The problem with emblems

Yesterday’s morning service saw a lively re-enactment of David and Goliath’s story by our wonderful young people. A little later on in the same service we read Psalm 20, and considered in the sermon on how a much more mature David had reflected on his giant slaying experiences and what they had taught him about trusting God.

The problem with story like David & Goliath, surely, is that we can turn the key characters into anything we want them to be? David can be any small cause up against the faceless might of the state. David might be the beleaguered church all but swamped by a secular society.  I suppose David might be the famous tank-man up against the column of tanks in Beijing.(Photo: Mike Stimpson/ Balakov)

Once we start to do this, though, don’t the characters in the story become little more than emblems? Don’t we turn them into toy versions of the real thing, a bit like the very cleverly constructed Lego in the picture? In our bid to shorten the distance between then and now, don’t we end up somehow belittling the characters and robbing the story of its true meaning?  In one sense preachers are always saying “this is like that”, but we can take it to extremes.

I suppose this was the reason for preaching on a Psalm, rather than on the story itself. In this way the story  could retain its integrity, but still be allowed to impact on the lives of the listeners.  The congregation were asked whether they had also learnt to turn experiences into beliefs and behaviours in the way that David did.

How have you tackled this story?