Free Resource: Spiritual Practice (Small Groups)
Unit Theme (October 15 – November 5): Called by God
From the story of God calling Samuel, we move to our second story in our theme “Called by God,” used throughout our Living the Word faith formation resources. Samuel has come a long way from his boyhood. He is now an adult and has guided the people of Israel through their demand for a king, then advising that king, Saul. After initial success and favor, Saul became disobedient to God and was rejected as king. Now, Samuel has been sent by God to anoint a new king to replace Saul.
This week in the Narrative Lectionary, we have two readings. The first is the narrative of Samuel anointing David, and the second, a jump forward in time with Psalm 51 to David’s infamous sins as king, the rape of Bathsheba and murder of her husband.
There are two “calls” in our story from 1 Samuel 16, First, there is the call of Samuel to the dangerous task of naming a new king while the current king is alive and well. Samuel is scared, so the LORD tells the prophet to engage in subterfuge so as not to alert King Saul. The second is God’s call of the shepherd boy, David, to be the next king. God is the actor in this story, Samuel is just the agent fulfilling God’s command. David is passive, receiving the anointing. Jesse and the rest of his sons are tertiary characters, almost part of the setting. This emphasizes one of the major themes in the historical books, that God is the one in control, the true king of Israel (and the universe).
In addition to the theme of God’s kingship, one of the central themes in our reading from 1 Samuel 16 is that of sight. Specifically, in verses 6 and 7, there are six occurrences of words with the same root, ra’ah (thank you to Dr. Rolf Jacobson for pointing this out!) which is variously translated as “look,” “appearance,” and “see.”
What we see is not what God sees, and what God sees is not what we see. We are limited in what we see to the light bouncing off objects and landing in our eyes. How God “sees” is beyond anything we can know, but I imagine that there is not much of a difference between God “seeing” and God “knowing.”
There is more to this story than a simple illustration of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This is not a lesson in withholding judgement until you know more about a person, although that advice is quite good. Rather, I think the point of this story is for us to trust God when God calls others or even us. God’s call cannot be a mistake, for God “sees” the called one completely. It is, of course, possible (even likely) that we misinterpret God’s call. We make mistakes, God doesn’t. Whether we are being obedient or disobedient, God sees us for who we are, and who God has made us to be: beloved children of our King.
Faith formation for this story can take three major paths.
- Focus on the call. You can strengthen the connection to last week’s story by diving into the continuing call of God in Samuel’s life, and now in David’s. If it wasn’t asked last week, you can explore the various ways God calls us today. God calls us to be disciples, leaders, agents of transformation, knowing full well our strengths and weaknesses, obedience and disobedience. David’s whole life is a great example of this.
- Play with sight. Have fun with the theme of sight. Try to trick participants with packaging not matching what’s inside. Play a little game of “I Spy,” “Hide & Seek,” or even “Peek-a-Boo.” Do a scavenger hunt or challenge people to find all the <blank> in the room. However, you play (or “explore” if you want to be more serious), finish with a statement, discussion, or the like on how God sees us completely, and loves us completely.
- Practice anointing. Use this opportunity to talk about what anointing meant in the Bible. Practice an anointing ritual (like the one in our free resource this week), commissioning each other in their callings in the world.
Go forth and answer your call!
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
This week’s FREE resource is a worship activity from our Living the Word: Small Group discussion guides, specifically from the “Living the Story” component. The “Living the Story” component is common among all our Living the Word curriculum products and is designed to integrate the story of the day with the experience of a faith practice, in this case, the practice of worship. Living the Word: Small Groups consists of weekly discussion guides for any small group to follow and study each Sunday’s Narrative Lectionary text, and can be used either prior to attending worship or afterwards.