Sunday Sermon 8th August - David: Too embarrassed to act
The chosen hymns for this week, How great is our God and The Lord’s my shepherd can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
David: Too embarrassed to act
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 8th August.
We have been working through the story of David, working through this complex character.
And this week we see the culmination of all the character traits that David left unfinished.
This story starts with David’s affair with Bathsheba; a very public affair that seems to have no consequences on David. Although God seems to have sorted it out with David, David has never confronted his acts publically. Maybe he is too embarrassed by them, maybe he feels it would make him look weak if he publically apologizes for his actions.
But he is unaware that what he did was public, and his actions then become a standard, an example for the next generation to follow.
The first in line for the throne is his son Amnon, who has a fixation on his half-sister Tamar. He rapes her and then dumps her because if kings can do that kind of thing without consequences (as David did to Bathsheba) then the king’s son can as well. David does nothing as he can’t condemn Amnon as Amnon’s defence would be to point to King David’s actions and ask how they are different. That would embarrass and undermine David’s kingship, so David does nothing.
But Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, doesn’t see it that way and takes matters into his own hand and kills Amnon.
David then freaks out, this isn’t just a rape he is dealing with; this is the killing of a possible king, that can’t go unpunished.
So Absalom goes into exile.
He eventually is invited back to Jerusalem but David never really accepts him back to the family.
This really rankles Absalom.
To David the kingship is a fragile thing.
He has seen the dynasty of Saul crumble after one generation.
He has the possibility of creating a dynasty that can last generations...if he can get the people to believe that they were an anointed family of God that makes them off limits to any old charismatic military leader killing them just to become king.
David can’t have the next in line killed as that sets a precedence that is dangerous.
To Absalom the king is there to create justice for all, no matter who they are, and if a king in waiting has done wrong then they should be punished. David wouldn’t punish Amnon so someone had to do it. Eventually the refusal of David to try to reconcile with his son, and Absalom’s growing resentment of his father, leads to civil war.
We will hear how that goes after our prayer...
2 Samuel 18: 1-15 & 31-33
creator of all that we can see, our light and guide in every darkness.
We come before you today as we are: some rejoicing and celebrating, some unsure and uncertain, some broken and fearful and doubtful,
but all of us united in one truth, that we are forever loved by you.
Our world is full of trouble, so once again we seek your wisdom in our time of need,
We are aware that there things that we have done that we shouldn’t have, and we give you those things in silence:
and there are things that we have not done that we should have done, and we give you those things in our silence:
Help us to see these flaws and to change.
To not be satisfied with the status quoi of our life but to seek it to be better.
To be trusting of you, the God of rainbows and promises, of joy and love.
To be faithful to your ways, to see the wisdom of the life of your Son and to strive to follow him in our thoughts and in our actions.
Help us as we journey in the unknown footsteps of tomorrow, to look back on those who have gone before us,
to be guided towards your kingdom, your people, and a life lived in praise and in honour of you.
On this day, where we are, with or without people beside us, but always in the company of angels,
we give thanks for all that we are, all that we have, all that we can do, all that we can be,
in Jesus’ name.
What makes this passage so sad is that it didn’t need to happen.
If David had listened to Nathan the prophets’ first warning about where to find God and decided that his children would find God, not in a temple but in David’s actions towards them...
If David hadn’t had the affair with Bathsheba but had set a moral standard for his children to follow...
David’s affair with Bathsheba was very public, if his repentance had equally been in public then that would have set a moral standard of right and wrong to his children...
If David had punished his son for his actions to Tamar...
If David had tried to understand his son Absalom...
If David had truly done the hard work of trying to reconcile with his son Absalom instead of some token gestures...
It was as if David had suddenly found himself at the edge of the cliff and was terrified at how he had managed to get there, and he had failed to see all the steps he had already taken to get himself there.
David was the father who failed to be a father figure.
The standard setter that failed to set standards for himself.
The hero that failed to act heroically...and now it has all come home to roost.
Right at the very start of this series we talked about ripple effects.
That if we were going to create ripples then we might as well create good ripples.
In this story we see the long term effects of ripples of indifference and inaction.
David used his commander of the armies Joab to kill Bathsheba’s husband Uriah.
Joab has continually seen himself as the one that deals with all the problems that David is too embarrassed to deal with.
If someone needed killed but David couldn’t be seen to kill them then Joab was the go to guy.
In this scenario Joab sees the son of David as just another embarrassing problem.
David can’t be seen to kill his son, what kind of monster would that make him?
So Joab knows what he has to do, what he has always done for David...get rid of the embarrassing problem, just make it go away.
If there is one lesson to be learnt here it is that if we have a problem then deal with it as soon as is possible.
Imagine the path that God has set of us as a simple straight line...when we go off that line, the longer we go off the line the harder it will be.
If we deal with it early on it might just be we face embarrassment.
Deal with it later and it is so much harder to deal with.
Here’s the thing.
At some point we might think that the problem is now too big to deal with....
But that doesn’t end things, it just makes things worse.
Here’s the other thing, it is never too late to deal with the problem.
You might think that it is too late for David now to deal with the problem as his son is now dead.
But that hasn’t sorted out the problem; the problem is David’s character.
The problem now is David had given Joab the authority to do what he wants to protect the king.
The problem now is that when David dies there will be a bloodbath between all his sons to see who will be the next king.
And that will happen because David never deals with the problem.
The reason this is important to us is that like David mess, our mess never needs to be this way.
I know that following the way of God seems hard.
I know that following the way of God feels like a lot of commitment.
But the end result of following God’s way is that we end up with a life that is worth having.
I am sure that if we had taken that young shepherd boy that had ambitions to be something more, and we said to him, ‘You can be king...but it will be a kingship full of regrets and guilt and shame. A kingship where your own sons will resent you and your daughters will never feel safe. A kingship that will be full of fear and that you can’t trust anyone...’
I am sure that shepherd boy would have said it wasn’t worth it.
But what if he had not just become king?
What if he had become a servant king?
What if he saw his role as creating a kingship of honour, that his life was an example to follow, that he saw his role to use his power to improve the character of his children and other people’s children?
What would his inheritance have been then?
That is why Christ is such an example to us all.
That is why Christ is called the King of kings.
That is why Christ is our hope and not David.
I was recently involved with a really messy situation.
This man was getting married.
But this man’s parents split up just after he was born.
Decades later and the couple are working out who should go to the wedding.
He has his mum of course.
His dad is dead, but the widow of his dad is still alive and sees him as like a son.
The mum and the step-mum have never ever met.
Do they want the first time these two important women in his life meeting to be at the wedding?
Trust me; I have led enough weddings to know how awkward this kind of thing can be.
To do the tough thing would be to try to get them together in an environment of forgiveness and reconciliation.
To do the easy thing is to feel it isn’t your problem and just see what would happen. Invite the two of them and if one decides it is too embarrassing to go then fine.
Or maybe the two of them go and then they fight at the wedding, but how could he have seen that situation happening? So if it happens it is embarrassing, but not his fault.
I am glad to say that man decided to do the right thing, the hard thing, the embarrassing thing to try to get the two women together.
And lots of tears, lots of uncertain talking, hearts that had good will and three bottles of white wine later...the two women were hugging and hoping to set up a what’s-up group.
I know doing the right thing is hard.
But God has a path for us that is good.
And if we take the easy route then it isn’t just that we avoid being embarrassed or we have more time to ourselves, the truth is we create a world that really is a lesser life.
If we take nothing else from David’s life, then let us take that.
The life God wants for us is a better life, and all the hard work is worth it in the end.
Let us pray
Almighty, loving God,
in you compassion you sent your Son to shine his light into the darkness of our lives and reveal all the things that we deliberately hide there.
In love you guide us toward a new life and a new perspective, but that means facing and rejecting our old life and our old ways of seeing things.
It can be hard rejecting a life that has gotten us here, maybe bruised and damaged, but got us here...and risk living a different, maybe more vulnerable life.
This day, in the midst of pain and disease, and still suffering under the impacts of pandemic and climate change,
we pray for change in the hearts and minds of each of us that we might see again the glory of your creation, and our duty to protect it.
This day we ask for your blessing on our community, this parish, this area, as it too seeks to find
a way forward into an uncertain future,
we pray for change in the way we interact with each other,
that we might have the courage to be open to each other about the fears and uncertainties we now need to live with,
that we might be willing to risk a greater sharing of our life and a greater generosity with our time,
that we might take the time to see the good that is all around us, and appreciate the light of your Son in the hearts and actions of others and feel hope in seeing your presence in our lives through their love.
This day as we seek to do your work and love your people
we pray that new perspectives will be heard, that we will change and grow and maintain what is valuable and enhance what is better.
We pray that your love will be known to each of us and all those that we meet,
help us to find the glory in our everyday lives and share it with a world so in need of your voice.