Sermon ideas for 1 Samuel 16: 1-13 (The Anointing of David)

Image of Tony Soprano, HBO’s The Sopranos, courtesy of IMDB.

With the October 1 release of The Many Saints of Newark (2021) – IMDb we are once again reminded of the beauty of the Tragically Flawed Hero.  And just as the long-awaited Sopranos prequel locates Tony as the young adult poised to be anointed into his family’s business, so too our scripture from 1 Samuel finds the young, music-loving shepherd David, poised for an anointing of his own.

This makes me want to ask: who is your favorite tragically flawed hero?

Because this week’s scripture anoints a deeply flawed human being to a place as God’s chosen one. This makes for good sermon writing.  David, as well as Tony Soprano too, is a hero in his leadership, the way he runs his “business,” and in his public life.  The tragedy is in how poorly both of them manage their personal affairs.  They both fail their families in epic ways.

I am always fascinated by God’s choice to anoint David.  The youngest of the brothers, it would be out of character to be chosen for leadership, which would usually go to an elder brother.  But not just the youngest, he was also the musician, the shepherd, the unlikely hero in the battle against Goliath, the one with a heart too big for his own good. It is curious to me that God bumps Saul to the side for one critical mistake, but replaces him with David, and equally flawed character. Saul, it seems, was a tragically flawed hero as well.

For sermon writing, I can imagine going in two directions: First, looking at the lineage of flawed heroes in the breadth of the Bible stories. From Abraham to Paul, all of God’s chosen are flawed heroes.  What a comforting reminder to those of us struggling with discipleship to be reminded that all of God’s prophets are just like us.

Second, I imagine that the tragically flawed hero does not just exist in the world of Netflix and HBO Max.  Our churches are full of tragically flawed heroes.  I am sure a few pastors’ names come to mind.  Not just pastors though.  Flawed heroes sit on boards, sing in choir, serve on committees.  Who are the flawed heroes in your midst?  And what kind of message does the anointing of David give to them? Is it a good message (one of grace and healing) or a bad one (license to continue bad behaviors)? And if we condemn our flawed heroes, does it water down our message of grace?

And most importantly, how do we judge the gifts vs. the flaws in ourselves and those called to serve, lead, and disciple?  How was David judged by his?  In the end, he was a gifted leader who stayed faithful to the God who chose and anointed him.

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Rev. Cathy M. Kolwey is a writer, artist, and pastor who has been working at the intersection of spirituality and the arts for over 20 years. She is currently the associate pastor of spiritual formation at Colonial Church of Edina in MN. She also blogs at https://cmkolwey.com/

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