St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-12-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-12-2018

Who Could Stand?

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33, Psalm 130, Ephesians 4:25-5:2, John 6:35, 41-51

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, Amen.

As we’ve progressed through the story of King David in 2 Samuel over the last few weeks we saw the fighting, the threats to David’s life, and his eventual victory over Saul. God, through Samuel, anointed David to be king much further back in the story, but it didn’t come to fruition without a lot of struggle.

Per God’s plan, David did become the sovereign ruler but then something happened to David’s character; the young man who boasted of killing bears with a club, the one who struck-down Goliath with a sling, the one who out-maneuvered Saul; was soon found lounging around in his comfortable home while his army was doing battle. Then, with all that idle time on his hands, he winds up getting himself in trouble with Bathsheba. Using his power as commander-in-chief he tries to cover it up by calling her husband home from battle. When that plan doesn’t work, as if he hadn’t dug himself in deep enough already, he further abuses his power by arranging for Uriah to be killed in battle.

Through skill and determination (and a good bit of help from God), David had become the supreme, unchallengeable ruler of Israel; but now it seems that power has gone to his head; in fact, power has corrupted him entirely.

Now, in today’s reading, we find him back in the chaos, the chaos of his own making, sending out his army to fight against his own son who had risen against him in rebellion.

God, this time through the Prophet Nathan, had told him this would happen after his messy dealings with Bathsheba and her husband saying “I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house…”

Yet, in the end, unity of the nation was restored and maintained; David died of old age, not by the sword; and throughout history, in spite of his many errors, is revered as one of the greatest leaders of Israel.

Among the many lessons we can learn from the story of David is how power can corrupt even those called by God. We also learn of God’s persistence in seeing his plan to fulfillment even when those he calls forget who gave them their position of power or, worse still, boldly turn away from that source of power.

And yet one more lesson, and this is a big one, we learn that sovereign power in human hands is nothing like sovereign power in God’s hands!

 

We don’t know who wrote the Psalm assigned for today, #130, but even if it wasn’t David it could certainly apply to his life story. Let me read it for you…

Out of the [chaos] I cry to you, O LORD.
Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O LORD, should [count our sins], Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
O [people], hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem [us] from all [our] iniquities. (Psalm 130 paraphrased)

 

… If you should [count our sins], Lord, who could stand? Does that sound like human nature? I mean, how often have you held, in your mind, an account of hurtful things someone has said or done to you? (Guilty here) How many times have you shunned someone for even one slight? (Guilty here) How many times have you held a grudge for all perpetuity? (Guilty here)

And, how does your position of power when you have it, held against another who doesn’t have power, affect your choice to count their sins and hold on to the resentment; How is it different when you’re the one with enough and have no need of anything from the other compared to when the other has something you need. My guess, based on my own experience, is that you’re much quicker to forgive, to let it go, when it is to your advantage; when you get something out of it.

But this is not the way of our God. (And will I add, Thank God)!

I’m sure we can all agree that God is sovereign; that God is the supreme, unchallengeable ruler of heaven and earth. And God certainly needs nothing from us for his personal satisfaction! So how much trouble would we be in if God acted the way we act?!

But in God “there is steadfast love” and “great power to redeem”! In spite of our failures, sins, and shortcomings, God will not keep an account, will not shun, will not hold a grudge, but will hear us when we cry out from the chaos, even the chaos of our own making, and respond with steadfast love!

 

In matters of sovereign power, God is nothing like us mere mortals; God is not inclined to abuse of power, not susceptible to uncontrolled temptation, not willing to turn his back to us. But then, in other ways God is like us. God is subject to being deeply affected, moved with pity and being responsive when he hears our cries. God is consistently willing to open himself to the vulnerability of being in a loving relationship with us sinful humans.

For God, then, use of his sovereign power is not a matter of force; not strong-arming us into doing things his way, for his sake; rather, God’s sovereign power is the exertion of unconditional, committed, steadfast love.

On that we can stand!

Amen

 

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
18:5 Then king David ordered Joab and Abishai [uh-BIHSH-ay-i] and Ittai [IT-ay-i], saying, “Deal gently for my sake with [my son] Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom.
18:6 So the army [of king David] went out into the field against [the rebels of] Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim.
18:7 The [rebels] of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men.
18:8 The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.
18:9 Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.
18:15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.
18:31 Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord, king [David]! For the LORD has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.”
18:32 The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with [my son] Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.”
18:33 The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Psalm 130
130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
130:2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
130:3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
130:4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
130:6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
130:7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
130:8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

 

Ephesians 4:25-5:2
4:25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.
4:26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
4:27 and do not make room for the devil.
4:28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
4:29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.
4:31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,
4:32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,
5:2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

John 6:35, 41-51
6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
6:41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
6:42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
6:43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves.
6:44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.
6:45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.
6:46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.
6:47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.
6:48 I am the bread of life.
6:49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
6:50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”