Bread – Peacocks

July 9, 2015


Readings for Thursday, July 9, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 16:14-17:11; Acts 10:17-33; Luke 24:36-53; Psalm 18

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I have always been fascinated by peacocks, not only because of their beauty but because of their offensive and defensive weapons. What are these weapons? The span of feathers which spread out when they are alarmed or want to make their point, displaying a broad variety of colors, many “eyes,” and a “huge” appearance, showing dominance in the situation. Of course, this display of color is also used for mating.

Many of us act like peacocks, strutting around in our finery asking the world to look at us and, then, when challenged or when we want to make an impressions, displaying a vision of ourselves much bigger than the reality. When we are told to think soberly about ourselves as we ought to, I translate this to “Don’t think of yourself as a peacock and don’t act like one either.” Our sin envelops us like filthy rags and not brilliant feathers, and our fear of what other people (the world) thinks of us lays waste to our self-image that we are bigger and better than life.

In today’s readings, we are introduced to a male peacock by the name of Goliath. When Goliath appears on the field of war, he stands nine feet tall, has on a coat of bronze mail which weighs, by itself, 125 pounds. The tip of his spear was an iron point weighing 15 pounds. He was one impressive dude – a peacock in full display. And yet we know from the history lesson (finished in tomorrow’s readings) that this titan of war was brought down by God through a boy without armor, a slingshot, and a stone small enough to fit in the slingshot. But before we get there, our lesson today ends with this – “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine (Goliath) [“I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”], they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” 1 Sam. 17:11

The world attacks Christians with peacocks. These enemies of Christ and the Word of God look big, they are well dressed and well-armed, they speak words which cast fear into the hearts and minds of the hearers, and they cause Christians to be “dismayed and greatly afraid.” Our recent pronouncement from the United States Supreme Court redefining marriage away from God’s definition have made Christians who attempt to teach God’s Word and His commands as the standard for life are dismayed and fear that society will marginalize them and turn them into refugees in the country which they built.

God reminds us in our reading today from Samuel that these fearful things the world throws at us are merely peacocks, ready to be brought down using God’s people using His tools in His time. There is nothing to fear from peacocks; there is something to fear in our reaction to them, because by so reacting we deny the power the God in the circumstances.

Peacocks cannot only be animals and people, but they can be concepts and ideas as well. Peter, as a Jew, was prohibited from dealing with unclean things and people. When he is invited in our reading from Acts to visit Cornelius, a Gentile Roman official, he reminds Cornelius “You [Cornelius] yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation…” Acts 10:28. Whether from tradition or otherwise, Peter was taught that he should not interact with Gentiles and, whenever he would approach, the peacock of an idea would spread its wings, saying “don’t come here, don’t pass by, or I’ll bite you or something worse!”

But there is a remainder to the sentence which I did not quote. Peter visited Cornelius because God added a “but,” “….but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Acts. 10:28

As our society devolves, the world (and the church) may throw up more and more peacocks to block our way, to convince us that we are going in the wrong direction. But God says to us that we don not have to become like them to engage them. We do not need the finery of the world to show that plain dress is worthy. We do not need the permission of the world to engage the world. We do not need to hide in the shelter of the sanctuary when the field is ready for harvest. We do not need the world to tell us what love is when we know who it is.

When we see whatever Goliath the world sends our way, we should not react with “dismay” and “great fear.” Instead, we should step into the field of battle, knowing that God has won and that we, in and through Him, get to participate in the victory. For this battle is not ours, but the Lord’s. And He is mighty to save.

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© 2015 GBF

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