Sunday Sermon 11th July
The chosen hymns for this week, Sing of the Lord's Goodness and Jesus Put This Song Into our Hearts can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Our reading is from the Old Testament, the Second Book of Samuel, Chapter 5, and reading verses 1 to 5 and then from verse 12 to 19.
So reading from the Second Book of Samuel, Chapter 5, and reading verses 1 to 5 and then from verse 12 to 19.
1 David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand.
2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark.
3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart
4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it.
5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.
Now at verse 12:
12 Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.
13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.
14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might,
15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.
17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD.
18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty.
19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
May God bless this reading of His Word, and may He lead us to a better understanding.
I invite you all, no matter where you are, or when you are watching or listening to this, to join with us and to come before God in prayer. So let us all pray:
Eternal God, when we consider the vastness of the Universe, we see that you have arranged everything perfectly, and we are in awe of your power and wisdom. As we explore your creation, and learn more about it, we see that it is amazingly complex and wonderful. We are so small that we can feel insignificant, but we thank you that by sending Jesus to us, you have clearly shown that you love and care for every individual, and that there is no limit to that love.
We thank you for your continuing care for us, and for all creation. Thank you for all the material things that you have provided for us. We are grateful too, for all the people who help and support us in so many ways, and especially for those whose work contributes to the health and welfare of others. The current pandemic has clearly shown that we are all dependent upon each other for many things. Lord, may we have the opportunity to do our part, in helping and encouraging the folk we meet.
Loving God, we confess that we fail to live our lives in the ways that Jesus taught us. We are all your children and you value each, and every, one, but so often we put ourselves first and do not think about the effect of our actions on other people.
You have given us all the rich resources of this planet, but we do not always use them wisely. Sometimes we waste valuable food, and often we use far more energy than is necessary. We ignore the fact that our over-use of resources, not only prevents others from having a fair share, but it also damages our environment.
We all like to buy what we think of as “bargains”, but when we see goods with very low prices, we don’t stop to think about the likely working conditions for the workers who made them.
Merciful Father, forgive us for our lack of thought, and for our lack of concern for our neighbours, wherever they are, all around the world.
There are problems of many kinds in the world, conflicts, natural disasters, famine, disease and poverty, and it is easy to feel that we have little, or no, influence on these situations. Compassionate God, we ask that your Spirit will. guide the world leaders, and those who have influence, to look for peaceful ways to end disputes and violence. Help us too, to be more careful in the use of your generous gifts and may we be willing to share them with others.
All these things we ask in Jesus’ name.
Now I invite you to join in the prayer that Jesus gave us.
Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation.
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever.
It is very tempting when reading this passage to talk about the dancing. I don’t mean like going to the Plaza on a Saturday night, as was common years ago, or going to a night club in the great metropolis of Stirling, or even the school proms which are common nowadays.
I mean, dancing as worship, often called liturgical dancing. Whit! Dancing in the kirk! There’ll be none of that here! I can hear the comments right now if I were ever to suggest such a thing.
Dancing in the church is controversial. Dancing for God’s glory causes comment and tutting.
Not everyone was pleased with David’s dancing either. One of his wives, Michal the daughter of Saul, we are told was disgusted with him.
In the part we don’t read we are told Michal expresses her ridicule, however, when David returns to their home. Her words to David ooze both sarcasm and anger. Saul’s daughter accuses him of behaving badly, shamelessly exposing himself in front of lowly peasant women.
David doesn’t apologise or defend himself.
So what is going on in this passage?
David is now the undisputed king of Israel and Judah. The ark had been the centre of Jewish religious life, but had fallen out of use.
God first gave the Israelites this ark as they travelled from Egypt toward the Promised Land. It was normally kept in the Holy of Holies, the centre of the tabernacle.
There it played an immensely important role in Israel’s religious life.
This ark didn’t just symbolize God’s holy presence among God’s people as they travelled. It also contained three things that told what God had done for Israel.
Inside the ark were some manna, Aaron’s rod and the stone tablets of Moses’ law.
Thirty years earlier, however, the Israelites had taken the ark from the tabernacle where it belonged and onto the battlefield where it didn’t belong.
They’d hoped that it would bring them luck and success.
The Philistines, however, captured the ark.
But once they installed that ark in one of their temples, it wreaked such havoc that they bundled it back to Israel, leaving it with a priest named Abinadab.
There, however, Israel seems to have forgotten all about the ark of God.
David was still quite a new king of Israel. So, he needed to consolidate his power in Israel.
He set up a new capital at Jerusalem, but he needed something else to unite the people. He needed to bring God into the equation.
The best way to do that was to bring the most important symbol of God’s power and presence to Jerusalem. Now it was time for the Ark to be brought from Abinidab’s house to reside in a place of honour – in David’s capital – where it could serve as a symbol of national unity.
So a great procession was organised. So, David had the Ark loaded on a cart pulled by oxen and they began to make their way to Jerusalem.
All along the way the people celebrated “with all their strength, with songs, zithers, harps, tambourines, rattles, and cymbals.” In other words, they made a lot of noise. Everything was going well until they reached the property of Obed-edom.
The creators of the lectionary decided that it was best to skip over the events at Obed-edom’s house. In the verses we skipped over, an accident occurred and someone got killed.
The oxen slipped and the Ark nearly fell off the cart. One of the priests who was accompanying the Ark, called Uzzah, put his hands out, touching the Ark, hoping to keep it from falling into the mud. Unfortunately for him, you’re not supposed to touch the Ark. And God struck down Uzzah.
David became afraid of God following Uzzah’s death when he touched the ark and left the ark at the house of Obed-edom for three months.
However, when he heard that Obed-edom was blessed, David went and retrieved the ark, and continued with his parade, worshipping the Lord by dancing with all his might and singing at the top of his lungs.
This time there was a change. Verse 13 implies that priests, not an ox cart, now carry God’s ark.
When God originally gave the Israelites the ark, God insisted that their priests always carry it. Even they, however, weren’t supposed to actually touch this sacred box. God told the priests to carry the ark by holding onto poles that ran through its golden rings.
What’s more, every time they carry the ark just a few feet, David sacrifices to the Lord. Clearly he has a renewed sense of God’s holiness as symbolized in this box.
David leads the renewed parade. David dances before the Lord. He’s in a joyful mood. He doesn’t care what people think.
When David finally reached Jerusalem, he put the Ark in a tent and he offered sacrifices in thanksgiving to God.
He also distributed food to the people. Everyone in the city received a loaf of bread, a date cake, and a raisin cake.
This display reminds us that worship and service go together.
This story today is a story of restoration and renewal.
The Ark of the Covenant is being restored to its rightful place at the centre of worship.
The country is being restored after a period of calamitous civil war.
It’s a time of healing and new beginnings.
When David or his people did not follow God’s direction things did not go well – David put the ark on an ox-cart initially which led to calamity, and Uzzah touched the Ark.
But when due reverence was given to God’s direction things improved.
Listening and reflecting on what God wants from us leads to right living.
We face a challenge in our church just now. We are being asked to change and renew. We can take note of the ark narrative which described the process of renewal as a communal movement from disaster to blessing.
We need to listen to what God wants from us.
We can dance with David or look on from afar like Michal and berate the process.
We can be wholehearted participants in God’s work.
Ask yourself this:
What will cause you to dance before the Lord?
What stirs you to celebrate the presence of God?
When we can answer this, perhaps we will see renewal in the church.