Sunday Sermon 15th August


The chosen hymns for this week, Lord who in thy perfect wisdom and I have a dream a man once said can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.

Today’s reading ends the story of David we have been following this summer. The first sentence in the Good News translation tells us David died.

David died.

We’ve followed David from his anointing by Samuel while David was a young shepherd boy, through his confrontation and victory over Goliath,

-his rivalry with and eventual succession of King Saul,

-his consolidation of power and making Jerusalem his capital,

-bringing the Ark of the Covenant to the city and his ecstatic dancing before it, -his adulterous and murderous relationship with Bathsheba,

-his confrontation with the prophet Nathan,

-the death of his son Absalom while trying to overthrow his father.

Finally, this week, we read the verse “David died and was buried in David's City.”

And now we have to transition to a new King. What will that be like?

It is easy to skim over this story and get to the good bits, where God is pleased that Solomon has asked for wisdom to rule with justice, and we get warm fuzzy feelings, that this is a good guy and all will be well.

However, it is easy to skip the earlier verses and chapters 1 and 2 where it is not so certain and good.

In verse 3 we are told Solomon loved the Lord and followed the instructions of his father.

But he also made sacrifices at the altar – not the sign of a confident leader or one fully trusting in God, but hinting at older, more pagan worship of Baal as the Canaanites did.

So a cloud hangs over his actions and character here.

And if we read chapters one and two in 1Kings, it is like reading a political novel full of power, intrigue, manipulation, and violence.

These chapters are shocking in their brutal honesty of how Solomon consolidates his throne over against his older brother Adonijah.

One thing about the Bible, it doesn’t hold back on telling us the truth about power.


Walter Brueggemann remarks that I and II Kings are written from the perspective of those sympathetic with the prophets.

In other words, we’re not reading the press releases from the palace; we’re reading sermons from the pulpits out on the margins.

From the perspective of the prophets, rooted in Torah, Brueggemann suggests that the book of Kings might more appropriately be entitled “Kings?”

Kings with a question mark implies that this is the story of how the kings lost their legitimacy. This is the story of the decline and fall of Israel.

Like David’s story, these stories continue to ask us how much of these are our stories.

Then we come to chapter 3 and Solomon’s prayer asking not for power or riches but for wisdom. We see a different side of Solomon; one marked by humility and honesty.

And just how pleased is the Lord with Solomon’s request? The Lord qualifies it.

In verse 14, the Lord’s promise to Solomon, complete with the wealth and honour not asked for, is all conditional.

The Lord says it all depends on whether Solomon will ‘walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments’.

‘walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments’.

It was noted back in v. 3 that Solomon loved the Lord and walked in the statutes of his father David.

But God demands he will walk in his ways, not David’s.

It is not so much whether Solomon will continue to observe the religious rituals of the cult, or how lavish his offerings might be, but how he lives as a human being and as a king.

The same Solomon who submits himself before God at the beginning of his kingship is the same Solomon who ruthlessly seizes power; who loves God and also loves many foreign women.

It’s a complex story of a real man, a real king, who both sincerely loves God and wants to do God’s will as well as having no qualms about ruthlessly using power.

At this point in this story, we don’t know how Solomon will turn out.

Will this new ruler succumb to the trappings of power? Will he keep to his high ideals?


Will he rule with wisdom?

It can feel like wisdom is in short supply in our world today, but we need creative, surprising and courageous wisdom if we are to navigate the difficult times in which we find ourselves.

How do we come out of pandemic safely? How can we ensure our economic prosperity? How do we deal with migrants coming across the Channel in boats? How do we tackle climate change? What kind of Church do we want to create? And so on.

There are so many difficult questions demanding an answer. And it will need a great amount of wisdom to answer even one of these questions.

In our lectionary reading today, wisdom is found by uniting ourselves with God, by taking his presence and purpose into ourselves.

This requires two movements in our daily living. Firstly, we need to recapture the discipline of daily spiritual practice – prayer, Scripture reading and God-like action.

Secondly, we need to allow our union with God to overflow into lives of gracious, generous, gentle, and humble living.

It is when we commit to union with God and to living from God’s wisdom, that we are able to bring the life of God into our homes, our churches, our neighbourhoods and our communities.

This means rejecting many of the values of our society – instant gratification and consumerism, accumulation and rampant individualism, protectionism and the avoidance of diversity.

It also means learning to live in the same loving way that Jesus did, for when we all learn to love for the sake of others, we discover the wisdom and life that we all are able to enjoy together.

The quest for wisdom, then, is not just about how we think, but about how we live, and it is only in union with God and in the strength of God’s Spirit that we can hope to embrace this life.

Amen

God, life – your life – is so freely and abundantly available, it pulses in all creation,

and in every human soul.

You faithfully provide for our needs, always remembering your covenant. Let our gratitude overflow in our gifts and offerings,

So that that life may be nurtured, multiplied and shared,


- in all its amazing diversity - through us.

Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

God, in the trouble of this world,

in the confusion of rumour and news,

in the anxiety of daily life,

we pray that you will give us wisdom,

that we may discern between good and evil. Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

We pray for China, where a blast at a warehouse killed at least 50 people; and where the devaluing of the yuan has affected economies worldwide.

for Uganda as hundreds of LGBT people participated in a gay rights march in a country where homosexuality is illegal.

We pray for migrants, who daily put their lives in danger as they seek refuge and safety.

Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer

We pray for the leaders of the nations,

That they may rule with wisdom and justice.

For the peacemakers,

That wisdom guides their thoughts and actions. Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer

We pray for pupils and teachers, and all those returning to their studies.

help us pass on to them the wisdom that has been given down to us from the generations before us.

And For travellers and those on holiday, and for safety from violent storms.

For our town and those who live in it, and for our families, and all we love.

We ask for your wisdom to discern

how to deal with others we meet, live with, and work with.

Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer

Especially we bring to you those we know who have a special need at this time.

(silence)

Give us wisdom and compassion to heal the broken,

defend the weak,

and comfort the sad.

Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer


O God, give us wisdom and discernment. O God, give us the will to be faithful and the power to love. Amen


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