Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Lent Sermon that Wasn't

Here is the rough draft of the sermon that would have been preached tonight, had service not been cancelled.

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
          It was good to be the King.  There was David, basking in his power, his success, his earthly glory.  Long gone were the days when he was the littlest, forgotten brother.  Long gone were the days when he was stuck tending the sheep or playing the messenger boy.  Now, he was king.  He didn’t even need to fight his own battles anymore, he didn’t have to slay the giants himself anymore – he had generals and warriors to do that.  He was on top of the world – and King David knew it.  And one day, might King David, while his armies are out fighting for him, takes a walk along his roof, and he sees the lovely Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of David’s loyal soldiers.  And she’s mighty good looking, and David knows that it’s good to be the king, and his affair is on with Bathsheba.  But there’s a problem.  Now she’s pregnant.  Oh well, David will arraign a cover-up – he can do these things, he’s the King.  He summons Uriah home, everyone will think it’s Uriah’s kid, no more scandal.  Except Uriah refuses to enjoy the comforts of home while his own men are in the field.  This is a problem, unless you are the King.  So David sends orders with Uriah himself, orders instructing faithful Uriah to be sent on a suicide mission and killed.  David can order that – it’s good to be the King.  And Uriah is killed, and David takes Bathsheba to be his wife, and a son is born, and David thinks everything is fine, everything is hunky dory, because he is the King, and surely what he does is fine and good.
          “And the Lord sent Nathan to David.”  God sends in the prophet Nathan to rebuke David.  But Nathan doesn’t come in shouting or railing.  He begins with a story.  “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one, ewe lamb, which he had bought.  And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children.  It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms and it was like a daughter to him.”  Do you see how heavily Nathan is laying this out?  How much he is setting up the story.  And while we listening, we reading the Scriptures can see so clearly where Nathan is going with this – King David doesn’t see.  Nathan continues, “Now, there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”  And what is David’s reaction?  Does he ponder his own actions, his own sinfulness?  No – why he is just and good King David, favored of God.  “Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and he had no pity.”  And as David says these words, David is sure that he is the righteous, the just king.  As the Lord Lives!  As I, God’s appointed King lives, this injustice will not stand!  Let the man be put to death, let him taste the wrath of God and of the King!  How defiant, how swift, how decisive King David is here and now!  And why shouldn’t he be.  David is, after all, a good King, a good man.  Or so he simply assumed.
          And Nathan lays him flat with but a few words – 2 in Hebrew, four in English.  Attah Ha-esh.  “You are the man.”  You, David, who assumed that you were high and mighty and righteous, you who think that you ought to judge the wicked harshly, you yourself have fallen into wickedness!  It is interesting and instructive for us what happens here with David.  David doesn’t view himself as wicked.  If you had asked David if he was a good Jewish man, he would have said sure.  He would have simply assumed it.  But here in lies the problem.  David has become powerful, and he has become self-confidence, sure of his own good, his own righteousness – and in forgetting humility, in his pride, he sins.  And he doesn’t even think about it, because, after all, he’s David, God’s anointed.
          This is the danger that we ourselves face.  We here are Christians.  And we are the good ones, why we are the ones who not only come to church every week, why, we’ll even come to mid-week services, see how good we are!  Even in strange and bad weather, here we are.  And suddenly, the temptation sets in for us to view ourselves as the good ones.  The better ones.  Not like those people over there, not like the rough and coarse folks.  We assume that we are righteous, and that opens the door for sin and temptation, for casual cruelty or senseless sin and vice to sneak on into our lives without even noticing it, without even thinking about it.  And this is why we here, we who are diligent in coming to God’s house, why we ourselves must hear God’s Law, see things from God’s perspective, so that we might know our sin and repent of it, lest we grow in shame and vice.
          Nathan explains things to David from God’s perspective.  “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel.  I anointed you King over Israel, and I delievered you out of the hand of Saul.  And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah.  And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.”  Yes, David, it is good to be the King, but that has nothing to do with how good you are – it has everything to do with how good God is.  All these things, David, you have received simply out of Fatherly Divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worth in you.  And God would freely give you more – if for some reason the multiple wives you had as king weren’t enough and you just had to have another good looking gal, the Lord would have provided!  This is how He has favored you, David.  And yet, what is your reaction?  Why have you despised the Word of the Lord, to do what is evil in His sight.  You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and killed him with the sword of the Amorites.”  Instead of letting Me give to you, David, instead of receiving My blessings, you took and took for yourself.  And there are consequences for David.  The rest of his reign – well, it’s not so good.  There’s violence.  And just as David stole someone’s wives, his wives are going to be publicly stolen – David’s own son does this, runs David out of the palace and sets up a tent on the palace roof and has his way with his dad’s concubines in public so everyone can see it.
          Our sin has consequences, even the sin that we in our pride like to ignore.  Our proud actions and words poison relationships and have consequences that can come back to bite us years down the road.  Sometimes relationships are broken, trusts betrayed, and then they are never the same again.  Defend us and preserve us from this, dear Father in heaven!  And this is why, in His Word, God continually shows us the Law, so that we would examine ourselves and beat down our sin before it rises up and causes us too much problem.  This is why in our Word God continually shows us that He is the One who is good to us, so that we rejoice and delight in Him instead of falling into pride.  Or do you not realize that your devotion, your zeal for God isn’t about you – it is a gift from God that you should rejoice and give thanks to Him for.  In all things God uses His Word and Spirit to defend us, to protect us… and when needed as it often is, to cut us down and bring us back to repentance.  Again, for all things, God intends repentance and redemption, as we see even here.
          For that is how the story ends.  David repents.  “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’  And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die.  Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.’”  So, what do you think?  Was this kind, or was this harsh?  And our first reaction may be to see it as harsh – the child will die.  But let us consider this again from a greater perspective, from God’s perspective.  Nathan is right – God has put away David’s sin.  But there will be trouble.  The son that David loves, Absalom, who should be his heir, will rebel, will harass David, and will die.  There will need to be a new heir, a new son of David to take the throne – but it will not be this young infant, the child conceived in bloodshed and murder.  No, David will comfort his wife Bathsheba, and she will conceive again, and she will give birth to a son named Solomon.  Solomon, who is the wisest of men.  Solomon who builds the Temple.  Solomon who is the ancestor of our Lord Christ Jesus, the true Temple, the Temple that is torn down upon the Cross and rebuilt on the third day as He rises from the tomb all so that the sins of the world, even the sins of David might be put away by the Lord.  In all things, God works, moves us towards repentance and salvation.  This is what He did for David, this is what He does for us by His Word.  God grant us His Holy Spirit, that we might be defended from great shame and vice, and that we might be quickly restored when we do err.  Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and the perfector of our faith.  In the Name of Christ the Crucified, Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was beautiful...something we all need to think about. We are not righteous; we are sinners, just like everyone else.