Good morning, and Happy Father’s Day! Dads who are here, and those who aren’t: we’ll be saying a blessing for you at the announcements in just a few minutes. We are grateful for all you do, and I like that this comes right on the heels of our celebration last Sunday of the men in our parish who’ve served and given of themselves so faithfully through the years.

Until sometime mid-week, this was also meant to be Graduation Sunday, when we celebrate our graduates. We realized more of them would be available next week, so we postponed that till then. But when I first looked at our readings for today, I did so through the lens of seeing those young men and women off, into the next phase of their lives.

These are good readings for that. But good readings for any time, and anyone. 

David, the unlikely selection of Samuel, the prophet, to take on the mantle of next king of Israel. His father Jesse hadn’t even asked him to come in from the fields when parading all his other sons before Samuel. One of these sons, Samuel had heard in a message from God, would be the next king. He just didn’t know which. 

“Are all your sons here?” Samuel asks Jesse, who’s forced to confess he didn’t bother to bring his youngest, who couldn’t possibly be of interest on such an important errand by such a man as Samuel, selector of the first two kings of Israel.

“God doesn’t look on outward appearances,” Samuel had said. David may be your youngest, the least important to you, but he just might be exactly who God has in mind. And he was. 

Now, who’s a youngest child here? I am, too. This is our story. It’s just like the rest of the family to go on with their business and forget to tell you what’s going on. It pains me to look at old family video tapes where I’m always running to catch up to the others, or asking someone to explain a punchline. 

I always imagine the writer of David’s story in the Bible was a youngest. In a separate story from David’s youth, he surprises everyone by killing the head of the enemy army, Goliath, with nothing but a stone and a slingshot. Echoing today’s story, he only came to the battlefield at all because his father sent him to deliver cheese to his soldier-brothers. He himself hadn’t been selected to be a soldier; he was just an errand boy, bringing food from home. Left out at first, but in the end, the one who turned the war around. Left out at first (in today’s reading), but in the end, the one who led the nation of Israel as their king.

Most of us encounter the Bible in snapshots only. We come to church, we hear bits of it that were selected years ago by men and women in the church who thought these readings would do a good enough job of giving us the highlights, perhaps even a sense of the whole. And they do, but because we hear them spread out, with limited attention, and (most of us anyway) not every Sunday at that, we easily miss how pervasive in Scripture the simple message of this story from David’s life is: God favors and chooses those who seem least likely to be favored, and chosen.

This lesson is taught through individual lives. Like David’s. Like Jacob, younger of his twin Esau, of lesser strength physically and least favored of his birth father, but ultimately the brother who God renamed “Israel” and made the father of that nation. Or Jacob’s son, Joseph (of the multicolored coat), second youngest of 12 brothers, clueless and coddled, but ultimately the one who, as a grown man, would save Israel from famine and extinction.

It’s a lesson taught in the Bible also through God’s selection of the least, and weakest nation among all those surrounding it--the prophet Ezekiel described Israel as a twig, surrounded by larger, loftier branches. Also God’s selection later of the underdog communities that would become the early Christians--the meek, the lowly, the poor, as Jesus described them in the beatitudes--all of them chosen and, against the odds, blessed above all others.

The Bible even uses plants to illustrate this point! The mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, and yet it grows to become a very large shrub, providing shelter and protection to God’s creatures.

I must confess, I do like to listen to graduation speeches. I need their optimism, more than I did when I was a graduate listening to one. But I always feel sympathy for the speakers entering a context without a common narrative, a common set of stories like we have in the Bible, laid out for you, like we preachers get from week to week. How do you decide what to say? 

For today’s story, no interpretive work is needed at all for the central message, laid out for us word for word: God does not look on outward appearances.

So if this had been Graduation Sunday, that would have been the first thing to tell those kids (and us). 

But to supplement this lesson, I’ll add:

Don’t overlook the potential in others. Include them.

Don’t discount things that are small, or quiet, or simple. God doesn’t. 

Do not be frustrated when things start small, or unassuming, too small to amount to anything. Think of the mustard seed. Think of David. Modest beginnings are deceptive. Be careful about judging too fast. You can never tell from the way something starts how it will turn out. 

Our faith is filled with stories of unlikely victories. Your life might have a few of them in store. The rest of us: our lives might have a few of them yet, in store.

Keep an open mind. 

And try to see what God sees. Amen.