We are so happy that you are continuing to join us in online Sunday School.
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think about your past week, and what joys and concerns you have. You can share these in the comments if you would like. When you are ready, the prayer below is based around Psalm 84. As in previous weeks, suggestions for prayers are written between the verses of the Psalm.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Pray for people everywhere to yearn for the kingdom of God, and for its peace.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young--
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Pray for those people experiencing homelessness.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Pray for those people who work in missions, locally and abroad.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
Pray for those travelling on new and unsure paths in the midst of this time of change.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
Pray in thanksgiving for the beauty of God’s creation.
8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
Pray for guidance and discernment, for yourself and for the leaders of the world.
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Pray for yourself, to be a continuing presence of God’s kingdom in the lives of those around you.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
Pray for forgiveness.
12 Lord Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.
This week's lesson is on 1 Samuel 19:1-7.
Introduction: Targeting Peacemakers
What risks do peacemakers face in areas of conflict? A study, begun in 2010 by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, seeks to answer that question. The fact that such a study exists confirms the sad truth that we all know: peacemakers sometimes come to very violent ends.
A government that doesn't want outside influence can forcefully remove peaceful humanitarian efforts. One side or another of a military conflict might attack the peacemakers, hoping that the aid they would have given to their opponents will result in victory. Or one individual who stands opposed to a specific peacemaker can kill that one, hoping the movement will end with his or her death. We need only recall conflicts in Syria or Sudan, or assassinations like those of Martin Luther King Jr or Oscar Romero, to realize that peacemaking can be a very dangerous business.
There is not guarantee that efforts for reconciliation will work. But Jonathan, son of King Saul, believed the risk was worth taking. His actions are an example to all of us about the potential power of peacemaking.
Two of the Old Testament's books of history are 1 and 2 Samuel. They take their name from Samuel, the last judge of Israel. He was instrumental in the transition from the period of the judges to the time of kings. As such, the two books record the transition from the theocracy (when the Lord reigned as sole king of Israel, with human leaders in the roles of judges) to the monarchy of human kings.
This transition began about the year 1050 BC. It began with the Israelites' demand that Samuel give them an earthly king, "such as all the other nations have," (1 Samuel 8:5). This demand was not primarily a rejection of Samuel or his sons but of the Lord as their king (1 Samuel 8:7). God had called Israel to be his special nation (Exodus 19:5-6), and their desire for a king expressed a wish to be not quite so special. Samuel proclaimed the Lord's warning of the negative consequences of a human king (1 Samuel 8:11-18). But the people persisted, and the Lord granted their request (1 Samuel 8:19-22).
The Lord selected Saul as the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 9:17; 10:17-24). Saul started well, but when he failed to carry out faithfully the Lord's commands, the Lord selected a different king (1 Samuel 15:16-26). Samuel informed Saul of his being rejected by God, and Samuel anointed David as the next king (1 Samuel 16:1-13). That signified that Saul's royal line would end when David took the throne.
When the Philistine's challenged Israel, it was young David who slew Goliath, which in turn led to a routing of the Philistines (1 Samuel 17:1-54). After this great victory, David became a member of Saul's royal household in two important ways. First, David and Jonathan, Saul's son and heir to the throne, became fast friends (1 Samuel 18:3). Second, David married Michal, daughter of Saul (1 Samuel 18:27).
When military victories were celebrated, however, people esteemed David's accomplishments more highly than Saul's (1 Samuel 18:6-8). This made Saul angry, jealous, and suspicious of David to the point that Saul attempted to kill him (1 Samuel 18:10-11; 19:9-10).
When we meet in person, we usually discuss the scripture together. We might ask questions, make observations, and talk about how the scripture relates to our daily lives. Sometimes these questions can be hard, and there is not always a right answer. Take some time to consider each question. If you are reading the lesson with someone else, discuss your answers together. If you would like to share anything, please feel free to do so in the comments.
The three characters in this story illustrate positions people find themselves in today. Saul was a person in power who was abusing his position in doing wrong toward another. David, of lower status, was the innocent victim of that wrath. Jonathan was the one who risked sharing that wrath by standing up for the victim. He cared for both the wrongdoer and the wronged as he sought to end the conflict by reconciling them.
Doing wrong and suffering wrong can lead to conflict. Hurt feelings can break relationships and end communication. Differences in status, such as employer-employee or parent-child, can make restoring relationships difficult. The one in power finds it difficult to admit wrong. The one of lower status does not feel safe to confront the enraged offender. At these times, restoration is practically impossible without an intermediary.
At various times of conflict, we may find ourselves in any of the three roles. The boss who is rankled by the exceptional skill of an employee may feel threatened, becoming bitterly jealous in the process. Perhaps such a boss will belittle the employee or make sure that promotions or raises are not offeredThe boss's subordinate might be puzzled and feel wronged for trying to give the best effort. Someone who genuinely cares for both the boss and employee, and whom both parties trust, may be in a position to reconcile those in conflict.
Finally, it must be emphasized that Jonathan, the peacemaker, was not the offender's peer: Jonathan was subordinate to Saul both as a son and as a subject of the king. Jonathan's brave and respectful challenge of his own father and king serves as a model for us in handling conflict.
Heavenly Father, show us opportunities to reconcile strife. Grant us courage to act and wisdom in speech. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Today's benediction comes from the Common English Bible.
Next week's lesson will be on Luke 6:27-36.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.