Destined to fail?
2 Samuel 4: 1-12. 2 Samuel 9:1-13.
Before I start this week’s sermon I need to clear up something I said last week.
I had more questions about this one topic than I have ever had over a sermon...ever.
And the question was this, ‘What happened to the dog?’
For those of you who weren’t here last week....
I told a story of when I was on the Isle of Eigg, walking a dog, and the dog had this game where it would run to the edge of the cliff and then slide towards the cliff edge. Which it thought was great, until it slid over the edge.
And I then talked about how we deal with people that get close to the edge.
But I never mentioned what happened then to the dog.
Well the dog slid off the cliff edge and landed on a ledge and then made its way to the beach at the bottom of the cliffs and all I could hear was this dog frantically barking. I didn't know if it was wounded or what so I ran down the edge of the cliff to help it.
Only to find that taking on cliffs hadn’t been exciting enough for this dog and now it was trying to take on a highland cow, a cow with the biggest horns that I had ever seen in my life.
As soon as the dog saw me it ran between my legs and from between my legs started barking as fierce as it could.
The highland cow, then thinking it was being picked upon, decided that enough was enough and put its head down and charged us.
Before I knew it the dog was halfway back up the cliffs leaving me to face the charging cow.
I decided that you don't negotiate with a charging cow and joined the dog scrambling back up the cliff.
You don’t negotiate with a charging cow.
I think you would agree that those are wise words.
I’m just not too sure that what we run away from is a charging cow.
I wonder if sometimes we run away from stuff, because we think it is a rampaging highland cow with big horns, when we should be stopping to do something.
Like our situation today.
In our passages today we are talking about a dynasty change.
In those days politics was like the game of chess.
In the game of chess the object of the game it to keep the king alive, everything else can be sacrificed as long as the king stays alive.
And you can’t keep the king alive just by keeping quiet and minding your own business. You keep the king alive by killing off all the other potential kings.
When Solomon became king of Israel the first thing he did was kill off his brothers.
If that is what you are willing to do with your own family then what would you do when you are becoming king over someone else's family?
Everyone expects David to kill off all of Saul's family to make sure that none of them try to claim the throne.
So much so that in our first reading we have two of David’s servants thinking that they would get into David’s good books by killing off Ishbosheth, one of Saul’s remaining sons.
David then says that they shouldn't have done that and kills off these assassins.
That doesn’t not mean that the people felt that David’s hands were clean. Remember last year a reporter that had been attacking the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was murdered in the embassy in Turkey?
At first the Saudi government said that the reporter had left the embassy by another door. Then the Turkish government said that they had a recording of the killing. And then the Crown Prince said that it was a rebel group of government officials that had done the killing in the embassy and he personally would investigate and whoever had killed the reporter would face the full sanctions of the state.
And maybe those that had actually killed the reporter will be punished, but the suspicion is that those that ordered the killing will never face justice.
Never negotiate with a charging cow.
You just try to get out of the way.
So years later David is trying to find out if any of Jonathan’s family are still alive.
Jonathan was another son of Saul but also a friend of David.
It may be that David's servants are conflicted here.
Does David want to find out about any relatives of Jonathan to help them because they were friends, or kill them because they may try to claim the throne back?
As far as Mephibosheth and his servants are concerned they may be facing a charging cow here.
But as it turns out David's motives are honourable and all is well.
But that got me thinking about all the Mephibosheth’s out there.
Here is a man that could have been king, could have had a very privileged life, could have had everything, and at the age of five everything is taken away from him.
His nurse drops him and he becomes a cripple.
He loses all his privilege, he loses the chance to grow up defending himself.
As far as the world is concerned God has deserted him because all ailments were punishment from God.
As far as the world was concerned these things hadn’t just happened to the boy, God had made them happen.
God had turned his back on Saul and his family, this boy’s family being wiped out was a sign of that, this boy being crippled was a sign of that.
This boy was in front of a charging cow, and the one thing you didn't do was help him.
Because to help him was to put yourself in front of the charging cow.
And who would be stupid enough to do that?
It was a big thing for David to go against that way of thinking.
David could have said, ‘The boy deserves what has happened to him.’
David could have said, ‘I owe nothing to the boy.’
David could have said, ‘I have my own family to look after now.’
David could have said, ‘You know, it is a real shame, but what am I expected to do?’
And David said none of those things.
David never saw a charging cow to be avoided.
David saw a person in need, and helped.
But that didn’t just happen.
One day David asked, ‘Is there anyone left of Saul’s family? If there is, I would like to show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake.’
David had been reflecting on his friendship with Jonathan. Maybe he had walked the palace gardens and something in the garden reminded him of when he would walk those paths with Jonathan. And remembering that friendship he wondered if anyone of his family had survived.
I believe that one of the reasons many churches don’t do much is because they don’t reflect.
They just toddle on minding their own business and not really thinking about what God would want them to do as individuals or as a church.
I think one of the reasons we have been a church that punches above its weight is because we have in the past reflected.
What could we do to help justice for farmers abroad? Well we could set up a Fair Trade shop...and we did.
What could we do to help seriously ill people abroad? Well we could send nurses across to South Africa to teach people how to look after loved ones...and we did.
What could we do to reach all the children that don’t come to Sunday School? Well we could try having a youth group on a Friday night and see if they would come along to that instead...and we did.
When the church gave you all a five pound note and told you to spend it as if it was God’s five pound note, that helped you to reflect and you did all kinds of things with those five pound notes.
Last week was harvest and so many people were helped by your generosity, because you reflected on people who were struggling to buy food, reflected on people caught in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, and you didn’t say,
‘Those people deserve what is happening to them.’
‘I owe these people nothing.’
‘I have my own family to look after.’
‘You know it is a real shame, but what am I expected to do?’
We have reflected, and we have acted.
And I want us to do it again.
Because I believe that God always wants us to reflect and seek his will.
And we are going to give you a different way to do that.
Now fasting isn’t about just not eating.
Fasting is about reflecting on God’s will.
To take our eyes off all the distractions of this world, so that we can concentrate on what God wants us to do.
And we have given you a hand-out today to help you with this.
Fasting reminds us of what we have, and how much of it we have, of how generous God has been to us that we have all this food.
Just like David had everything, but what was he to do with all that wealth and power and influence? Just keep it to himself or use it to help others, like Mephibosheth?
Now here’s the thing.
I was told about this initiative with fasting and trying to get as many churches involved with this during this week of reflection on poverty.
And something dawned on me...I have tablets that I need to take to keep well. These tablets specifically say that I have to take them with food.
Should I not take those tablets or should I break the fast?
The answer is, use common sense.
I take my tablets first thing in the morning. So I decide that I will have a 12 hour fast staring at 10am. I can take my tablets with my breakfast and then start the fast.
Or don’t fast with food.
It may be for a modern generation you can fast from technology.
No phones, no radio, no television for a day.
And during that day reflect on those around the world that have none of these things. What could we do to help them?
Or reflect on people in our own society that have no internet capacity, how are they supposed to do job applications? Without internet banking how are they supposed to get their money when there are no banks in the Hillfoots?
One day David is walking through his gardens and it reminds him of a time when he used to walk those paths with his friend. And that reflection inspired him to do something good.
It is rare that we accidentally do something good.
It is sadly the case that more often we accidentally allow hurt to be done by our indifference.
Let’s see if we can change that.
We have reflected in the past and done amazing things, let’s not be scared to reflect again.
At the very least God will remind us of the many blessings we have been given.
And who knows, maybe God will inspire us to do something good.