Too old? Too small?

Judges 6:1-24 (NRSV:)

The story of Gideon’s call reminds us today of the standard, stock answer we humans tend to give when we first hear and recognize it…”You’ve got the wrong person. I’m too (fill in the blank.) I’m just a (fill in the blank.)” I’m the lowest member of the least, no-account clan in town. The Bible is full of these “I’m too” and “I’m just a” moments. I’m too young, I’m too old, I’m too slow of tongue. I’m just a boy, I’m just a shepherd, I’m just an outsider.

We’re also reminded of those time when our efforts are destroyed by others, seemingly just for the sake of doing it, and how it teaches us hoarding instincts. The Israelites are planting seed, and as soon as anyone notices it sprouting, here come the Midianites and the Amalekites to lay it waste. Anyone who was ever a younger sibling can recall those times sitting happily, stacking blocks or Legos, only to have an older brother or sister lurking around the corner, watching intently, and then, just at the right moment, roar through the room smashing those carefully-planned construction projects. We are taught from an early age to do those things we really care about in secret.

When the angel accepts Gideon’s offering, a fire springs up, and we all know the converse of the old saw “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”–where there’s fire, there’s also smoke–smoke that everyone can see. The Midianites and the Amalekites can surely see smoke off in the distance, and it’s clear someone has something to offer.

The terms of the offering are interesting, too. Gideon is told to pour out the broth in the pot–to throw out the stock. Any of us who’ve ever cooked a roast or a chicken would never think of such a thing. Pour out the stock, how crazy is that? We can make noodles out of that. We can make stew. Why, there are all kinds of goodies we can make of that, and one never knows when we might need it. But no–Gideon is told to pour off what we’d normally hold back and save.

As we grow in faith, one of the discoveries we often make is that God constantly calls to us to offer up more of what we have, even in times when we feel there are vandals at the gate, lurking in the shadows to tear our works apart. We’re told to sow time and time again, even if we are afraid. God’s antidote to fear is “keep doing ministry.” I remember a very fearful time in the life of my parish when a wise friend’s best advice was “just keep doing your ministries, keep doing what you sense that you are called to do.” Turns out she was right about that.

Another thing we discover is God just sort of chuckles at “I’m too…” and “I’m just a…” and says, “You know, I’ve heard that one before.” I suspect God has heard them all. Like the angel in our reading today, God simply sits patiently under the oak tree waiting for us to come around to God’s way of thinking, and says, “You silly thing, I’ve been sitting here all along.”

What, do you suppose, is in the works for your life, where God has been quietly, patiently sitting under the oak tree at your house, waiting for you to come around to God’s way of thinking about your part in it?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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