Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 26 Sermon: The Turning Point

Sermon Texts:
Psalm and 2 Samuel

Sermon Notes
Today’s scripture is perfect study in contrasts. David and Uriah.

David’s situation is artfully contrasted to Uriah’s behavior in this story. Uriah acts with honor and honesty. He is honest to his comrades on the battlefield even though they aren’t even there. David underhanded to the point of sending Uriah’s death-sentence in his own hand to the general.

Sin and how sin works:
Sin is addictive. You find yourself returning to schemes and machinations because they are easier than coming clean. Telling the truth.

What would have happened if David had told Uriah what he had done instead of trying to scheme.

Like any great tragedy, the saga of David has a turning point. It’s that point that you can identify in a story when a choice was made or something occurs that effects everything that happens after that point in the story. I was re-watching a movie with my sister this past week called There Will Be Blood in which there is a very clear and decisive turning point after which the story is tragic. During the first part of the movie, when things seem to be going on smoothly for the main characters, the director leans into the turning point with a tense and forboding musical score throughout.

Today’s story has the same effects. We want with David for his schemes to work. We know they will be an easy fix.

Sin Compounds: You find yourself committing larger and more serious sins to try cover up the previous ones. Sin is a downward spiral of destruction.

Sin isn’t alleviated until it is recognized and confessed. After Joab expresses lamentation for the swift execution of injustice, David reassures him, “These kinds of things happen all the time.” Soldiers fall on the field every day.

The Psalm this morning communicates this sense of ever-presence of sin and wickedness. It is a Psalm ascribed to David. And perhaps it is autobiographical when it says “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good.”

Isn’t it kind of comforting when you do something miserable to imagine that the whole world acts the same way. “Well, everyone does it,” we say. Well, David certainly did “eat up his people as he eats bread.” He very casually and coldly sent Uriah back to the battlefront with specific instructions on how to kill him. He ordered the line to fall back at the heaviest fighting so that Uriah would be surrounded by the enemy and die.

How must it have felt to be betrayed by these men who he had forsaken himself for when he had the chance to lie with his wife and unknowingly save his own life by doing so? He did it to honor them. For all he knew, it was them who were betraying him. How must it have felt? Was his last thought regret that he had been so upstanding? Did he call upon the Lord for refuge, as the Psalmist says?

Sin confounds and it compounds. It multiplies and it divides. We can’t think our way out of sin, since sin corrupts and corrodes our thinking. We can’t buy our way out of sin, we can’t scheme our way out of sin. When we come to that turning point, we can only turn to the one who has the power to destroy sin. We can only turn to the one who loves us despite our sin—the one who loves us enough to wash us clean of that sin and restore us. That kind of love demands that we confess and reconcile as a response. We may not be able to make it right, but we can make it better.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19 Sermon: House of God

Texts: Ephesians and 2 Samuel


David wanted to give God what HE would want. Reminds me of the way I sometimes act. I get Lara a CD for Christmas that I am actually more interested in than she is.

Idea of building a Temple for the ark is a good political move. Legitimizes David’s authority. Says, in effect, God is on my side. Visible reminder of that.

God says no to that. He instead asks David to trust his promise only. Then his son will be able to build a Temple.

Instead of you building me a house, I’ll build you a house.

Trusting God will provide without subscribing to the “Prosperity Gospel.” The idea that God will bless us and we have the duty to display that with a life of luxury and wealth.

Often Like David, we want to do something great
for God (build a temple), but what we discover is
that God is committed to doing something great in
and through us ("He who began a good work in
you... Phil. 1:6). The first is safer because we
are in the 'driver's seat' the second requires
saying, "let it be according to your

Perhaps this passage speaks to us about putting God in a box of our own construction instead of letting God work through us to do his will. We are more comfortable creating God in our own image rather than opening our hearts and mind to let God pour into us God's Holy Spirit and allowing God to reveal God's self to us. It is not our job to plant God somewhere, it is God's will to keep us rooted in order that we might glorify God.

God is completely free. And God chooses to make His home in us, Jesus said the body is a Temple. During the Exile to Babylon, when may Jews were taken as slaves, and the Temple was destroyed. The people of God had to think more deeply about how and where God dwelt. The idea of the Messiah began in the minds of the prophets who looked at this passage from Samuel and knew that God would be faithful to it.

I don't think David's idea was all that bad; seems admirable, really, at first glance. It took God to know otherwise, that even in our well-meaning, sincere attempts at faithfulness, we can easily build up barriers to our reliance upon God.

The exile also forced a relocation of the God of Israel. He could no longer dwell in the destroyed temple. Apparently rationalizing the temple’s destruction, an exilic theologian reasoned that only his name dwelled there, not the Deity himself. The God of Israel dwelled in the heavens, not in an earthly temple. Quoting 2 Samuel 7:5’s rejection of the temple, Isaiah 66:1 would ask how could a temple contain God? The temple was irrelevant because the God of Israel did not live in a temple; rather, as Ezekiel so pointedly argues, God dwelt among his people. The exile provided the context for a universalization of the God of Israel.

Ephesians text : the movement from seeing God as residing in a place such as an ark or a temple, into becoming flesh in Jesus, then dwelling in all Christians.

God is asking for a place to live! What he wants most is to live in our hearts.

Jesus, this son of David, finally is the one to help build the house.

OF course, we can read the text (most literally) as saying Solomon will build the temple, which he does, but which is ultimately destroyed by the Babylonians. Or we can read the text in light of the Gospel:

Jesus builds it out of the people he's healed, those for whom he has had compassion in their suffering. A house made out of broken people, ministered to by Christ. An interesting image--keeps God as the actor, us as the grateful receivers and responders.

July 5 Sermon Notes


Boy Scouts. Remember sitting at Camp AP Hill outside Washington at the 1994 National Jamboree with scouts from all over the country, listening to Lee Greenwood sing. I remember the sitting there, with 40000 scouts with lighters in the air, as 3 F-15s buzzed the concert ampitheater, a deafening roar that you never forget.

The Bible is unabashedly doting on David, who is our subject for this summer series, yet it also tells the truth. (even when the lectionary does not)

Reading between the lines today, we find that David seemed to have given the order to kill all the blind and lame people in Zion simply because his detractors said that “even the blind and the lame would rise up against you.”

Last week, we missed the David story, but it was the classic story of killing the messenger.

Honest about our faults. Don’t chalk them up to “un-American revisionist history.”

Just read David McCullough’s A Path Between the Seas about the creation of the Panama canal. Surprised me to learn (even though I remember doing a 6th grade term paper on Panama) that basically Panama exists because the American gov’t didn’t want to pay more money for the land to Columbia than we had at first agreed. So, we financed a revolution.

Don’t get snowed by the blindly patriotic version of our Nation’s history and heritage. We have a lot to be proud about, but that doesn’t mean we should whitewash the truth.

The Bible sets the template for a people keeping track of the negative and positive things they have done. This is a good guard against falling pray to the idolatry of nationalism.

Our nation was built on the back of atrocities as well as heroics. It makes me sick to hear the phrase, “My country, right or wrong.” It makes me sick because it is a forfeiture of democracy. “My country, right or wrong” is what those who live in a dictatorship must say, so why should I, living in a free country, stoop to such a base form of allegiance.

The scriptures are clear about what makes a country great. It isn’t the grand achievements. It’s not the canals and the skyscrapers and the military might. It’s not the economic prowess, that we now clearly see is a house built on sand anyway. What makes a country great is how that country treats the poorest and weakest and most desperate.

Listen to the Psalm again. This is David’s song about his hopes for his son, Solomon. What is it that he repeats over and over again?

For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.

13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.

14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.

This is what the Lord loved about David—because he was once the left out and forgotten, he would include the left out remember the forgotten. He prayed that his son would continue in this way.

Because this was and is the way of the Lord. "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" (NKJV)

The beginnings of Jerusalem as the City of David are not it’s destiny. Just because we are honest about our roots, just because we have eyes open to our foibles, doesn’t mean we have to wallow in them. We are called to greatness. We are called to bear the image of God.

John sees the city of Jerusalem descending from the clouds in the book of Revelation. He describes God’s voice saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’