1 Samuel 17: 1a, 3-23, 32-49 – Intergenerational Sunday/4th Sunday after Pentecost – June 24, 2012
I’m not really sure what the grown-ups were thinking or if they were thinking at all. I think the rules may have been a little less formal or less stringent in the Town League compared to the High School league, or maybe they were just less stringent in the 1960s than they are now. I was a catcher on our church’s high school youth group girls’ softball team and we played a variety of women’s teams in our town. At practice and before the games, the coaches would put that big catcher’s mask over my head and drape the heavy chest protector over my body and I would strap on the shin protectors… and I couldn’t move. And I couldn’t see. Without them I was somewhat agile and pretty sharp; I could see the ball coming and catch it, throw it to first or to the pitcher depending on the play…but when I was wearing all that heavy equipment, I was no good at all.
First the grown-ups said I’d get used to it, and when I didn’t get used to it, and could play so much better without it, eventually we just let it go. The day the ball came from the pitcher’s mound and hit me squarely in the chest, we all knew we had made a mistake. No harm done, I was darn lucky.
Jesse’s youngest son David was darn lucky, too. Saul clothed David with his armor, bronze helmet on his head, coat of mail (those are those interlocking metal scales or plates) and David strapped on Saul’s sword over everything… and he couldn’t move. “I cannot walk with these,” David said, “for I am not used to them.” So David took them off. And he was agile and accurate and… he was darn lucky….or was it luck exactly?
On this Intergenerational Sunday, we are invited to examine the gifts and the interaction of our older generations and our youth, and to take a look at the “heavy equipment” one may bring to the other, and to discern when and how it’s helpful and when we may need to let it go.
By heavy equipment, we can mean a number of things. This morning, I’m thinking of the heavy equipment of tradition, the protective armor of experience, lessons learned, and wisdom, which are exactly what the less experienced need to stay safe and make wise choices and to honor the sacrifices of the past. But sometimes that equipment can feel too heavy so that the freshness, the bold enthusiasm, the thrilling fast pace of new ideas and positive change is stifled and weighed down to the point that they never get off the ground.
So we seek a balance. One way to seek that balance is to understand each end of the wide spectrum between those who have lived a long time and seen a lot and those with boundless new puppy energy and imagination who envision the world a different way.
Friends, in today’s culture we hear from youth that they are not taken seriously, that they sometimes feel invisible, passed over in the wider world. Their bodies do unpredictable things. They are frustrated when decisions are made for them without consultation, without regard to their feelings. They want their independence, to set their own schedules…
Now, my guess is that if you were to present those complaints to any one of our nonagenarian honorees this morning, they might respond with, “Welcome to my world.”
So much of the listening I do with folks at the older end of the spectrum sounds much the same as what we hear from youth: bodies doing unpredictable things, decisions being made on their behalf, loss of independence, ignored in the public sphere, dependent upon other people’s schedules. And it became very clear this week from the school bus monitor story in Rochester, that youth are not the only ones who are mercilessly bullied. And we also know, too painfully, that children are not the only ones who are vulnerable and not the only ones who are abused.
Our bookend generations actually have a lot in common and our bible story this morning demonstrates how their working together may hold a lot of promise for defeating the Goliaths we face today. David’s father Jesse was too advanced in years to go into battle himself, but it was his nurturing and nourishment that encouraged and supported his sons in battle. It was his guidance and direction that sent David on his way. It was Saul who sought to protect David in the way he knew how, offering his own armor. It was Saul who gave David what we all need: his blessing. “Go, and may the Lord be with you.” And you will notice that even with David’s heroic and unique bravery and dexterity, the whole Israel army was positioned behind him. They had the kid’s back.
Today, not only are we able to identify the commonalities between the generations, we can see how we complement each other – no, not just complement each other – how we need each other. This is a partnership made in heaven: wisdom coupled with daring, experience coupled with fresh insights, accumulated knowledge coupled with tireless energy and bold enthusiasm. A partnership like this can defeat any Goliath and, God knows, we have many to slay right now weighing down our youth, our children, our adults of every age: alcohol and drug addiction, the sexualization of every facet of our media, racism and every other “ism” there is, the apparent loss of civility and respect, the forgetting about God and community and what they mean to who we are and how we live.
Today as we witness people under 18 and people over 90 join arm-in-arm, hope smacks us right in the middle of the forehead; but unlike the strike from David’s smooth stone, we won’t fall face down on the ground; instead, we will lift our faces up – some smooth and dewy, some with well-earned wrinkles, others somewhere in between – we will lift them up, anchored by the good work of the past and freed for the promising future, and in that unity and by God’s grace, capable of great things. Thanks be to God and Amen.