The search for a new president for SFTS is going to be a challenge. So many things to consider. Do we want someone that’s conservative or liberal? Do we consider ethnicity, sexuality, gender? This person is gonna hold a certain amount of power and is gonna influence the way this seminary is perceived. This is serious! We need to come up with some kind of plan for pulling the needle that we need out of a haystack of possibilities. But, let’s put this into perspective. We’re not looking for the next king of Israel.
I was reading 1 Samuel 16 in preparation for this sermon, a passage I had read many, many times over the course of the term, looking at the Hebrew, trying to figure what the borders of the passage were, exploring the traditions behind the words, and the phrasing, and of course the theological implications of what was going between God, Samuel, David and Saul. Again, very serious work.
But this last time, as I was reading the text, the thing that struck me was the fact that God was acting like a sneaky little punk. God comes up with this off-the-wall plan to get Samuel and David together so that Samuel can anoint David. Of all the ways that God could have chosen to accomplish this, God basically chose to play a trick on the village elders. God chose to have a little fun.
See, God is fun! God is creativity and goofiness and silliness; God can choose to have a little fun with creation, and sometimes God can be like Calvin. I’m not talking about the theologian. I’m talking about the Calvin & Hobbes character from the Sunday comics. God can do sneaky little things like pulling a fast one on King Saul and the village elders, because sometimes having a little fun is just the right thing to do.
See, Samuel’s all worried that people are gonna find out what he’s up to and that Saul’s gonna kill him, so who comes up with a solution? It’s God! God puts an arm around Samuel and says, “I’ve got it! Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna take a cow, and when they ask you what you’re doing, you’re gonna tell them that you went there, so you could sacrifice the cow to me.” You can just picture the mischievous little grin on God’s face!
It’s like when Calvin and Hobbes make up some elaborate scheme so they can bean his neighbor Suzie in the head with a snowball! God came up with a sneaky little plan, like God’s some kind of sneaky little kid, and God tells Samuel to lie a little, and Samuel does. He tells the elders he’s there, to sacrifice a cow.
There was some concern over my use of the word “fun”, that it might be to light or comical of a word to use to describe God. But, why do we always insist on diminishing certain aspects of God? Is dignity more important than humor? Is scholarship more important than whimsy? I’m gonna say no. The search for a new president is a serious thing, but it need not be devoid of laughter, or fun, or pleasant surprise. We can and we should look for the fun that might be in this. It worked for God and it worked Samuel, and it can work for us too.