A Cinderella Story – June 18, 2006

I Samuel 16:1-13, I Corinthians 1:18-28

June 18, 2006

Today we have the story of David. In fact, we’re going to be looking at David next week as well, in a sermon I’ve chosen to call “Standing Before a Giant.” (I’ll be you can’t imagine what that one’s about!) But this the story of the calling and the anointing of David by the prophet Samuel. And it’s a Cinderella story.

The term, “Cinderella Story” has been used over the years as a metaphor which describes the story of an unlikely person rising to greatness. Patty and I recently saw the movie “Cinderella Man.” That was about the boxer Jim Braddock during the Great Depression. And it was about his unlikely rise from injury and poverty, to where he defeated the world champion Max Baer. Maybe you saw the film “Seabiscuit.” That was a similar story, only with a race horse. Those are stories that inspire us aren’t they? We get a thrill when we hear of the poor boy who becomes a great sports star, or of the deaf girl Helen Keller who makes a great name for herself, or when we read the legend of the poor young squire, who pulls the sword from the stone and becomes king of all England.

This story of David is one of those stories. It’s a Cinderella story. It makes me think of that tale where the least important of the sisters married the prince in the end. It even sounds like that story, doesn’t it? Instead of a glass slipper, the great prophet Samuel comes with a horn full of oil, and instructions from God to anoint the next king. And if you remember, Samuel himself is a kind of Cinderella story. He was called as a young boy by the voice of God in the Temple. (You can read that one in I Samuel 3.)

In this chapter, though, all sons of Jesse were brought before the prophet one by one, like the wicked step-sisters. And like that story, the glass slipper fit none of them By the way, I’m told that the original stories of the Brothers Grimm were actually much more grim! In the original story of Cinderella, the step-sisters had their toes cut off so that they could try to fit into the glass slipper! (Eeewww!)

Anyway, in this story the brothers all pass by, and none of them “fit the slipper.” None of them got to “marry the prince.” So then the prophet asked Jesse – David’s father, “Are these all of your sons?” And Jesse said, “No. There is one other – the youngest. But he’s out tending the sheep.” “Bring him!” The prophet commanded. And when David came it, God said to Samuel, “That’s the one!” And he took the horn of oil, and anointed David – and they all lived happily ever after. Well… not really! David had a lot of trials ahead of him. But eventually, he would become the greatest king in the history of Israel. (So the story had a happy ending after all.)

It’s a Cinderella Story. And it’s a great story, isn’t it? And it’s not the only one! It is clear in the scriptures that God loves the Cinderella story, too. The Bible is full of them. Most of the people God called for great things were not great people – not by the world’s standards, anyway. They were fishermen, like most of the disciples. They were young men like Jeremiah, and young girls like Mary. They were old men and women like Abraham and Sarah and Zechariah and Elizabeth. And they were shepherds like David. And what that means is, none of us is excluded from God’s service. Not by status, education, strength, age or anything. In fact, as Paul tells us, whatever we do for God in our lives is not by our power anyway! It’s by God’s power. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the power belongs to God not to us.” (II Corinthians 4:7)

In I Corinthians 1, one of my favorite chapters in all the Bible, Paul says, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (I Corinthians 1:27-28)

Here, it’s the story of David, and it’s Samuel’s oil, but it is God who does the anointing. And notice, David didn’t ask this of God. He didn’t have a fairy godmother getting him to the ball earlier. It wasn’t a matter of him just being discovered. I wonder if he would have even wanted to be part of this selection process – this “parade before the prophet.” So many of God’s servants throughout the Bible didn’t. Think of them – Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, so many of the great people in the Bible were reluctant to answer the call. So if we’re reluctant, we’re in good company!

David didn’t ask for this anointing. But he didn’t refuse it, either. Actually we don’t hear anything from him at all in this passage. We have no words. We just know from what was to come – from the context – that David was willing. And because of that, not only was David was anointed by the prophet, but it says, “the spirit of God came upon him mightily.” I want you to think about that. Has the Spirit of God come upon us mightily? How does that happen?

When we’re thinking about our own lives in God’s kingdom, first we need to consider how God has chosen us? He has, you know. God calls all his people! It’s just that we don’t always listen. So that’s the first question. Are we listening for God’s calling.

The second question then is, are we open to the Holy Spirit coming upon us and working within us. As God’s people we should be seeking God’s will. And if we are going to seek God’s will, we need to make ourselves open to God’s will. We need to choose to make ourselves open. It doesn’t happen automatically. And it’s not easy.

Too many of God’s people only want to do things their own way. To open themselves up to God’s leading means giving up that control. It means not having the last word in their lives. And they don’t like that. They pray – every week – “thy will be done.” But they really don’t mean it.

I heard a story once of minister in a Church who was very concerned with the idea of his people seeking God’s will. So one Sunday morning, right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, right after the words “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” he yelled “Stop!” at the top of his lungs! Then he asked loudly, “Do you mean that?” “You say it every week, but do you really want God’s will to be done – in your lives?” Those people got that message that day!

Too many of God’s people never get that message. Too many of God’s people say, “God, please bless what I’m about to do.” But as Rick Warren pointed out in our study of “The Purpose Driven Life,” we need to concentrate more on praying, “Lord teach us to follow what you want us to do!” “Show us how to do what you’re going to bless.”

David was willing to do that. And no, just in case you’re wondering, he didn’t always get it right. Sometimes he blew it. Sometimes he blew it in big ways! – just like we do! But when he did, he poured his heart out before God. He opened himself up to God’s forgiveness, and he opened himself to God’s will. And God called David a man after his own heart. That is the key to all this – the heart.

Friends, God doesn’t choose great people. He chooses ordinary people and uses them for greatness. He chooses what is weak in the world to shame the strong. He chooses even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. (I love that!) What he looks for are people who will “put their heart into” his kingdom. “People after God’s own heart” are people who give them their hearts. They are people who pour their hearts out before God, in love, in sharing, in confession, and in joy. They are people who will share all of their lives with him. On them he sends his spirit mightily.

Choose to be such people!


Eternal God, help us to be more willing to seek your will and your guidance in our lives. Help us to be open to the movement of your Holy Spirit. Send your spirit upon us mightily, that we may be the light of the world to each other, and to this community. We love you and we praise you, Lord, and we pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.