This blog post is featured in a chronological series “The Dog Days of Summer – Biblical Figures Feel the Heat.” Blogs are intended to offer an outlet for reflection beyond Sunday morning. Camille Cook Murray June 28th, 2015
1 Samuel 16:1-13 David: Called for the common good
Georgetown Presbyterian Church Dog Days of Summer Series #3
American journalist Lionel Shriver was quoted in the Atlantic saying that there is a transformation taking place in Western culture where we have changed in our collective consensus as to our beliefs about what life is for. Shriver believes we have changed our understanding as to the purpose of life on this earth. She says the shift has come from thinking less about preparation for the future and more about the present - thinking less about the other and more about the self. “As we age,” she writes, “we are apt to look back on our pasts and question, not, did I serve family, country, and God, but did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat? We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but whether they were interesting and fun.”
I found this a troubling and an un-Christian approach to life. I think the first set of questions - did I serve family, country, and God - is the right set of questions for us to reflect upon as we ponder our lives. These questions connect us to a higher calling, a purpose for our days rather than a shallow pursuit of that which is fun and interesting.
David’s call story is fairly well known. God sends Samuel to Bethlehem to find a new king for the people. He arrives at Jesse’s house and sizes up his son’s. The first one, the eldest, Eliab, is a strapping lad. Kingly. But he is not the one. One by one, six more sons are trotted out for Samuel to assess. No. No. Nein. No. Not that one. Nuh-uh. Samuel asks, “Are all your sons here?” And Jesse replies, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping sheep.” Finally young David is retrieved from the fields and Samuel proclaims, “This is the one.” So begins David’s service to family, country, and God. Just like that a shepherd boy receives his calling.
A colleague of mine is a professor of ethics at Harvard and he says his students tell him they have been raised to believe they have four career options: they can be a doctor, a lawyer, a banker, or a loser. Now I have met bankers and lawyers and doctors who have truly found their callings. I have met teachers, scientists, stay-at-home parents, politicians, marines, and engineers who have truly found their callings. In the priesthood of all believers we are called to remarkably varied vocations, but as long as God is the caller, there is no calling higher than another.
So then, maybe we need to change the way we ask the age old question, what are you going to be when you grow up? Maybe a better question would be: what gifts has God given you to serve in this world? What needs do you see around you that compel you to act? How do you think you are being called to spend your life?
Perhaps the tragedy of modern life is not in our failures but in failing to find our calling, in not living into our God given capacities. It would have been a tragedy if David did not leave behind his shepherds crook in order to become a military figure, a public official, a poet and musician. Christian lives are about more than finding jobs and occupying seats. Christian lives are about finding vocations in order to promote the common good.
So ask yourself: I always felt called to serve the poor in Cuba, did I ever make that trip? I felt called to raise money for M.S. research, did I ever run a marathon to do so? I always wanted to paint as an expression of my love for the beauty of God’s creation, did I ever take those lessons? When we connect our passions and gifts to needs we see around us then we can fulfill our callings. And in these ways, we will be able to positively answer the question as to whether or not we served family, country and God. Service to family, country and God are not antiquated lifestyle choices for our forefathers and mothers. These are common callings for all who strive to live in accordance with Christ’s example.
David showed us that it is never too early to find your calling. Christ taught us that it is also never too late.