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The squish of complacency

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sermon for the fifth Sunday after Trinity


How does that story go? In the red corner standing at nine feet tall, dressed in his best armour, is Goliath, In the blue corner standing at a more normal height for someone of his youth and carrying only a rod and a sling, is David. At the start of the fight, David rushes in and Goliath steps on him - squish! The End.


Why doesn’t the story go like that?


[PAUSE]


That sounds rather frivolous. We know how the story should go: little David slings a stone at Goliath and kills him. We see lots of reasons why that has to be: the triumph of humility over pride; the fidelity of David to God over the idolater Goliath; the salvation of Israel from the Philistines by God. These are all true. Yet, notice that we are now in a position in which we expect the little guy to win over the giant. How many films are about the little one overcoming the great?


Surely this gives us leave to take heart that in our smallness, we will overcome. We hear the psalmist say, “though thousands languish and fall beside thee and tens of thousands around thee perish, it shall not come nigh thee.”


Yet, the outcome of most little ones who fight against the great is that they get squished. That’s not the story we expect, is it? As Terry Pratchett points out, in our rather romantic eyes, million in one chances occur nine times out of ten.


[PAUSE]


Often, we don’t take into account that what we think is a million in one chance really is not a million in one chance. You only need 23 people in a room for the odds of two of them sharing a birthday to be more than half. If we take a longer look at David, we find that there is a greater probability that he might actually win.


David is a shepherd, this is true, but this job is not just sitting around with a tea-towel on your head watching the sheep while musing about life and waiting for the angel Gabriel to pop by occasionally. No. This is a hard job. It involves knowing the practices of sheep, how to tend them, how to chart out the lie of the land, how to rescue them and deal with their injuries. And they need to know how to defend them.


David has already killed a bear and a lion. This is not boasting or the rhetoric of war. This is what David has done and what he knows he can do. He is a good shepherd. And He is faithful to God.


He refuses armour because he is not used to armour, not because he is filled with bravado or puffed up with pride. He puts his trust in God and in the time-tested skills which God has given him and which he has put into practice. His active life as a shepherd shows his track-record.


If we look at Goliath, then we see someone who is also tried and tested in the ways of war, who has relied upon his strength and height before, who knows how to wield his spear and sword, and is no stranger to killing men. But he is also complacent and relies upon his intimidating appearance to cause fear in his opponents. All we really can see of Goliath is a big man in lots of armour. Just what is his track-record, really?


This is the difference between David and Goliath. David knows the odds and he has faith in God Who has delivered him out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, and Who will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. God has a track-record, too!


[PAUSE]


The key reason why the odds against David are much reduced are because he is not complacent and relies on God and what God has given him.


For Goliath, the greater a man is proud, the greater is his complacency. Goliath believes that his size and strength will always win and what he doesn’t think upon is who his opponent actually is. If David were to rush him with sword and spear, then there would be a squish and David would be no more because this is how Goliath fights his battles. If Goliath were to recognise a shepherd boy dressed as a shepherd, then perhaps he would realise how he would fight and wear a different helmet.


And, about a millennium later than this battle between big and small, Our Lord Jesus reminds us that we have to sit down and reckon the cost of our battles.


[PAUSE]


Complacency is one of the powers against which the Church struggles along with Apathy and Apostasy. All too often, a church falls because it believes that its size will save it, or its relationship with the state will save it, or its own gospel will save it. Goliath shows why this is not true.


If Christianity is to do battle with Evil, then it must recognise the Evil Power of Complacency. We can decrease our complacency through constant work at our prayer, at our study and at our hard work for Christ. It’s not enough to say, “I trust God!” or “I have faith!” we have to do something with what we have been given in order to engage and relate with our great God.


We are not saved by saying the Creed, or by following the liturgy, or by fasting. We are saved only by Christ Whom we can meet when we say the Creed, follow the liturgy or by fasting – He is the reason why Creed, liturgy and self-discipline exist, and it is for being united with Him that we are to resist Evil in our lives.


[PAUSE]


We say, “I believe in One God…” but how does our daily life show that we really do so, just like David’s life shows that he is a shepherd?


Will we say “I believe in One God” and then end up being squished?

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