“Not this one.”

No one expects to hear these words
as the prophet Samuel screens the sons of Jesse
for royal post.

Surely the tall, mature, muscular Eliab
whose name means “God is my father,”
would be an appropriate king.
Yet, the Lord says, “Not this one.”

Abinadab, then.
A more willing, loyal one.
“No, not this one.”

Shammah.
He hears and obeys.
“No, not this one, either.”

All seven of the sons of Jesse pass before Samuel.
Each one a more likely king than the other.
Yet, to each, the Lord replies, “not this one.”

“Are all your sons here?” Samuel asks.

The question triggers a long pause.
Was Samuel’s inquiry an insult?
Or a serious proposition?
Would one of Jesse’s sons really be king?
Or would this folly continue even to the very last?

If it is to continue to the very last,
what would the Lord want with the very last of these sons?
With David?

The youngest.
The one keeping the sheep.
The son whose demeanor
is a far cry from matching the demands of kingship.

Samuel is certain there must be one more.
So certain this one is right.
That he is willing to wait.
To keep on standing.
Until Jesse’s last son is able to come before him.

To come in from far pasture
on the hills outside Bethlehem.

No one knows how much time passed.
Surely a while.
No Land Rovers in those days.
No cell phones.
Someone had to go fetch him.
And bring him back.
On foot.
With all the sheep.

12 minutes, the length of a sermon.
30 minutes, the length of a long winded sermon.
60 minutes.
A good old fashioned hour and fifteen minute
Saint Peter’s 11:00 mass?
A few hours?

Finally, Jesse’s last son stands before Samuel.
Ruddy.
With beautiful eyes.
Handsome.

He enters, no doubt having been told of
and expecting to hear the line du jour:
“No, not this one.”

Instead, with mounting evidence to the contrary,
the Lord instructs Samuel:
Anoint this one.
Anoint this shepherd just in from tending his flock
king over Israel.
The Spirit of the Lord is mightily upon him.

It is not the first time,
or the last,
God claims a person or a people others would never expect.
Not the first or the last
God makes a decision that eludes human reasoning.
Not the first or the last
God chooses the last one to be the first.

And yet, in every age,
it seems the human family needs to be reminded
of God’s penchant for surprise.
Needs to experience God’s animating ways anew.
Needs to hear God’s promise.

No wonder God in Christ Jesus
seeks out Nicodemus to be born again,
as we heard two weeks ago.

No wonder God in Christ Jesus
gives living water to a Samaritan woman,
God’s promise last week.

No wonder, today,
God in Christ Jesus
approaches this man born blind.
And heals him.
Gives him new life.
When no one else would.
When everyone else labels him sinner.
And if not him, his parents — sinners.

No wonder God in Christ Jesus
approaches this man born blind
anoints him with the dust of the earth
mixed with the stuff of his own breath,
the same mud from which humanity was first formed.
And God “saw that it was good.”

No wonder, when everyone else walks by,
ignores this helpless one
as he sits begging on the side of the street,
Christ Jesus makes of him a sign of the glory of God.

For God’s glory never quite lines up with anyone’s expectation.
Finds its almighty power in unabashed grace.
Takes on its most profound expression
in giving up everything
in order to gain a world,
a people,
people like you and me.

Which makes little to no sense.
For the list of our maladies is long.
Like this man born blind,
we’ve experienced dark nights of hopelessness and helplessness.
Wondered what good we do in this world.
What life is for.

We’ve sat in cubicles, invisible to others as they carry on.
Or worked so feverishly we can’t remember what or why we do it.

We know the peril of distance between people, and nations.
Prayed and prayed some more from the depths of our hearts,
seeking answers that never seem to come.
Wondered if we’ve done enough to praise God.

Convinced, “No, not this one.”

Which is why God in Christ Jesus
looks on you
and on me,
looks on us and says “this one.”
“My body.”

You, the broken and the downtrodden.
Struggling to find meaning.
Striving but failing to love God and neighbor.
You the ones the world might say “No, not this
one.”
God in Christ Jesus anoints us saying,
“This one.”
This is my body.

This body is not simply the bit of bread we receive.
But it is who we are.
What the church is.
Communion of everyone the world would say “no, not this one”
but which God says yes.
This is my body.

Which, by no surprise, is broken.

For God in Christ Jesus is not afraid of brokenness.
Not afraid of those others would dismiss.
Not afraid of helplessness or hopelessness.
Not afraid of sinners.
Not afraid of anything.

But faithful.
Faithful enough.
for the body of Christ, itself
to be broken.
And to give itself away,
lifted high on a cross.
For others.
Friends.
Even enemies.
The body of Christ given away
for the life of the whole world.
Judged not by the world’s standard,
but by God’s life-giving love.

Which is precisely why God cherishes us so much,
so as to say “yes, this one,”
this body of Christ.
broken people like us,
beloved people like us,
to reach out to the people around us,
and this broken world.

To share anew.
In every generation.
God’s promise.
What was lost is now found.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
The one dead, alive.

Alive and known in the breaking of the bread.
And in its sharing.
This one.
For the life of the world.
Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York

FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT
March 15, 2015 - Morning Masses

1 Samuel 16:1–13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8–14
Saint John 9:1–41