Sunday Sermon 18th July - Where God can be found

The chosen hymns for this week, All over the world and Let us build a house can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.

David: Where God can be found

2 Samuel 7: 1-17 Kay

Prayer

18/7/21

Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 18th July.


We have been working through the story of David, working through this complex character.

We have been through all his ups and downs.

And at this point in his history things are calm.

There is no obvious storm on the horizon and David can have a time to reflect and enjoy his life.

And an idea comes into his head.

The presence of God in the community has been symbolized in the Ark of the Covenant; a moveable container that holds the Ten Commandments as given to Moses in two stone tablets.

What if that Ark was kept in a Temple?

And that seemingly simple question then creates an even more profound question... Where can God be found?

And this reflection is what today’s reading is about.


We will hear that from Kay as she leads us in the readings and prayer...
















Sermon.

Ok I have been off for two weeks.

When I left you David had just escaped from King Saul trying to kill him and David has used the love of his wife Michal to escape his clutches.

In the process we have seen that David is goal centred that than character centred.

His goal is to become king, and not like Saul...Saul is king but it is an unstable reign. What David is looking for is a kingship that can be proven to be ordained by God; that he has a divine right to be there that no one can question or challenge.

Unfortunately what David has failed to see is that what has undermined Saul’s kingship is his unpredictable character, and if David is not smart then what will undermine his own kingship will be his own character.


Over the two weeks that I was off Anne took us from David managing the political manoeuvres needed to become king; making sure that he had no part in Saul’s death. The last thing David wants to do is create precedence where people become king by killing off the last king. What David wants is a narrative where Saul was appointed by God as king, and only God could take that kingship away from him. And so when David becomes king it is God who put him there...and only God can challenge that.

Then David tries to cement that link between God and his kingship by bringing the Ark of the Covenant, the true symbol of God’s presence, into the capital city. He is setting himself up as David, God’s king, God’s champion, who is blessed by God.

Only it backfires.

God is not as controllable and placid as David wants him to be.

And David decides to keep the symbol of God at arm’s length.


And that brings us to today’s reading.

And at the political level it is a very simple reading.

Things are going well in David’s reign.

He has unified the nation. He is lord over everything he sees.

And once again David sees one fly in the ointment...God.


If only he can centralise the religion.

Just now there are worship places on nearly every hill in the country.

That’s a lot of priests to control in places where David can’t control them.

If he is meant to be God’s champion he needs the people to see God is on his side.

What if he can create a Temple to God where everyone has to come to the temple?

And of course this Temple will be right beside the palace.

When people come to worship God then they see the palace of God’s king right beside the Temple.

There is God, and beside God there is God’s champion.

That would secure his dynasty.




Of course David is never going to say out loud that he wants to control God, maybe in his head he has convinced himself that he is doing a wonderful thing for God and God should be grateful.


And, to be fair, Nathan the prophet doesn’t see any harm in what David is suggesting.

But God does.


And here is the tenderest of things...

God cares more about David than he does about himself.

God doesn’t care about a building, doesn’t care about how people see him.

God cares for the people.


You see for David this was a great time. He had achieved all that he wanted to.

He was king and the people loved him.

This was a quiet time.


But God saw this is a turning point, a defining moment.

This was not quite a last chance for David, but it was very close to it.

Because David had a moment to choose what was important; was he trying to create a personal legacy or would he look at his children as that legacy.


And that is basically the choice that God is giving David.

‘Yes David, you could build me a Temple, and everyone would say that what a wonderful king was David. But what if I refuse to let you do that?

I am going instead to make you a promise. One of your sons will be king after you. So make that your legacy. All that effort you have put into creating your legacy, put that effort into your children, make them your legacy.’


In a real sense God was saying, ‘I don’t want to be found in a building. I want to be found in the lives of your children.’


We will see in the next few weeks that David’s character flaws start to show big time.

He doesn’t invest in his children. The only person David ever invests in is himself.

And unfortunately the end result is that his children follow his example.

We saw in the very first week we looked at David that actions have consequences; the idea being that we are going to create ripples anyway, so why not create ripples of good.

But David, David believed his own hype. He was chosen by God, so he could do anything he wanted because if he wanted it, then God wanted it.

And his children followed his example.

They were all the chosen ones who could do no wrong...because they were chosen by God.

We will see over the next few weeks that it will become messy and bloody and cruel and vicious.

And it is all because David refused to invest in those that would come after him.

He set an example, he just didn’t realise what a bad example that was.


And now that message is there with us.

As a church we are going to have some very hard questions to face about buildings.

As I have mentioned before the National Church bodies have ordered the local presbyteries to sort out our building problem.

We have over 1000 buildings/churches and they want that down to about 600 places that ministers can look after.


And here is the thing.

I don’t think the situation has changed from David’s day.

And I don’t think that God has changed his mind as to the solution.

I think no matter how much we would like to think otherwise, I think no matter what decision we try to come to, there will be an element of self interest in our suggestions.

Let’s make this very personal to Alva.

I can imagine us arguing...

‘I think Alva should stay open and have a minister, because we are a relatively strong church. We have shown what we can create volunteers. We have shown that we can adapt and try new things. We have a Kirk session that can disagree with fundamental decisions but do it in a way that still respects the others point of view.’


And all of that may be true.

But the truth behind the truth is that we like worshiping in our own building. And if Tillicoultry or Menstrie or Tullibody parish churches said the same thing we would say, ‘Well you would expect them to say that but the real reason they are saying it is that they want to keep their buildings’...and that would be true of us as well.

The truth behind the truth is that we would still feel in control if we kept our building.

We would feel that God was nearer us if the church was in our town rather than theirs.

We could hold onto God a wee bit more if here is where we worship rather than there.


The other truth is, as David suspected, is that God is not that easily controlled.


But there is one more truth that we need to remember, the one that David failed to truly understand or appreciate...

The most tender, the most wondrous of truths...

God cares more about David than he does about himself.

God doesn’t care about a building, doesn’t care about how people see him.

God cares for the people, he cares about us.


God doesn’t want others to see him in a building, no matter how glorious it may be.

God wants others to see him within us.

Our legacy will not be this building.


We have a chance to make our legacy the time and effort and compassion and care that we put into others.

David had that chance and he blew it.

Now we have that chance.


Let’s presume that we don’t have a future.

Just pretend for a moment that we only had a few years before the building was closed down.

If we have no future then there is nothing that the national church can do to us. They can’t threaten to close us down because we are going to be closed down anyway.

So how would we want to be remembered?

That we spent thousands, millions on the church building and left behind a beautiful monument that was turned into flats.

Or that we were such a compassionate people, a caring people, a joyous people,

that people could remember that we laughed in church and cried in church,

that we celebrated with such generosity when things went well,

that we were such a comfort to people when they were struggling.


If that’s how we would want to be remembered,

then why not become that church,

why not become that people?


We have time, we can do it.


Prayer

Heavenly Father

Your love has never found its home in this building. It is too cold, too hard, too unyielding.

We rejoice that our love has found its home in our heart.

And that’s where you want your love to be, in your people.

Where it can move about in the community and touch the lives of others.

Where it can see the distress of others anc bring comfort.

Where it can change lives for the better.


Your love has no place in any building.

If we feel it in here then it is because we have brought it in with us.

Or maybe, when we feel distant from you, it is others have brought it in with them.

And in their generosity of spirit we have managed to glimpse your love and hope again, and we have been reminded of how much we have needed your presence in our lives.


May we in this one instance be selfish, and take your love with us out into the world.

May we let your love flourish and grow in the world, may it blossom and create great fruit of generosity and care.

This we ask in Jesus name.

Amen.



The COVID restrictions are very fluid just now. But at least for next week if you want a place in the church service then phone me at 01259760262.

But if you are unable to attend for whatever reason you can also watch them the way you are watching this service.


We are also open for anyone to come in for private prayer and reflection on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10.30am and 12.30pm.


Benediction.


As we finish this act of worship and begin our act of service in the world...


May we know God listens to us, that God knows our needs.

May we in turn listen to God and We discover his ways.

So may we travel together, always carrying God in our heart, today and every day.

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