Last Sunday, the reading from the Common Testament came from 1Samuel 16and told the story of Samuel’s anointing of David. One part of verse 13 stood out fro me. It said “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David.”
I noticed that the Spirit of the Lord came upon David after he was anointed. Before that, David had been considered an unlikely candidate. He was not present because he was the youngest, even though he looked handsome when he did appear.
So here is what struck me. I was reminded of that list that comes under the heading ‘Children Learn What They live” .Part of it goes
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy….
This is not the whole list, but you get the picture.
So with David, we can carry on the metaphor “If people live with the sense that they are chosen and loved by God, they grow up with the Spirit of the Lord”
David’s having the Spirit of the lord is, according the story, not a matter of his qualification for the job, but of his being named as the Lord’s Anointed.
This story fits with my own, where, on growing up I was called a ‘problem child.’, but on the practice of ministry, I came to see myself as ‘being ordained’ by the people with whom I was working. Then, at the ordination ceremony, I was formally ‘anointed’ as priest, and so then had to live into what was already spoken about me.,
Other people too I know, who have a tradition of prophesy in their congregations, have also told me that when someone speaks word of prophesy about them, this has an effect of guiding their lives in that direction.
The other thing about this story is that it highlights once more the idea of ‘living before the face of God.’ Just to recap. The Gestalt psychology people say that a ‘self’ is that entity that is constituted by the boundary of an interaction between an organism and an environment. Now the bible calls this interaction ‘living before the face of…’ If we live before the face of God, then our ‘selves’ are going to be called into being by that interaction. If we live ‘before the face of ‘ other realities, then our ‘selves’ are going to be a result of that interaction.
So in David’s case, being anointed by Samuel brings him directly ‘before the face of the Lord.’ It is not surprising then that the spirit of the Lord comes upon him at that time, because he is now ‘living before the face of’ the Lord.
Even when he falls away from God at times in the future, David’s life is now always lived in relationship with God.
This is also true for me. As Luther said, living before the face of god is a definition of faith, and it is not a possession, that means that we can forget about god, once we ‘have’ faith, but that our lives are now determined by our relationship with God. We are continually being ‘born again, or ‘born ‘from above.’
This is also the same idea that St. Paul has when he talks about our ‘being ‘in the Spirit’ or ‘being ‘in Christ’ and being ‘in the Flesh.’ The word ‘the Flesh’ represents everything else that may determine our lives, apart from the Spirit of god. But in Faith, by believing in Jesus, we are no longer ‘in the flesh’ but ‘In the Spirit’. This is exactly the same thing as living before the face of God.’
So the Bible has a number of metaphors that all point us in the same direction, and they are all answers to the same question “Before whose face are you living”
There is one other thing that strikes me as important about this story, and that is about the inherent unity of ‘inside’ and ‘outside.’ There are some people who place a lot of emphasis on the ‘outside’ of worship and Christian life, sometimes at the expense of their inner piety and the inner truth of their lives. Others, in reaction to this over emphasis on ‘externals’ go the other way, and try to be as simple as possible. This has the effect of impoverishing what can be a rich sensual environment for expressing the love of god.
The story of Samuel and David shows me that there is an inherent unity between the inside and the outside of our lives. David did need the anointing with oil, in order for this to be the sacrament of his inner calling by God.
St. Paul says the same thing in the Epistle to Timothy (2 Tim 1:6) when he encourages him to ‘…Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.’ God’s calling to Timothy needs fanning into a flame, he needs to ‘live into hi calling’ as we would say, but the laying on him of St. Paul’s hands completes this inner state. As humans, we are beings that have insides and outsides forged into an organic unity. To neglect one of these at the expense of another is to put asunder what God has joined together. That has been the project of my priestly life, especially in Church affairs. I have wanted to let the inner fire that comes because of living before the face of God be brought to light through the way in which the liturgy has been conducted. The riches of the liturgy, help fan the inner fires.