6th Bolton The Oaks Brownies
2015 saw The Oaks Brownies have had another busy year. It started off working on our World Cultures badge, where we celebrated Thinking Day with a Chinese New Year themed party and made masks and necklaces inspired by Africa. In the Spring we made the most of the Church kitchen, making fruit salads and biscuits for Fathers Day. And that was just the start of the year…
The pack meets once a week on Tuesday from 5.45 pm – 7.15 pm.
For more information, please email Caroline Greenen or call her on 01204 592594.
Saul spoke to his son Jonathan and to all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David. Jonathan told David, ‘My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.’ Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, ‘The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?’ Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.’ So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.
Again there was war, and David went out to fight the Philistines. He launched a heavy attack on them, so that they fled before him. Then an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, while David was playing music. Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear; but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. David fled and escaped that night.
Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch over him, planning to kill him in the morning. David’s wife Michal told him, ‘If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’ So Michal let David down through the window; he fled away and escaped. Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed; she put a net of goats’ hair on its head, and covered it with the clothes. When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, ‘He is sick.’ Then Saul sent the messengers to see David for themselves. He said, ‘Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.’ When the messengers came in, the idol was in the bed, with the covering of goats’ hair on its head. Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me like this, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?’ Michal answered Saul, ‘He said to me, “Let me go; why should I kill you?”’
What tumultuous relationships and emotions we find in this story, characters about whom we should like to know more and so speculate, easily transferring to them our own experiences and even prejudices.
Today we read about four people, Saul, his son Jonathan, his successor David and David’s wife, Saul’s daughter Michal. We can learn from them all. In the fuller story we learn that Saul experienced florid, ecstatic episodes, readily flying into a rage, prompted it seems by jealousy of both his son Jonathan and, in today’s passage, of David whose musical talents had often soothed Saul but whose military prowess was perceived as a threat. How difficult it is to relate to and help people who are mentally unstable; how easy it is to turn to others who are easier to support.
Jonathan could expect to be his father’s successor but was eclipsed by David with whom he developed an intense bond – a bond so strong that Jonathan was ready to defy his father to protect his friend. What a blessing it is to have the support of good friends.
David had been plucked from obscurity and had by killing the Philistine champion, Goliath, become a hero, and was therefore perceived by Saul as a threat, with good reason. Did his success and the adulation of the people turn David’s head into thinking that he could do what he wanted and get whom he wanted?
Michal initially had no say in what happened to her: Saul had previously decided that David should marry her older sister but now it was Michal’s turn. But we read that Michal loved David and saved his life; did David love her? She was but one of his many women, regarded as little more than chattels. We can hope that attitudes have changed in 3,000 years – have they?
Most gracious God guide and strengthen us in all our relationships to treat others as we would wish to be treated. When we have been hurt, help us to forgive: when we have hurt others, show us how we have been in the wrong so that we can be honest with you, loving God, with others and with ourselves, trusting in our Saviour, Jesus Christ: Amen.
The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood URC
The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice. Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.
Then Saul said to David, ‘Here is my elder daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife; only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles.’ For Saul thought, ‘I will not raise a hand against him; let the Philistines deal with him.’ David said to Saul, ‘Who am I and who are my kinsfolk, my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?’ But at the time when Saul’s daughter Merab should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as a wife. Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. Saul was told, and the thing pleased him. Saul thought, ‘Let me give her to him that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.’ Therefore Saul said to David a second time, ‘You shall now be my son-in-law.’ Saul commanded his servants, ‘Speak to David in private and say, “See, the king is delighted with you, and all his servants love you; now then, become the king’s son-in-law.”’ So Saul’s servants reported these words to David in private. And David said, ‘Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and of no repute?’ The servants of Saul told him, ‘This is what David said.’ Then Saul said, ‘Thus shall you say to David, “The king desires no marriage present except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged on the king’s enemies.”’ Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. When his servants told David these words, David was well pleased to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David rose and went, along with his men, and killed one hundred of the Philistines; and David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Saul gave him his daughter Michal as a wife. But when Saul realised that the Lord was with David, and that Saul’s daughter Michal loved him, Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy from that time forward. Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle; and as often as they came out, David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his fame became very great.
When I was 17 I had quite a crush on my father’s secretary and was saddened when she suffered a series of mental health problems and was admitted to what we school kids knew as the ‘loony bin’ (and yes I am ashamed of myself now). I heard that while I was away at university, she left employment. Later, in my first job, working in that same local psychiatric hospital, I encountered her again, this time as a long-term in-patient. I was dreadfully distressed to see the effect of her now chronic illness.
I am aware that not all mental ill-health is so catastrophic but it was the moment that convinced me that I was not suited to mental health nursing and led me instead to train as a general nurse.
But I see her in my mind’s eye as I read of Saul raving in his house. Reading on, we see further problems for Saul as his paranoia develops – another aspect of his mental health problems. Yes of course I am aware of the dangers of nurses (especially general nurses!) making diagnoses, but I’ve always thought of his having something like paranoid schizophrenia?
David plays the difficult hand he is dealt with skill, diplomacy and tact but his continuing military success and ensuing popularity do continue to feed poor Saul’s jealousy, undermining and destroying their relationship. What should’ve been a successful and triumphant partnership ultimately developed into a civil war that as well as destroying Saul, probably damaged David too.
Mental healthcare has come on in leaps and bounds since those days but tragically it is still desperately inadequate (not to mention desperately under-funded) and there are far too many lives damaged or destroyed, with family and friends as collateral damage.
God of sanity and order; we pray that you play your spiritual lyre of healing in those affected by the challenges of mental ill health; we pray too for those who are affected by pity, hurt and / or helplessness because of their loved ones’ conditions; and we pray for all working in the field of mental healthcare, giving them patience, wisdom and new and effective treatments. Amen
The Rev’d Peter Clark, Minister of the Bridport and Dorchester Joint Pastorate (Methodist & URC)
When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved. As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they made merry, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David tens of thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?’ So Saul eyed David from that day on.
It’s hard to really know what’s going on here. Jonathan seems to be in love with David – giving him his robes and weapons and making a covenant with him; David, of course, enjoys the attention from the king’s son; his success in battle made him more popular than the tempramental king, Saul. A jealous king looks on a popular warrior who seems to be inveigling his way into the royal family playing on the affections of his son – the heir presumptive. No wonder Saul “eyed David” from that day on. As we shall see in tomorrow’s reading, Saul arranges for David to marry one of his daughters, no doubt thinking he could keep a closer eye on him.
Jealousy is a powerfully dangerous emotion. It can embitter us, skew our perceptions and make us lose any sense of rationality. Coupled with jealousy Saul realised his hold on the throne was weak and that of his family becoming weaker due to David – the cuckoo in the nest. Saul, presumably, didn’t know that he’d lost the support of organised religion and that its favour now fell on David. So we have a heady mix of love and jealousy, a heroic warrior and an insecure king, youthful desire and middle aged resentment.
In our own dealings with others we need to be aware of the part our emotions play. Do we find it easier to be kind and caring to those we find attractive? Does jealousy play a part in our responses to others? Are we insecure on our petty thrones, always aware that we could be deposed or do we sit securely in the role and work that God has given us?
God of love, help me to understand my emotions, and the complex reactions I have to others. Help me to be aware when I am attracted to someone, to give thanks for beauty, but to be aware of my own responses.
Help me to be wise when I dislike someone, especially when I am jealous, that I may love even when I don’t like the other, that I may sit securely in the work you have given me to do. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston, Minister Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs
The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.’ But David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.’ When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.
Here we find David, untrained in weapons of war, much sheltered by being the youngest member of his family. However, in his own way, what a giant he was in his trust of the Almighty God!
So easily he could have been rather proud and haughty as, dare I say, many of us were as teenagers. Instead, remembering how God had helped him as a shepherd in the fields to wield the simple sling and stone, he stuck with these things with which he was familiar. To him they were all that were needed but there was more to his simple faith than what literally met Goliath’s eye. In this scene of conflict he did not forget that the battle was not his to win. He did not boast of his own prowess at defending his flock from wolf or bear attack, and how a mere giant would be a walkover. Instead his trust was totally in his God whom he knew would fight for him and therefore it was God’s battle and not David’s to win.
Goliath may well have thought that David’s words were empty and boastful but dare I say that his one fatal mistake, as it was to become, was that he had left God out of things?
God gave the victory to David who had wholeheartedly trusted only in Him, and Goliath got his just deserts, for taking the mickey out of this unworldly youngster.
What a tremendous example to us, that the only One on whom we can truly rely is the same Lord God Almighty. Let’s make sure that we make Him our first choice and not our last resort!
God our Almighty Father, the rock of faith in whom David trusted, humbly we come to you to acknowledge our need of you to help fight our battles. May we realise that to enlist your aid is not weakness, but like David may we forever seek your face when the going gets tough. As David did, may we give you the glory knowing that you alone are the only One who is the strength we need and the one true victor. Amen.
Verena Walder Lay Preacher and Elder. Tabernacle URC Mumbles.
Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle…Saul and the Israelites gathered and encamped in the valley of Elah, and formed ranks against the Philistines. …And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armoured with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.’ And the Philistine said, ‘Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.’ When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons… David was the youngest; the three eldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening. Jesse said to his son David, ‘Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them.’ David rose early in the morning, left someone in charge of the sheep, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid. The Israelites said, ‘Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. The king will greatly enrich the man who kills him, and will give him his daughter and make his family free in Israel.’ David said to the men who stood by him, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’ The people answered him in the same way, ‘So shall it be done for the man who kills him.’… When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him. David said to Saul, ‘Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’ Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.’ But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.’ David said, ‘The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.’ So Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you!’ Saul clothed David with his armour; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armour, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.’ So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
The Israelites were terrified. Apart from physical size, Philistines were a sophisticated race who had settled on the coastal plain of Palestine around 1200 BC. They were politically astute, technologically advanced and fierce warriors, and for 150 years they had advanced across the Land.
Now there was a potential battle situation as armies faced each other, yet it was acceptable for ‘champions’ (selected individuals) to settle the conflict and prevent unnecessary waste of lives. That’s why the Philistines sent Goliath, a fearsome sight with his massive body armour and heavy weapons shining in the sun.
By contrast, David was a boy with a busy life serving as musician and armour-bearer in the palace, he also carried out duties at home, and tended his father’s sheep. Unlike Goliath, David wasn’t a trained warrior, so Saul didn’t want David to face Goliath.
The image of the boy trying to walk in borrowed armour is comical, but David was confident; he was going out in the name of God. As a shepherd David practiced using his sling. He knew he was a good shot. He was not afraid.
This happened a thousand years before Jesus, yet I see parallels for us as Jesus’ disciples today.
We’re called to share our faith in a largely secular society, like facing a sophisticated, politically astute, technologically advanced, fierce warrior giant. Maybe we try on some armour, but it doesn’t fit and stops us moving.
Like David, we have the equipment, but do we know how to use it? David had practiced long and hard, and so he had confidence.
These days we have prayer, caring for others, looking after creation, sharing resources, social justice, being radically inclusive… just some of the slingshot stones for sharing faith in 21st century life. Have we practiced enough? Are we – like David – prepared, confident and ready to go?
Lord, Help us be ready to share our faith, as we face the giants of today. All too often we don’t know what to say, or can’t think how to tell about the love of Jesus in a way that people outside of Church can understand. So, we keep quiet. Help us be prepared, honing our skills and practicing using all the slingshot stones available. Help us go confidently and remember that you are with us always. Amen
Linda Rayner, is an Elder at Bramhall URC and URC Coordinator for fresh expressions
Now the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. And Saul’s servants said to him, ‘See now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord now command the servants who attend you to look for someone who is skilful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will feel better.’ So Saul said to his servants, ‘Provide for me someone who can play well, and bring him to me.’ One of the young men answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is skilful in playing, a man of valour, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the Lord is with him.’ So Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, ‘Send me your son David who is with the sheep.’ Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a kid, and sent them by his son David to Saul. And David came to Saul, and entered his service. Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armour-bearer. Saul sent to Jesse, saying, ‘Let David remain in my service, for he has found favour in my sight.’ And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.
“If music be the food of love, play on” opines Duke Orsino in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, attesting to the power of music: soothing; enraging; stirring; calming. It is difficult to suggest that, as humans, we can be indifferent to the power of music.
Some musical moments remain with us for a long time. I well remember a haunting a capella solo of the 23rd Psalm sung in Iona Abbey. A sublime moment on a peaceful summer evening.
On the other hand, musical instruments have been classified as weapons of war (specifically the Great Highland Bagpipe) because of their power to fire up men to fight.
Dame Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish virtuoso percussionist, has been profoundly deaf since the age of 11 but anyone who has heard her perform can attest that even deafness does not stand in the way of powerful music making.
So when one correspondent to a national newspaper recently suggested that the fundamental purpose of music was to entertain, the response came swiftly: “it is an attempt to communicate how it feels to be human, in a language beyond words”.
It is therefore no surprise to read that the wily boy David soon learned that by playing his lyre, Saul could be calmed down when an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. Sweet music calms the savage breast.
When it comes to music in worship, it behoves us to remember that power. When those of us who lead worship choose hymns or worship songs, we usually pay great attention to the words, but perhaps less so to the music, leaving that to the organist, keyboard player, worship group or whoever drives the digital machine. Often, that works well, but if God is to be truly glorified, music, words and intent must cohere to communicate how it feels to be a child of God, in a language beyond words.
When in our music God is glorified, and adoration leaves no room for pride, it is as though the whole creation cried, Hallelujah!
How often, making music, we have found a new dimension in the world of sound, as worship moved us to a more profound Hallelujah!
(Fred Pratt Green, Rejoice & Sing 414)
So be it! Amen
The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon. He is a member at Upton-by-Chester URC