Proper 7 (12)
Year B Revised Common Lectionary

The Mighty Have Fallen
by Gary Simpson

Since this is Pride, I changed the liturgical reading a little. We enter the story a bit later than the assigned readings and we leave the story a little later than the assigned passage. My hope is this change in the story will help make the story more meaningful to you at pride.

The children of Israel were in a state of war with the Philistines.1 Goliath was a giant. Commentators disagree over how tall Goliath was. We are not sure exactly how tall Goliath was, but we know he was tall. Albert Barnes says he was about 9'6” tall, while Adam Clarke says he was 9'9”!2 Another commentator says Goliath was 11'4” tall!3

Goliath came out to taunt the forces of the children of Israel and to strike fear into their hearts. Goliath was a champion. The word translated champion has a slightly different meaning in the Hebrew. In Hebrew, we get the picture of a man who is in the middle, a person who is between two.4 The champion settle disputes between armies and nations. The commentator John Gill describes Goliath as a dueller. He would challenge somebody to a duel. The person who won the duel decided the fate of the war.5

David learned of Goliath's challenge. He asked to fight Goliath. His rationale was that he had killed bears and lions when he was protecting the sheep, so he could kill Goliath. The king decides to let David give it a try. That is where we pick up the story from the Bible.

Today, I am reading from the Contemporary English Version. I like the way the story is told in this version of the Bible. You are welcome to follow along in your Bible. The story continues with 1 Samuel 17:38-51 Saul had his own military clothes and armor put on David, and he gave David a bronze helmet to wear. 39David strapped on a sword and tried to walk around, but he was not used to wearing those things. "I can't move with all this stuff on," David said. "I'm just not used to it." David took off the armor 40and picked up his shepherd's stick. He went out to a stream and picked up five smooth rocks and put them in his leather bag. Then with his sling in his hand, he went straight toward Goliath. 41Goliath came toward David, walking behind the soldier who was carrying his shield. 42When Goliath saw that David was just a healthy, good-looking boy, he made fun of him. 43"Do you think I'm a dog?" Goliath asked. "Is that why you've come after me with a stick?" He cursed David in the name of the Philistine gods 44and shouted, "Come on! When I'm finished with you, I'll feed you to the birds and wild animals!" 45David answered: You've come out to fight me with a sword and a spear and a dagger. But I've come out to fight you in the name of the LORD All-Powerful. He is the God of Israel's army, and you have insulted him too! 46Today the LORD will help me defeat you. I'll knock you down and cut off your head, and I'll feed the bodies of the other Philistine soldiers to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a real God. 47Everybody here will see that the LORD doesn't need swords or spears to save his people. The LORD always wins his battles, and he will help us defeat you. 48When Goliath started forward, David ran toward him. 49He put a rock in his sling and swung the sling around by its straps. When he let go of one strap, the rock flew out and hit Goliath on the forehead. It cracked his skull, and he fell facedown on the ground. 50David defeated Goliath with a sling and a rock. He killed him without even using a sword. 51David ran over and pulled out Goliath's sword. Then he used it to cut off Goliath's head. When the Philistines saw what had happened to their hero, they started running away.

King Saul's men did what they thought was right. They wanted to protect young David. They loaded him up with armor. This was serious armor overload for David. He remarks, "I can't move with all this stuff on." So David does what works for him. David falls back on his experience and who he is. David goes to battle just like he has the many times he fought off wild animals that were wanting to hurt the sheep. So David goes into battle, with shepherd's stick, sling shot and 5 rocks in hand.

David walks into combat his way. And God blesses. I mean God really blesses. David uses his sling shot to defeat Goliath, the giant. When the Philistines see David killed Goliath, they flea in fear.

David's line in the Contemporary English Version strikes me as being relevant to the queer community. I can't move with all this stuff on. I can't move with all this stuff on. The armor was too heavy, too exhausting for David to fight in. David could not move in the straight jacket they gave him. He could not move with the weight of the armor.

Gay people in traditional marriages and having children. That is a heavy load! Try to move, try to walk with that load! And the expectations do not stop with traditional marriages! Queer people must act and dress straight. So all lesbians are asked to wear dainty, frilly clothes. Real women wear boots and jeans too! Asking some lesbians to wear dainty clothing to church, to work is like asking young David to drag around the armor that only a mature man can carry. And expecting all gay men to dress in conservative colors, to walk, talk and act like John Wayne is a heavy load. You don't have to walk and talk like John Wayne to be a real man! Real men have a soft side too.

Many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people tried to do everything wearing the uniform of the straight world. They have tried wearing a straight jacket. But the straight jacket was too heavy, too oppressive, too exhausting to carry and get any work done! With the straight jacket on, queer people cannot move. After trying and trying to do life straight, to move with the straight jacket, many queer people just gave up, lived life the way God created them to live. And you know what! It took less energy!

There is a reason why. A straight jacket binds a person. The straight jacket keeps a person from having freedom to move. And the straight jacket weighs as much as a two and a half ton Sports Utility Vehicle. Tried running with 5,000 pounds on your back? That is no mean task! Tried to juggle knives wearing a straight jacket? That is no ordinary task! But somehow many gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-identified people managed to do that for a long time before they found a way to be true to themselves and to God.

Pride is about God taking off the straight jacket, cutting the chains that bind us, that keep us from being who we are, cutting off the excess baggage. God removes the baggage of trying to be somebody other than who you were created to be, so you can truly live, can truly enjoy the life God has given you.

There is a spiritual side to this too. Many churches expect gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people to serve God as straight people. Those churches are expecting gay people to serve God in a straight jacket. Living exactly as a straight person, going to a straight church that does not tolerate queer people, and joining in condemnations of all queer people is wearing a two and a half ton spiritual straight jacket. God is removing the spiritual straight jacket for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people around the world. The freedom the Eternal is giving God's queer allows queer people to serve the Lord with tremendous results! The Lord works better when God's people are truly free to live out the Christian life.

Queer people do not worship straight! God made queer people to worship from the depths of their queer hearts. When gay, bisexual, and transgendered people worship and serve God from within a queer sense of Christianity, they are freed to be powerful servants of God. Spiritual empowerment comes from acceptance of yourself, an acceptance that includes coming to worship and serve God without trying to wear spiritual clothes that just do not fit, that are restrictive.

Through the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-identified people, God is giving spiritual liberty and freedom. That freedom gives queer Christians the ability to face down some giants that haunt the world. A few of those giants include:

  • shame-based, graceless religion

  • poverty, hunger and homelessness

  • injustice, discrimination, prejudice and bigotry

  • economic slavery, political oppression, and war

  • fear, anger and hate crimes

And are these giants too big? Not for God, not for God's queer tribe! Queer people have seen God defeat giants before. The Son of God killed the fear of God and judgment! The giants of internalized homophobia, biphobia, lesbophobia and transphobia have fallen at God's outstretched arm. In some regions of the world, God moved to eliminate legalized injustice and institutionalized discrimination against all queer people. And that work continues! Mighty giants have fallen, one after another they have fallen!

The Lord is moving now in the hearts of people, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-identified people to take steps to give this world heavenly hope, by showing that things can be done better on this earth. And you are part of God's movement. The God who chose you for the task will empower you!

11 Samuel 17:1.

2Alberta Barnes. Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible. E-Sword Version 7.6.1 Computer Software. (Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2000), E- book, and Adam Clarke's. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible. E-Sword Version 7.6.1 Computer Software. (Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2000), E- book.

3John Gill. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible. E-Sword Version 7.6.1 Computer Software. (Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2000), E- book.

4Clarke, E- book.

5Gill, E- book.