First Parish Congregational Church
United Church of Christ, Yarmouth Maine

Sermon by
Rev. Kate Dalton

August 25, 2019

Scripture: Judges 16:4-31, Jeremiah 20:7-10

Stupidity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Clearly, Samson, did not have access to a dictionary or perhaps he would have figured out that his pattern of behavior was a poor one before it cost him his eyes and ultimately his life.  But now, thousands of years later, if you look up stupidity in the dictionary, a picture of Samson would be appropriate.

If you were here last week – this story should sound familiar.  Different woman same game.  Samson falls in love with a woman.  She is tasked with getting information from him.  She asks him for the information, he refuses to share it with her.  She continues to badger and nag him until he finally gives up the information which is used against him.  His relationship is compromised, and he suffers and destroys things.

Stupidity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  After all, what did Samson think would happen once he gave up the information after initially refusing to answer.  Especially in the case of Delilah.  Did he not notice she had already tried to have the Philistines overpower him 3 times?  Surely, he should have known what would happen once he told her the truth. 

It is curious that Samson is held up as an Old Testament hero.  In the end, he does free the Israelites from the Philistines, but you have to wonder – did it require so much carnage?  Couldn’t there have been a less violent way for this to be accomplished?

We must remember that these stories reflect a worldview.  A worldview at the time that believed it was absolutely acceptable for others to be smited by your god.  It just meant that God was finding favor with you.  I think this might be why Jesus was so confusing to people.  For centuries, people understood violence to be a perfectly acceptable way for God to protect you.  So, if Jesus was the savior they’ve been waiting for – shouldn’t this be his way too.  Shouldn’t he be a little more like Samson? Instead we got a man who presented largely as a pacifist telling people to love their enemies – not smite them.  I can understand how people might have been skeptical about Jesus’ role in their religious story.

As with most things in life, though, Samson’s story is not all bad without any good.  There are things we can glean from Samson’s story that will keep us from showing up in the dictionary under stupidity. First, Samson does something important right before the end of the story.    Did you catch it?  Right before he destroys the temple Samson prays,

28 … “Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”

This is the first time in the story that Samson has turned towards God.  Seemingly Samson regains his strength after turning towards God.  You have to wonder – could he have regained his strength even if his hair had not yet grown?  Remember his hair was a symbol of his commitment to God – allowing Delilah to cut it off signifies a break in that relationship.  Praying at the end of the story signifies a restoration of the relationship.   Perhaps a reminder that we can always turn back towards God.  And our relationship with God can strengthen us and provide us with direction.

But there’s another thing to consider after reading this story.  What happens to relationships when you hide things?  In both this story and the earlier story of Samson and his wife, I wonder what would have happened if he had just answered their questions to begin with?  Would the outcome have been the same?  Perhaps his honesty would have disarmed them.  Perhaps it would have strengthened their loyalty and commitment to him, and he would have avoided the peril that pursued.  What would have happened if he had just answered the question?

Many of us live our lives such that we are trying to avoid answering other’s questions.  We are afraid to be vulnerable.  We are afraid of what might happen if others knew the truth.  We think we are “protecting” ourselves.  But what we don’t think about is what happens when others don’t know the truth.  We don’t think about the costs of avoiding the truth.  We don’t think about how that affects our relationships and prevents them from becoming models of the love that God wants for us.

I still believe that Samson shows up in the dictionary under the word stupidity.  But I also think that many of us need to learn from him to keep from making the same mistakes.  Avoiding honest relationships with others is not going to protect us in the long run.  We have to turn towards God, find strength and courage, and then engage one another in love if we want this world to be transformed.  May God’s grace guide us.  Amen. 

Sermon for August 25

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