Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: David (page 1 of 2)

Sermon: One Smooth Stone

I preached at New Creation United Methodist for their 11am worship service this past weekend. The scriptures were 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 and 1 Samuel 17:32-49. I read the 1 Samuel account of David defeating Goliath from The Message just before the sermon.

Guest Post: One-Upmanship

by Brock Weigel

washing_3262c-2Read Psalm 31: 9-16

“For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away.” (Psalm 31: 10)

While playing basketball, the goal is to get the ball through the hoop as many times as possible. When I play, however, that goal is not on my mind. Instead of maneuvering the ball, my goal is one-upping the other team, or showing off for spectators. I care as little for the ball going through the hoop as plugging a lamp into an electrical socket. The task itself seems mundane when you remove the context. My joy in basketball is not in the ball, but in the victory.

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Guest Post: Extend Mercy

By Rev. Jacob Sahms

washing_3262c-2Read Psalm 51:1-7.

Mercy. It’s not a word we hear frequently in today’s society. Judgment? Fairness? Crime and punishment?

Those terms are more comfortable in our black and white worlds. But in Psalm 51, David knows he needs mercy, even though he doesn’t deserve it, because the prophet Nathan pointed it out to him. He couldn’t see his sin on his own, but his ‘friend’ helped him recognize what he had done. In reality, David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed (2 Samuel 11). That’s why he’s here, begging for God to forgive him.

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Scandal 3.5: More Cattle, Less Bull

KERRY WASHINGTONGot Secrets?

The client-of-the-week in this episode is the Democratic congresswoman Josephine Marcus, played by the always brilliant Lisa Kudrow. Last week, we saw her as the President’s biggest critic who got a huge boost in the polls after Mellie was caught on tape saying not-so-great things about the Congresswoman under her breath. Now, she is running for president.

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Overlooked

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comIt is a familiar story. Samuel, the prophet and priest, comes to Jesse’s home. He asks Jesse to call his sons. Jesse calls seven of the eight. Samuel looks at each one, and afterwards, asks Jesse if he has any more sons. Jesse says he does and calls for the youngest, David, who is keeping sheep.

David is the one. He is the one who will be anointed as the future King of Israel.

David is an outsider. He is the youngest of his brothers. His father did not even consider him when Samuel asked for him to call his sons forward. Yet, he is the one that God chooses. God has chosen the youngest over the eldest before. All throughout Genesis, the youngest sibling is the one who receives God’s blessing and the mantle of the call to lead God’s people.

The young are often overlooked. They don’t have enough experience. They don’t have the skills. They don’t have the education. They don’t [fill in the blank].

The story of God calling David to a key leadership role highlights for us that God does not see the labels that we see. We are so quick to put labels on people – he is too young; she is too old; he is too poor; she is too uneducated. We see the label before we see the person; before we see the heart.

But, “the Lord looks on the heart.”

I like what Randall Bush has to say about this text:

In this story, as in life itself, the one neglected, marginalized, and explicitly forgotten by others is the one on whom God’s favor clearly rests. Worldly criteria like age, appearance, wealth, and status are distractions to God’s command to judge others based on what virtue and potential lies untapped within them.

Who have you overlooked recently? Who has been overlooked for ministry? Who has been overlooked for leadership? They have been called by God. Consider ways you can welcome and include those who are being overlooked in your churches, your ministries, and your life.

Bible’s Major Players: Tamar

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. David’s daughter Tamar is one from the Old Testament.

Tamar was the daughter of Maacah and David. She is the only daughter of David’s mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. In an interesting story, worthy of Jerry Springer, David’s oldest son (and first in line for the throne) Ammon finds himself madly – madly – in love with his half-sister Tamar. He pretends to be ill and asks for Tamar to come and prepare food for him. Ammon is able to get  his half-sister with him and rapes her.

Ammon, however, does not stop outdoing himself. Now that Tamar is no longer a virgin, custom says that she must be married. Even if it his her half-brother. She pleas with Ammon to marry her, but he refuses. In fact, Ammon’s love for her has been replaced with hatred. He wants nothing to do with her anymore. It seems that he got what he wanted, and was satisfied.

source: http://thebricktestament.com

source: http://thebricktestament.com

Tamar is forced out the door and into the streets.

Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long-sleeved robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and walked away, crying as she went. (2 Samuel 13:19, Common English Bible)

This act outside of Ammon’s house, Virginia Stem Owens suggests, is a “symbol of her degradation.” The rape along was enough to humiliate and shame Tamar, but to leave her unmarried was worse. She would be lowered in the eyes of her society. She no longer, without the man who took her virginity, had the possibilities of marriage or children. Her future was taken from her and ruined.  And so, “Tamar, a broken woman, lived with her brother Absalom” (2 Samuel 13:20b).

How have you been left broken by others?

Resources: Owens, Virginia Stem. Daughters of Eve. NavPress, 1995.

Bible’s Major Players: David

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. King David is one from the Old Testament.

The Bible says that when Samuel anointed David, the “spirit of the Lord came mightily upon” him (1 Samuel 16:13). In the very next verse, the reader is told that an evil spirit in Saul replaces the spirit of the Lord. Barry Bandstra notes that in “the Hebrew Bible the spirit of God is the power God bestows on select individuals that enables them to perform their God-given task.” God had chosen David.

The first narrative of David is when he confronts the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). In this act of defeating the giant, David was able to gain much popularity with the people, including Saul’s own family. This began Saul’s rich jealously and attempts to kill David, failing again and again. David would spend much of his time in hiding from Saul.

toon119

While in hiding, David becomes something like a Biblical Robin Hood. As Walter Harrelson explained, David “gathers around him a band of desperadoes, and is able both to prevent capture by Saul’s men and to become the most feared and respected man in all Judah.” When he grows tired of being an outlaw and on the run, he and his “band of desperadoes” join the Philistine camp in their struggle against Saul. The whole time, however, they are raiding the tribes south of Judah. This only increased Saul’s determination to rid of David.

Meanwhile, the Philistines have pushed Israel back toward the Jordan River. Saul attempts to take a stand at Mount Gilboa. However, Saul and his sons die in this battle, leaving the throne empty. David would claim his divinely ordained role as King.

David, from the beginning of his kingship, would lead with what many scholars have called “political savvy.” At the news of Saul’s defeat and death, David made a point not to approve nor condone the death of Saul. As Bandstra points out, “He did nothing that might serve to alienate the loyal followers of Saul,” which made up most of North Israel.

michelangelo-sculptures-13

Michelangelo’s David

David would set his capital at Hebron in Judah. David would rule over the southern tribes, and after the northern tirbes fell apart under Ishbaal, he would rule the northern tribes as well. It would be the first time that all the tribes of Israel would be united. David then decided to move his capital to Jerusalem, so as not to give the impression that he was favoring the south, and called it “the city of David” to show that it was under his command. After chasing the Philistines out from around the city, he made another political move that would change things. He moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, setting the city as the political and religious center for the newly unified nation.

David’s heart became troubled after the nation was safe. He was living in a great house, while the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence among God’s people, was in a tent. David set out to build a great house for God. God, however, through the prophet Nathan, told David to not build such a house. Instead, God promised that God would build a house for David (2 Samuel 7:16).

This is a play on words, as Walter Brueggemann suggests. The word “house” can mean either “temple” or “dynasty.” Daivd would not build God a temple, but God would build David a dynasty. This will become the first dynasty of the Hebrew people.

As great as David was as a king, he would make some pretty bad decisions. Despite these mistakes, God still supported him. Although Samuel disapproved of the people’s desire for a monarch, God used the line of David to shepherd his people.

How has God used you through your successes and mistakes?

Resources: Bandstra, Barry L. Reading the Old Testament. Wadsworth Publishing, 1999. Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel. John Knox Press, 1990. Harrelson, Walter. Interpreting the Old Testament. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.

American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle received nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor: Christian Bale, Best Actress: Amy Adams, Best Supporting Actor: Bradley Cooper, Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Best Director: David O. Russell, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design.

American HustleIt is a rare thing to find a combination of actors, a good script, and a director who can get the best out of all of them. We come close in American Hustle. As the film correctly tells us from the beginning, “this mostly happened.”

It is a story of corruption, loyalty, duplicity, and love. And at the center is a slightly overweight, balding with a really bad comb over con artist, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale). Irving started early in his vocation. He would run through town and throw rocks into local business windows, giving them a cause to call his dad, the only glass man in town. While Irving owns a chain of dry cleaners in New York, his real business is selling forged and stolen art. He is married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and adopted her son as his own. Rosalyn is a bit of a nut-brain and a loose cannon. To say the least, Irving is successful.

Life takes a turn for Irving when he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Sydney is a former stripper determined to make something of herself. She and Irving bond over Duke Ellington at a pool party and their dangerous affair begins. Dangerous because they become partners in a scheme where Sydney is a British elite who has connections for loans. They take the money upfront for the loan which they have no intentions of returning. Everything is smooth, until Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) shows up in their office to get a loan. Richie is a FBI agent working on a sting operation. The film’s twist and main story line happens here. Richie convinces Irving and Sydney to work with him in a sting for other con artists. The two agree to stay out of prison.

The rising action of this story arc begins when Richie sets his eyes on New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Carmine is trying to rebuild Atlantic City in an effort to bring jobs to his voters. Richie sees this as a huge career move to catch a politician, along with all the deep pockets, in a scam. Richie sends Irving and Sydney in, but is attracted to this lifestyle (as well as to Sydney) and wants in on this action. Despite Irving’s warnings, Richie pushes ahead.

Richie, to say the least, is high-strung when he comes to his vocation. He still lives at home with his mother and spends hours with his straight hair in curlers to get the mysteriously, sexy Italian look. Richie, like all of the characters in this film, longs to be someone he is not. Each of these characters are driven by this ambition to make something of themselves and to be successful at it. And they do not always choose paths that would be considered righteous. There are many shades of grey, with no clear lines between what is right and wrong (something I think we have seen more of since The Dark Knight).

Some of the greatest Biblical heroes have dwelled in this area of grey. David, the man after God’s own heart, was a con artist in his own right. After having an affair with Bathsheba, he attempts to con her husband Uriah into returning from battle and sleeping with Bathsheba. Uriah, too loyal to his fellow soldiers, refuses to sleep in his own house, much less with his wife. After that didn’t work, David’s plan is to have Uriah moved to the front line of battle so that he will die.

The lines between right and wrong become blurred. Richie is all his effort to do right, does a lot of wrong. Irving, from his childhood on, did a lot of wrong with good intentions. But, like David, it doesn’t make them less human. With the FBI operation to catch Carmine red-handed goes south, Irving has to make it work. He becomes good friends with Carmine, going to dinner with him and the wives. Irving struggles with the relationship between an authentic friendship and another con. His humanity finally rules, leading to Irving’s most redemptive act. He goes to Carmine and explains to him, at times through ugly tears, that the whole thing is a FBI set-up. Irving believes in Carmine and in what he is doing. He recognizes that Carmine is doing a good thing for a lot of good people. Again, there is a lot of shades of grey.

american-hustle

David O. Russell is the director, and he knows his quartet of actors well enough to know how to get the best out of each of them. This could easily explain how all four of them have reached nominations. And it could be that Russell has directed the four in other films; Bale and Adams in The Fighter, and Cooper and Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. This ensemble reminds us of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Not only does Russell get the best out of the ensemble, he tells a story with smooth transitions, one episode of the story flowing into the next without any awkwardness. At times, the tools of the transition are the voice over narration by Bale and Adams, or the powerful use of music. Overall, Russell tells a story that is funny, while profound, reminding us that there is a lot of grey in our own lives.

Snake and Mongoose (2013)

movie-posterSnake and Mongoose is an independent film showcasing the sport of drag racing and how it got to where it is. The film tells the too often untold story of the two Southern California drag racers that made the biggest different: Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. The film uses actual footage from the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).

Snake, excellently portrayed by Jesse Williams (Gray’s Anatomy and Cabin in the Woods), is living in his father’s shadow. Williams is consistent in his portrayal of Snake, pretty stability to the character and to the film. He paints cars with his father during the day, and at night he builds and races. He has the unique gift of knowing what to do with a car to improve it just by listening to the engine.  Snake wants more out of life. He is searching for purpose.

Mongoose, portrayed by Richard Blake (Dragonball Evolution), is a husband and father of a growing family. Blake’s performance is shaky at best. During certain scenes, Blake gives a demanding performance, one that leaves the viewer wishing they had experienced in other scenes. He too is searching for more in life. He too is searching for purpose.

The two men are talking one evening about their dreams and aspirations for the sport. Mongoose looks up and sees the golden arches of McDonald’s in the sky. As if they are some prophetic sign from the heavens, the golden arches inspire the two men to think big.

While sitting at a table with his boys, Tom (Mongoose) gets an idea. His kids are playing with Hot Wheels. He gets Don (Snake) onboard, and they meet with the Mattel guy to pitch the idea. The Mattel guy goes for it, and Hot Wheels becomes the first ever sponsor in the racing enterprise. The set up was that Snake and Mongoose would race against each other. Each would have his car be sponsored by Hot Wheels.  And each would have a Hot Wheel version of his car being sold to the public. It was a marketing masterpiece.

As the racing picked up and the marketing got bigger, Don’s life became to take shape. He found a steady girlfriend, whom he would later marry and have a family with.  “I don’t think about it,” Don says, “I just drive.” Tom, on the other hand, faced a mountain of struggles and heartbreak.

Throughout the film, as Tom chases his purpose in life, his wife sees her vision of a family running away. She becomes very discouraged with Tom as he is gone all the time and because he is spending less and less time with his sons.  “I though you’d change,” she yells at him, “This is your dream, not mine!” Tom sees himself working hard to provide for his family. But the racing world has seemed to consume his life.

The struggle with his wife affected not only his relationship with his sons, but also is racing. He began losing more races to Snake. “Trouble is,” Don would tell him, “you’re a loser. The racing . . .. Your wife . . ..” Harsh words for a harsh time in Tom’s life. Tom had reached a point where he was crashing and burning. Nothing anyone said would make him realize what was going on. Don’s words did not come from a mean and spiteful place, but from a deep loving and caring heart of a friend.

That is who these two men are. Like Jonathan and David in the Old Testament, they were the most unlikely of friends. Yet, they were. And they were better for it. They knew each other, cared for one another, and there to support one another.

The film has a smooth movement to its storytelling. It spans over a few decades of racing, but it does not, as some films do, make it choppy. There is no awkward “fast-forward” through years moments, which this viewer was grateful for.

Boldly Pray

Read 2 Samuel 7:18-29.

Waiting is hard to do.  And, we do a lot of waiting.  We wait in line at Starbucks.  We wait for test grades to come back.  We wait to hear if we were accepted at the college of our choice.  Or maybe we’re waiting for our parents to stop fighting, an addiction to find an end, or a friend to be a friend again.

God has promised us that no matter what we go through, God will always be with us.  God made a promise to David that a new “house” or temple will be built.  In David’s prayer, he gives thanks but also asks God to fulfill God’s promise.

During this season of waiting, where do you need God to move?   Today write your own prayer asking God to fulfill God’s promises in your life.  Don’t be afraid to be as bold as David was in his prayer.

 

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