The following sermon was preached on August 21, 2022 at St George’s Transcona. You can learn more about St George’s and find links to their YouTube channel by clicking here Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing in your sight O God, for you are our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

Today’s first reading is one of the most well known stories in the Old Testament, the tale of David and Goliath.  Our reading starts in the middle, so let’s back up a bit in the story to get some context.

The armies of the Philistines and the Israelites have gathered near each other prepared for battle.  Scripture says that, “the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.” (3)

They are all waiting and wondering who will make the next move, and then a Philistine named Goliath emerges and begins to taunt the Israelites saying, “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…When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” (9-11)

I’m definitely not a person who possesses any military knowledge, but based only on what I have said so far this doesn’t seem like that bad of a deal.  Instead of a war between two entire armies, only two people will fight. How efficient. And how many lives will be saved in the process?

Except, even with only the information I have shared so far, I know that it’s probably not a good deal, because a person would only offer a deal of this nature if they were sure they were going to win.

And Goliath is sure he is going to win…. because Goliath isn’t just any man, he’s a giant of a man.

Goliath was huge, and anyone who tried to fight him was guaranteed to lose.

And every day that Goliath utters this challenge the Israelite army feel a little less confident, a little less hopeful, and a lot more afraid.

But there was an Israelite man named Jesse who had eight sons- the three oldest have joined the Israelite army, and the youngest one, David, stayed home to look after the family’s sheep.  (12-14)

Jesse tells David to go visit his older brothers to see how they are doing and to bring them some food. (17)

David goes, and when he does, he hears Goliath taunting the Israelite army. Unlike the men in the army, who have been worn down by the war and Goliath’s threats, David doesn’t shrink from the challenge. David is indignant at this insult and frustrated by the fear he sees all around him.

David asks, “who is this Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (26)

I can imagine the Israelites who are listening thinking, “Um, have you seen him?”

David goes to King Saul and offers to fight Goliath saying, “let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” (32)

Saul looks at David and sees an arrogant boy making an unrealistic offer and responds, “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.” (33)

And then David begins to recite his resume, in his role as a shepherd, he has killed lions, and bears, he has grabbed these animals by the jaw, pulled the sheep from their mouths, and killed them.

Goliath is no match for him, David says, not because of his skill as a fighter, but because God is on his side. (33-37) “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” (37)

And Saul gives up and agrees to let David fight the giant, but first, he is going to make sure David has everything he needs to be successful – a helmet, armor, and Saul’s own sword. (38-39)

Saul may feel a bit better seeing David dressed this way, but David isn’t. David says, “I cannot walk with these…”   If he can’t even walk, how is he going to fight?

So David removes the armor and begins to prepare for battle wearing his everyday clothing.

While none of us have likely every met a literal giant named Goliath, we have all faced Goliaths in our lives – challenges so large that we feel doomed to fail before we even start.

The past few years have been filled with Goliaths.  You have had your own unique challenges, and as a parish you have also faced a number of Goliaths together.

Through no fault of your own, you have had to battle the Goliath that is the Covid-19 pandemic.  That’s a fight that has already lasted over two years and the battle is not yet won.     You have had to say good-bye to Helen.  You have had to deal with the cultural realities that people don’t attend church in the same ways that they used to, and the Goliath that is a church institution that moves a lot more slowly than the culture.

And that’s not all – the church’s finances are also a Goliath.  Everyday there is more money that needs to go out to support the work of the parish than is coming in.  Which is simply not sustainable.

It’s a lot and when you think about it, I am sure that you can sympathize with the Israelite army. None of them feel up to the fight, and they are only dealing with one Goliath.  You are dealing with a small army of them.

Maybe you feel like them, discouraged, beaten down, hopeless.

Maybe you feel like it’s an impossible battle so it’s not even worth trying.

Now I want to be clear that it is not necessary for you to fight every battle.  Sometimes it is a healthy decision to say, “this isn’t mine to fight,” or “I am not in a place where I can fight.”

And if that’s you, that’s OK.

But if you do feel it’s your place to begin to battle against these giants, it’s also possible that you think you need to armor up to do so.  You might be weighed down by old ideas or tools that would be helpful to someone else or were useful in the past, but you don’t actually need them.

There are, for example, a lot of assumptions from the past about what it means to be a parish that may no longer serve you.  You need to discern what it important to keep, and what to let go of.

I used to assume that the only way to have a Sunday service was to gather people together in a building and now I know that’s not true. It’s possible to have a service online. It’s important even, because there are people who – for a variety of reasons – can’t come to a building on Sunday morning.

The pandemic taught me to shed the armor of believing there was only one right way to have a service.

Saul’s armor was useful to Saul, but it was no help to David.  If you’re going to go into battle, don’t let yourself be weighed down by unnecessary armor.

So David removes Saul’s armor, picks up his own staff and goes out to select five smooth stones.  He takes the stones, and his sling, and goes out to face Goliath.

And long story short, David kills Goliath with a single stone.

About two weeks ago, vestry met for a day long retreat and we used this David and Goliath story to shape our conversations.

We talked about the Goliaths facing the parish.  They are some very real challenges facing us that can’t be ignored. Vestry will continue to talk about these things and share that information with you on a regular basis.  We are meeting again this week to create a financial update, for example, that will be sent to you shortly.

We touched on the idea that maybe we think we need things that we don’t actually need. Maybe there are some spots where we are being weighed down by unnecessary armor.

Our main focus, however, was to talk about all resources, gifts, and strengths that St George’s has – our 5 stones if you will.

The conversations flowed and lists were generated that made it clear that this parish has more than just five stones. This is an image we are going to keep working with and you will continue to hear more about it, but here are some things I heard that day:

It’s a strength that this parish is located in Transcona.  Partly because Transcona is a wonderful place to live. When people come to Transcona, they tend to stay in Transcona.

It’s also a strength because if you were to look at a map of Winnipeg, there are some areas that have a lot of Anglican churches, more than is necessary for the number of people who attend services, but you are the only Anglican church in this area.  That’s a strength.

Another strength is that so many of you either live in Transcona or grew up in Transcona so you understand the values and culture of this place.   So many churches struggle with the fact that the people who come to church on Sundays drive in from other neighbourhoods and are very different than the people who live near the church.   In those kinds of situations, when someone from the neighbourhood comes to church they might feel very out of place.   That’s not true here and that’s a strength.

This building is also a strength – it is beautiful and well maintained.  If you’re ever had a chance to be here on your own and just sit quietly you know if can feel like a little piece of heaven.  It can feel like that when it’s full of people too.

The building makes it possible for us to gather like we are today.  The building made is possible for us to provide care to the friends and family of Diane Ross  yesterday by hosting her funeral.

The building makes it possible for you to reach out into the community and invite other groups to use this space. This is such an incredible ministry of St George’s – if you only every come here on Sundays, you might not realize that the building is used by all sorts of community groups throughout the week, making the important work that they do possible.

So many churches leave their buildings empty all week and only use it for an hour on Sundays, but not St George’s.

It’s impressive, it really it.

In addition to inviting groups into the building, many of you also go out into the community to serve – by being involved with L’Arche, or Thelma Wynne or the local food bank or helping with the Christmas hamper and I could go on.

The pandemics has meant that a lot of these sorts of things had to shut down, but with a little planning and creativity there are plenty of opportunities to reach out and support the good work that is already happening in the community.

Another strength of this church is the high quality of leadership you have had over the years.  And I don’t mean your priests!

Priests are human, they can’t all have been great fits, which means sometimes the parish thrived with the help of the priest, and sometimes despite them.

When I say you have had exceptional leadership I mean all the various ways that people take ownership and make sure things happen here.  From the obvious roles like priests and deacons and wardens and vestry, to the quieter things like taking care of the garden outside or serving in the kitchen at a funeral.

You might not know this, because you’re so used to it, but this is rather unusual. There are a lot of churches where this kind of quality engagement and participation just don’t happen.

I mean, I have been at churches where at the end of a funeral everyone left and I was stuck washing the dishes and locking up by myself, but not here!

Yesterday I got sent home with a packed lunch and a firm reminder that the volunteer team had everything in hand and my services were no longer needed.

Which leads me to the final strength, the final stone I want to mention today and, really in a lot of ways, the four I have already mentioned also encompass this last one, and that’s the people.

The people of the parish of St George’s are its greatest strength.   Without you, St George’s is just a lovely building in a great part of town.

In fact, without you it’s not even a lovely building, because it takes people to cover the bills and maintain the space.

Without you, there is no St George’s.

There are a lot of things I could say about you but we don’t need to have a 20 minute sermon today, so let me just focus on one thing.

You are a lot like David.   You’re not the biggest parish in the diocese, the one that is the most obvious choice perhaps to fight a Goliath, but you know that bigger isn’t always better.  You are tough and scrappy and resilient and when the going gets tough you grab your sling shot and aim for the giant’s forehead.

You are a gift, and I am so grateful for each one of you.

There are real challenges facing this parish and we can’t ignore them, but I also believe if you choose to step up to the challenge, then God will provide what you need.  You may have to let go of your particular vision for the future in order to step into God’s good plan, but if you chose to do so, you already have everything you need.

Because remember, David had 5 stones, but in the end he won the battle with only one. He had more than he needed to succeed, and you do to.

When David told Saul he was going to fight Goliath he said, “Let no one’s heart fail..”(31) and that is my prayer and my challenge to each one of you.  Have courage, don’t let your heart fail, because with God on your side you have everything you need to win.

In the strong name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.