Privilege and Responsibility

1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13

Sermon delivered by Minister Shirley Lin on 14thJune, 2009

at Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of Northern Jersey Presbyterian Church


Good morning. Thank you for your invitation for me to preach this morning. I am honored to be standing before you this morning, giving the message.

The passage that we read today takes place during a time in Israel’s history where God has decided to replace the king of Israel with a new king. The old king, Saul had turned away from God and no longer served the Lord. He had fallen into the trap that we humans so often fall into—becoming enticed by the allure of the sins of this world.

Thus, it was time to move on to give Israel a new king. Samuel, then, is called on by God to find and anoint the new leader for Israel.

Being called by God certainly is a privilege, but at the same time, I feel intimidated by God’s call. Late last year, in November, I realized that what God was calling me to was more than just chaplaincy. I realized that God wanted me to go into the Ph.D program for Practical Theology so that I can train future chaplains to serve God and God’s people.

While preparing for the application, I felt that it was exactly as I was meant to. After I submitted my application, I stopped to wonder about what I had done. A doctorate degree was never in my future, I thought. A doctorate degree was for someone who was smart; someone who could write papers; someone who was academically inclined and a devoted student. I did not feel that I was one of those people.

When I hadn’t heard from the school, I felt comforted. I felt relieved that I would be doing what I had known I was supposed to do. And yet, the letter came in—that acceptance letter was in the mail. When I finally opened it and read the Congratulations on the top of the letter, I was taken aback. The decision had been made. I had heard God’s call loud and clear.

While he mourned the replacement of Saul and, in his heart, did not want to replace Saul, Samuel went ahead and responded to God’s call. This was not an easy task for him, as he was the one who had anointed Saul in the first place.

Sometimes, God calls us to really listen to make hard decisions. And God calls us to honor Him over and against others perhaps. There are times when we really must learn to stand on our own authority against others in order to serve God.

Who God chooses to lead and who God chooses to follow, we cannot know. It is a blessing and a privilege to be chosen to lead God’s people. It is also difficult and rather terrifying.

After I had spread the news of my acceptance to my friends and family, one friend noticed that I did not sound excited and pleased about my acceptance. I wasn’t, I told him. As I let those words out of my mouth, I felt the fear wash over me. I cried.

As Spiderman often says “with great power comes great responsibilities.” Yes, it was an honor to be called to do God’s work, but it was also a great responsibility as well. Who was I to be the one called to serve? What can I possibly do for God that can come close to God’s greatness?

But what we see in the text today is that the king God chose wasn’t the tall, dark, and handsome son. It was a small, young boy—the youngest of the brothers, from humble beginnings. He wasn’t the one that Samuel would have chosen, probably. In all honesty, he probably wasn’t the one that Jesse would have chosen.

Yet, we know now that King David was the greatest of the kings of Israel. His name, in Hebrew, means beloved.

We need not to be good looking as the world often requires in this beauty obsessed culture.

We need not to be experienced as the cut throat corporate world/job market requires.

We need not to come from a certain pedigree, have gone to a certain school, or have a certain amount of money, to be privileged in God’s world.

We are born within God’s plans. We are, after all, children of God. Perhaps not all of us are called to be kings, but we are all called to fulfill God’s plan for us.

I am reminded of an excerpt from Marianne Williamson’s writings. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

May all of you be able to find within yourselves that calling God has for you—who and how you were meant to serve. May you be able to find your inner majesty, live it out and make a difference in the lives of all that you touch.