Scriptures: 1 Samuel 15:34~16:13 Mark 3:7-19
LET US PRAY: Holy God, who calls us and loves us into being: open us fully to Your Holy Word … guide us to become living examples of Your Holy Word. Amen.
One of my favorites movies is MEATBALLS. It is a fun movie that chronicles the very different experiences of summer campers at 2 vital camps. The first is the very exclusive Camp Mohawk ~ a camp for the children of rich, privileged families … where the kids must be “voted in” before they can attend, where there is a 2-year waiting list; and ALL of the children attend the best schools. They are driven to camp in air-conditioned motor coaches and all wear matching camp t-shirts.
The other camp ~ across the lake ~ is Camp North Star. The head counselor (played by Bill Murray) is Tripper Harrison … a brash yet open and insightful individual. The kids arrive on school busses and are rather whiney and ordinary … and come from a variety of family life-style backgrounds. The counselors here are rather nerdy, chubby, uncoordinated … and/or former campers themselves.
In the midst of ‘normal’ camp activity, we follow the story of Rudy ~ a short, skinny kid, who has no self-confidence and comes from a single parent home. However, he is an excellent runner. Tripper befriends Rudy ~ taking the time to listen to him to talk with him, and to encourage him to proudly identify and use his talents.
The most important event of the summer is the 13th Annual Intercamp Olympiad ~ which Camp Mohawk has won for 12 years. This is a 2-day event involving various athletic competitions for campers of ALL ages. There is fierce competition between the 2 rival camps ~ both sides desperately want to win; both sides are willing to cheat to win; and there are a few serious injuries to competing counselors.
At the end of the first day, the score is 63-170, and Camp North Star is naturally dejected. For me, the highlight of the movie is what I call ‘Tripper’s It Just Doesn’t Matter speech.’ Meeting with the counselors, he tells them: “Sure we have lost for the past 12 years. They are better athletes! They have personal trainers using the latest European training methods! BUT, IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!”
“Even if everyone prayed for Camp North Star to win, in the long run all of the good looking girls would still date the Mohawk guys because they have all the money! BUT, IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! Because no matter who wins or loses, it’s working together as a team that matters most!. Each of you have something special deep inside of you. And, you can do anything you want to IF you want it badly enough. Dig deep inside yourselves. Use your talents. I believe you can! I know you can!”
Tripper’s motivational speech is one of faith and encouragement … and it fires up both the campers and the counselors. At the end of the 2nd day, the camps are tied. It all comes down to the final 4-mile marathon. And Rudy is picked to represent Camp North Star. It didn’t matter that he was the quiet kid who didn’t always fit in OR always believe in himself. Listening to the encouragement from Tripper, he was able to dig down deep inside himself ~ and to represent the camp. Using his talent to its fullest, Rudy wins the race and North Star triumphs for the first time in history.
So, what does this have to do with today’s Scripture readings AND Celebration Sunday? Simply that both of our readings challenge us to question what we consider most important in life.
In our Old Testament reading today, God sends Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel. Saul, the 1st king, is in disgrace for disobeying God and dies a lonely, miserable death.
God sends Samuel to the family of Jesse of Bethlehem ~ which, as we know, will be the birthplace of Jesus. Jesse has many sons ~ each strong, capable and mature. One by one, Samuel reviews the sons. And, one by one, God says No! No! No!
Finally, Jesse calls his last son in from the field, where he has been tending the sheep. As we hear, he is ruddy … he is handsome … he is the youngest of the family. Yet, immediately, God says: Yes! Yes! Yes!
Neither age nor strength mattered most to God. What DID matter was the deep down, as-yet-unrecognized inner abilities that David possessed … abilities that God would need most in the 2nd king of Israel.
We hear the same general theme in our reading from the Gospel of Mark. It is early in Jesus’ ministry, yet crowds of disciples are already following Him everywhere … listening to His teachings and hoping to be healed. In essence, a disciple is someone who will listen, who will learn, and who will do what he/she has learned.
Jesus finally calls these disciples to join Him on the mountain and, from them, chooses 12 to be His first faithful students and followers. Among them are the impetuous Simon, 2 brothers who constantly vie for attention, as well as fishermen, tradesmen, a tax collector and, ultimately, a betrayer. Yet, this didn’t matter to the Son of God! What mattered most was their willingness to stick with Jesus and to learn from what Jesus did and said.
Our scripture stories today remind us that God doesn’t look at outward appearances or age or past history. God doesn’t seek out the smartest or richest, the most clever or most athletic persons. And, neither should we. Because IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!
Rather, God looks deep inside each of us. God knows what each of us is capable of doing. God knows our unique gifts and talents … many of which are buried deep … many of which lie untouched and underused because we sometimes think: “If I can’t do something perfectly the first time, then why bother trying to do anything at all?!”
What we forget is that God knows exactly what we can do because God has gifted us with all of our gifts and talents and abilities. And God simply looks at each of us as we are today … with all of our blemishes, flaws and quirks … our experience as well as LACK of experience. And, God says: Come! Share your special ability! Share your stories! Share who you are! Make a difference in your life, in your neighborhood and community … make a difference in someone else’s life!
You know, in the long run, IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER if you have a ton of money … or none. IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER if you were born tall or short, smart or average. IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER if you born a leader or a staunch supporter. IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!
What DOES matter is that God has given each of us a wonderful mix of talents and abilities. And, God doesn’t ask that we do EVERYTHING … but does ask us to do SOMETHING, using what we have and who we are.
What DOES matter is that God has send our own “Samuels” into our lives … those folks that we call our forebears and mentors in faith. People who have taken the time to listen to us and to encourage us along our own faith journey. People who have shown us, by their example, how to LIVE out our faith by using our God-given abilities.
And what DOES matter is that God is also sending us to become “Samuels” to our neighbors and community and, even more importantly, to our future generations right here … to show them, by what we say and what we do, how to love God with our whole heart and soul, mind and strength. AND to encourage them to dig deep inside themselves and identify THEIR God-given abilities and then USE those talents to LIVE out their faith in what they say and do …
AND then, someday, to take their place in the unending chain of ‘Samuels’ … sent by God into the world … to mentor the next generations to come.
THIS, my friends, is WHAT MATTERS MOST!!! Amen.