s plans” did help to crystallize my sense of plans that God very much did seem to have for me.

At the same time, I’m having a hard time using that language right at the moment. It’s hard to talk about God having had “plans for me” that kept me from hitting the bridge guardrail in the wrong way, but not having plans for others who didn’t make it. It’s hard to think that God would have gone to so much trouble calming one particular storm on Lake Galilee, but not done much to prevent Duluth from getting washed away last week (not to mention other more devastating storms). To be honest, I have to grant that God could perhaps work that way, but God doesn’t seem to go that far out of the way all that often.

So, at least for today, let’s read these stories as myths – stories that point beyond the raw facts to tell us about a deep truth of life. Whether it’s David and Goliath or the stilling of the storm, I want to ask less about how it could happen and more about what it might say about God. What would it mean for God to behave like this? What does it mean to talk about God as if calming rough waters and slaying giants were part of God’s way? What would we think of a God with that kind of power?

The reason I’m so interested in these stories is that they offer to tell us something about how God might do just those things: through us. Imagine that you had the power to conquer any monster, to command the waters of chaos and destruction to be still. Imagine you could do anything at all. What would you do with that? How would you use that power? Imagine you had the power to fly across oceans, to share information around the world instantaneously, to invest your energy and your resources however you like – how would you use that power?

The great thing about these larger-than-life stories is that they ask us to imagine that we’re as big, as capable, as we turn out to be after all. By asking us what we would do with more than we think we have, they make us think about how we would use the stunning capabilities we have within ourselves already. We – humanity and the individuals who make it up – can do incredible things, and the only question is what kind of things we’re going to choose to do.

Well, here’s what Jesus did with his power: he freed people from the forces of death, destruction, and exclusion that kept them from living as God’s people; he brought health and healing into lives that desperately needed to be made whole; he called out the systems that kept some people well-fed and some people hungry, and he gave us a new reality where everyone has what they need. He took on the parts of humanity that were bound for destruction, and he offered himself to be destroyed along with them, so that when he rose from death, he could bring all of us up into new life with him. He awoke, as if from the great sleep, and he set our lives on the right course once and for all. That’s what Jesus did with the awesome power of God.

Oh, and he did one more thing: he shared that power with us. He shared with us the invitation to do just what he did. So what will you do? What storm will you calm? What trouble will you walk with someone through? What sorrows will you heal, and what wisdom will you teach? How will you use, how will you share, the power you’ve been given? Will you go to Duluth and help clean up? Will you give a week to the kids of our Vacation Bible School? Will you open your life, even your home, to someone in need? Will you set up an estate gift that will keep giving even after your lifetime?

The power already lives in us. We are already larger than life, more able than we imagine. The question is, what will we do? What difference will we make? How are we called to be? May these beautiful stories continue to give us great big ideas, in Christ’s name.