Forming Faith Blog

Who’s Not Here? (1 Samuel 16:1-13)

Jesse makes a well-intentioned assumption that David isn’t needed when Samuel searches for the next king. But any assumption about who belongs in leading God’s people can be harmful. We must ask the question, “Who’s not here?”

A jigsaw puzzle with one piece missing. Who's not here?
Connections to Last Week’s Story

Identity, provision, calling; that’s how I connect the Narrative Lectionary’s four passages for October. We encounter who God is, God offers us what we need (food, for starters), and God calls us to ministry and mission. In many ways, I think these four stories model the larger journey of Christian discipleship.

We Find Our Calling in Community

In this week’s passage, we read another origin story. Last Sunday, Samuel heard God’s voice stirring him toward truth-telling and leadership. Today Samuel is instructed to be part of David’s calling, as well. We often frame these call stories as only involving God and the future leader, but, more often, the community is present, as well, in noticing, naming, and encouraging God’s gifts for ministry in our lives. Church educators of all sorts are all called to be Samuels on the lookout for the strengths of our young (and not-so-young) people.

Who’s Not Here?

This Bible story also reminds me of the fairy tale, Cinderella. As the parade of unchosen siblings goes by, David (like Cinderella) is hidden away. But in making choices about whose voices matter in leadership, God seems to be asking the question that evil stepmothers hate, but David’s father, Jesse, is more receptive to: “Who’s not here?”

God is paying attention to who has been given a seat at the table and God’s prophets are willing to ask the difficult question, “Who’s not here?” In this passage, Jesse ignores David at first based on benign assumptions, not malice. However, for us reading today, perhaps we are called to notice that, regardless of intent, our assumptions about who belongs where and when can be equally limiting. In this text all about sight and appearance, we are all called to pay attention and ask similar questions in our churches and communities.

Share Your Story

So, what is your call story? What led you to read a blog like this one? And who was involved in that journey? As we prepare to celebrate All Saints’ Day next month, this is an appropriate time to share mementos, photographs, and stories of teachers, pastors, and parents who, like Samuel, were part of your own journey toward leadership.

Name the Gifts of Others

And what do you notice? Can you spend some time this week naming the gifts and strengths you see in others? Can you create space for your children and congregation members to name the talents they notice in one another and give thanks through prayer, liturgy, or singing? “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me” and similar songs make a great refrain to affirm such a sharing of appreciative noticing within a congregation. I like to sing a line or two, ask someone to share a strength they notice in themselves or others, and then repeat.

Practice Paying Attention

And, finally, who’s not here? During the height of the pandemic, my churches played a “what changed” game on Zoom. Someone would hold up a tray or plate for a few seconds with lots of different objects, then they would lower the plate and remove something out of view and we would have to guess what was missing. From games like that one to much more serious conversations about the patterns of race, class, sexuality, disability, and gender identity present or absent in our religious communities, we, too, are called to ask Samuel’s question this week and every week: “Are we sure that everyone’s here?”

May God bless your noticing.



Rev. Billy Kluttz serves as Associate Pastor at Govans Presbyterian Church (USA) in Baltimore, Maryland where he focuses on children and family ministries, community engagement, and communications. He is also co-host of the TLDR Bible Show, a humorous Bible summary and discussion podcast, and a Doctor of Ministry candidate at Wesley Theological Seminary.

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free activity download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download “Gift Charades,” an imaginative activity from our Living the Word: Kids (3rd-6th, NL) family, home-based curriculum, though this can be used with many ages in many contexts!

2021-2022 Faith Formation Resources

Our Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary products for the upcoming 2021-2022 program year are now available for download. Find out more!

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