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This is my sharing on Sunday. Please watch the two videos linked first so that the message can make sense.
Do you see?
These two videos play on the stereotype of women and men, but we know that in Free Community Church, a lot of us may break these stereotypes, or maybe we are not that different after all and fit into them perfectly. There were complaints that these videos are actually sexist, shallow and play on women’s insecurity and men’s ego, and I am not here to debate if they are socially and/or politically correct. My question to you today is what kind of feelings do they elicit from you when you watch them? Keep these feelings in mind as we read from today’s scripture passage, taken from 1 Samuel 16:1-13
1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’
3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”
5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.”
9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.”
10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.”
11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.
How do we see ourselves?
Let’s get back to the question, how did you feel when you were watching the two video clips. Did we feel like the participants in video 1, where we look at ourselves with critical eyes, and feel that we are not beautiful enough? Or do we dare admit that some of us are more like the participants in video 2, where we view ourselves as more beautiful than we actually are, and wonder why do others not see that of us? I think whether we are our own harshest critics, or the most over confident person in this place, the question to us is: can we be true to ourselves and see ourselves for who we are? Both groups of people are actually not seeing themselves for who they are, one group thinking less of themselves, and the other group thinking more of themselves. But neither the forensic artist, nor the people that were describing the participants were seeing them for who they are. They are all seeing only a facet of who they are as the participants present themselves. Others are only able to see us based on how we present ourselves, and we present ourselves such that we may appear attractive and likeable to people, or at least most of us try to do so.
Today’s scripture tell of the story of God sending the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king of Israel, and in the process of this anointing, we are told that unlike the mortals that we are who looks at outward appearance, God is able to see beyond what is on the outside and sees the heart of the person. Even Samuel, a prophet of god, when he saw Eliab, have thought, “This man sure looks like a king. He is tall, strong and handsome, he must be the one God will tell me to anoint. That’s a good choice, God!” Just based on what he saw, Samuel thought that Eliab would be a great king and leader. However, Eliab was not the chosen one, neither was Abinadab nor Shammah, or the next four sons of Jesse no matter if all of them may look kingly.
But as humans, we cannot see into the hearts of people, so how then could we judge others than by what we can see with our eyes? Though it is best not to judge, if we have to, we ought to be slow in judging, especially not just based on outward appearances. And in addition to what we see, we have to look at what people say, and what people do. As the chinese saying goes, 日久见人心, only with time, then we will be able to see the person’s heart. So while we cannot change how we look like, though not through lack of trying, spending all our energy and money by going on diets to lose the extra weight, going to the gym to get toned and muscular, and dressing to the nines with branded clothes and latest gadgets. Perhaps we should pay more attention to our words and our actions, that we are reflecting the presence of god in our lives.
11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.
David was the youngest son of Jesse, and was held in low regard among his own family, not because of his character or he is less good looking than his brothers, but simply because he was the youngest of eight sons. He was probably just a teenager at this time. He was not even invited to the sacrificial feast; instead he was tending to the sheep. And as we know, during that time, looking after the sheep was a lowly job. Yet, like in many stories in the bible, god chose the most unlikely candidate to do God’s work. For god could see into the heart of David.
God sees us for who we are.
God knows our heart, and that to me, is both the most wonderful thing, and the scariest thing. We may all be keeping up appearances of attending Sunday services, going for cell groups, and doing our daily devotion. But when god looks into our hearts, what will god find? What if though we are here physically, our heart is not with god at all? Our heart may be on the money that we have to earn to sustain our lifestyle, or with the people that we are trying to attract, or on the next upcoming vacation, or just with the burdens of in our lives, or we are simply just preoccupied with ourselves. If our heart is not with god (and only god knows), maybe it is time to use this period of lent to reflect on our faith and relationship with god. And if we think that our heart is with god, then we have to ask ourselves, are we listening to what god is saying, and are we seeing where god wants to lead us?
Do we see ourselves as the unlikely candidate that god has chosen to do god’s work? Or are we just happy to let the seven people that appear more capable than us to do the work instead? Do we give excuses for our inactions? Do we tell ourselves and others that we are not experienced, we do not have the time or there is nothing that we are good at? Are we able to see what god sees in each and every one of us, that no matter how small, insignificant or incapable that we think we are, god is able to use us to be god’s hands and feet. The world holds still when you realize someone has placed a value on your life. Because it’s then that you realize what value you place on it. Do you know the value that you place on your life? Is the value high, low, zero or in the negative region? Do you see the value that god has placed on your life? If you have been with FCC for a while and do not see that, then FCC has failed terribly. Sometimes it is difficult to embrace ourselves as god’s beloved, when the society, and the community (both LGBTQ and the church) bombard us with so many messages that we are not good enough. We are told we are not tall enough, not cute enough, not muscular enough, not rich enough, not funny enough, not smart enough, not kind enough, not patient enough and sometimes not Christian enough. God is telling each of us, as you are, as I am, we are enough.
But our journey does not end with knowing that we are enough as god’s beloved. How boring will that be? Knowing that we are enough does not give us the free reign to just be, but should stir in our hearts the desire to let god use us and mold us to be the person that god sees us to be, so that others may come to see god through what we do. We have been talking about our upcoming move to One Commonwealth and the amount of work, both in terms of fund raising for the renovation and the short time frame we have for the move into the new place and shifting out of this place. If we do not have the financial capacity at this point, do we ask ourselves whether we have the time, ideas, energy and effort to help in any other areas? In our past ten years, we have done and accomplished a lot, and this is made possible with the help from each and every individual doing his or her part. And I know that our upcoming move would still depend on each of us to pitch in with what we can do to help.
And after the move, we are not to just make the church beautiful (though it is probably in the genes of the LGBTQ community), the music excellent, the sermon able, the congregation numerous and respectable. I am not sure god will find much satisfaction in these. But we will have to see beyond the place to the people within and with-out of the church, to reach out in kindness, to serve with grace, and to love, both the loveable and the unlovable. The road ahead will be an exciting and challenging one, and may all of us as god’s people, embark on this journey together, that we may know more of god’s love and grow in faith and hope, that we are doing what god has called on Free Community Church to be.