Written by Rev. Rebecca Reeder, Associate Pastor, Sewickley Presbyterian Church
Later Samuel called all the people of Israel to meet before the Lord at Mizpah. And he said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, has declared: I brought you from Egypt and rescued you from the Egyptians and from all of the nations that were oppressing you. But though I have rescued you from your misery and distress, you have rejected your God today and have said, ‘No, we want a king instead!’ Now, therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by tribes and clans.” So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel before the Lord, and the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. Then he brought each family of the tribe of Benjamin before the Lord, and the family of the Matrites was chosen. And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?” And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else. Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!” Then Samuel told the people what the rights and duties of a king were. He wrote them down on a scroll and placed it before the Lord. Then Samuel sent the people home again.
– 1 Samuel 10:17-25
In my daily devotions I’m currently reading the book of Samuel once again, and Saul was just appointed king of Israel. Even though I’ve read this numerous times, it especially stood out to me that when Saul is chosen by sacred lots, he’s nowhere to be seen! When they go looking for him, they find him “among the baggage.” Whose baggage and why Saul is there isn’t named, but I find it curious, and, as Craig Barnes would say, “that’ll preach!”
In fact, I think Craig might’ve preached a homily on this very passage to Princeton seminary students. I don’t recall everything he said in that sermon, but I remember him telling a story about a favorite leather book bag he had that broke apart in an airport because he’d stuffed too many books and other items into his baggage. The point being – if I remember correctly – that when we try to carry around all our baggage, things inevitably fall apart.
How interesting that the first king of Israel is found among the baggage? How often do we find ourselves called into leadership, yet when the moment comes to step up, we’re
caught up in and preoccupied with our personal life baggage? The past, the things that weigh us down, that we think we need to carry with wherever we go. Our fears, the ill-fitting narratives we tell ourselves about who we are or what we’re capable of. We hold on to our baggage for dear life, as if we’re in the airport of life and security is coming over the speakers to remind us constantly, “Please do not leave your baggage unattended.”
And maybe we do need to attend to our baggage – not to hold onto it for dear life, but rather to see what we can lay down at the foot of the Cross, give to Jesus, and then take up the burden that is light and the yoke that is easy. Only then can we step into the limelight of leadership that God has called us into and lead with confidence because we know God’s got our back and carries our heavy baggage.
May it be so. Amen