FINISHED WITH COMPLICATED KING DAVID

That’s it.  I’m done!

Yesterday I finished the 8 week series on the relationships of King David.  You can hear them all on podcast on the tab from my blog or on iTunes.  I edited down yesterday’s sermon quite a bit.  As I sat in my study Sunday morning it seemed the sermon was too disjointed and disconnected so lots of material got whittled out.  The good thing about having a blog is that it is a great place to put stuff that got edited out somewhere.  You can think of today’s blog as the Director’s Cut from the sermon.

The first part that got edited was the style in which I delivered the Psalm references.  I decided, instead of breaking it down and letting people flip to them and then read them, I thought it would be better to ‘reference’ them and make my point and move on.  This style worked great in the second service (I think?) but in the first service many people were attempting to keep up.  I made the mistake of making the reference out loud for each one.  I shouldn’t have done that.  But just for making things clearer to anyone who may have been confused, here are the Psalms I referenced:

  1. Psalm 69–problems with no way out
  2. Psalm 51–reveling in forgiveness
  3. Psalm 13–forgotten by God
  4. Psalm 139–hiding from God

I also edited down a lengthy quote from a great book by James Kugel about the authenticity and believability of the David stories.  In the end, I decided this wonderful quote would not have tracked well with the overall motif of the sermon which was a personal relationship with the Lord.  Here is that section, including the quote:

It is this personal nature, the deep humanity of David that draws us to him.  There is a reason his stories are so compelling and his narrative is so meaningful for us.  There is a reason when  I read of his sin of murdering Uriah and why he did it, then I read Psalm 51—there is a reason it tugs at me so.  David is a fallible, flawed, yet an absolutely authentic figure who steps out of the pages of Scripture as someone I think I’ve met before. 

 There is an Old Testament scholar who I like to read, primarily because he writes well but also because I almost never agree with his conclusions.  He is cut out of a liberal Jewish perspective and really thinks most of the Scriptures are a myth.  But even he can’t deny the power of David’s dynamic with God.  This his summary of David.

The David who emerges from this narrative is striking in another way as well:  it would be no exaggeration, I think, to describe him as the most vigorous, realistic and in some ways the most human of all the Bible’s heroes.  If Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah scale the vertical axis of human existence, the one that leads from earth to heaven, David, by contrast, spans a good part of the horizontal one.  The Bible certainly does not idealize him, but he is all the more appealing for that.  No bit of human hope and despair, bravura and foolishness and bitter melancholy, smoldering hatred and deepest love, is foreign to him.  True, a great novelist or playwright could create such a person out of whole cloth, but one might find it appealing to turn that argument on its head.  David may be the Bible’s best character  because he is no character at all. (Kugel p. 492, How to Read the Bible)

 

There is so much about David that strikes us as authentic.  But the most authentic thing he has going for him is this dynamic relationship with the Lord.

Another thing that was edited from the sermon was a bit of summary material from my doctoral work on worship about the Hebrew tendency to be involved personally in the acts and rituals of worship.  I always have to hedge against my tendency to repeat familiar information.  That is why I left this particular bit out as a part of my analysis of what is lacking in our decidedly “impersonal” worship of the very personal Jesus.

This concept has a great impact on our worship as a group of people and as individuals.  Something is lost in our understanding of worship because we’ve lost, or we relegate, the personal experience or the personal involvement in the realm of worship.  The ancients did things like build altars, pour libation offerings, bind the sacrifice, or proceed into the temple.  The old ways seemed to demand that you get your hands dirty with your own involvement.  David personified this, even to the point of artistically and intricately writing his own prayers as an artist crafts a poem.

Compare that to what so many times we do—we slip into the worship service, hope no one sees us, mumble the words to some songs, try not to fall asleep during a sermon, and then get out as quickly as we can.  Is it just me or does what pass for worship in most of our lives just not pass the personal experience muster?

Now that David is over, we turn the page toward Thanksgiving and the Advent season.  Before you know it, the New Year will be here and that will bring many varied preaching opportunities.

 

KING DAVID THE WOMANIZER

The sermon snippet this week is a difficult one.  We think of King David as hero figure but the truth is that when it came to women he was not only not heroic, he was despicable.  This section of the sermon is about midway and serves as the pivot between my description of David’s problems and what it means for us in our sexual relationships.  This week we will be taking the children out of the worship service as it is rather steamy. 

 

David’s first wife was Michal.   Michal was King Saul’s daughter and their marriage was of convenience.  There is evidence that Michal loved David as a teenage girl might love Justin Bieber but there is little evidence that David ever saw her as anything other than a feather in his professional hat.  David, literally and not metaphorically, bought and paid for her.  But she used him too, for a feeling of prestige and he used her for power and even more access to the throne room.  Michal was the sister of David’s best friend and the daughter of his mortal enemy.  Marrying the boss’ daughter is such a cliche.

After things got hot though, there is no evidence that David ever gave Michal the kind of love a wife deserves.  When the assassination squad came to get him he bailed and never, as anyone can tell, lived with Michal as a husband again.  He abandoned her the way a husband leaves after he has graduated from med school and abandons the wife who sacrificed so he could study.

The Bible tells us that Michal never had children.  Now, that might be biology but the way the Scriptures tilt the image it is because David stops having sex with her—he rejects her.

The second woman who often is associated with David is Abigail.  Abigail was an ambitious and business minded woman in her own right and when her husband died after showing himself to be a fool, David took her as a second wife.  True, his first marriage was never dissolved, but as we learned, he’d moved on from Michal even if he’d never given her the courtesy of a divorce.

Abigail and David’s marriage was one of convenience.  Their relationship reminds me of co-workers who, in middle age decide to leave their spouses and move-in together.  There is not really a lot of romance, but it is practical and makes sense to them.  Neither one of them is happy in their current relationship, so why not, they figure.  At least they will have someone to talk to, they think.   The sex wasn’t that good, but the intellectual stimulation kind of made up for it.

The third complicated relationship is the infamous Bathsheba.  One evening the king is restless and can’t sleep and he goes out on the deck to catch a night breeze and what does he behold but the beautiful naked nubile body of a young woman glistening wet and seductively beckoning him in the moonlight.

The middle aged monarch was aroused and in a dog-in-heat series of events he ignores the fact that this woman is married to one of his best generals and he brings her into his bed chambers and commits adultery with her.  The way the Bible depicts the tale you can almost hear their moans of passion inside the King’s bedroom even as the guards weep in disgust and shame in the hallway over their leader’s moral failure.

Of course, as many of you are aware, if you have sex people tend to get pregnant and that is exactly what happened and Bathsheba was late and David tried to quickly cover up his sin by having Bathsheba’s husband, a noble man named Uriah, come home from the war hoping he would quickly have sex with Bathsheba to explain the baby on the way.

No luck.  He wouldn’t bite.  So David had him killed and took Bathsheba to be his wife and then had the audacity to act like no one knew until the bravest man in the Bible, the prophet Nathan, called the king out on his sin.

KING DAVID FOUND HIMSELF AND SO CAN YOU!

Thursday means one thing at the Pastor Greenbean blog–a sermon preview.  Today’s preview is for the upcoming launch of a new sermon series on David’s relationships.  I start the series by looking at David’s relationship with himself and coming to realize his purpose.  I think of David as a prodigy because he was very, very young when he discovered his gifts and purpose yet we can learn about ourselves from his process of self-discovery. This portion of the sermon is about 40% in and is about the story of David’s anointing by the prophet Samuel.  

DAVID AS DEPICTED BY MICHELANGELO. IF HE HAD ABS LIKE THAT, NO WONDER HE BECAME A LEGEND

 

It is truth that sometimes, in our journey for purpose and discovery, other people know before we do what we’re here for and what our gift(s) from God is (are).  For spiritual reasons, it was Samuel that was able to recognize and assert David’s vocation and calling.  The exact same might be true for you and me as well.  It could be a friend, a teacher, a deacon, a colleague or even a spouse who is able to see exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.

In the Bible this recognition was solemnized with an anointing of oil that symbolized the presence and blessing of God.  We don’t really do that in our world today, but the act of blessing and, I believe, of  touching someone else in a symbolic way of affirmation is still vitally important.  What we have to do is learn how to both receive the blessings other people give us as well as give them.  Too often we curse instead of bless.

Other people often can spot our purpose before we can.  This is a painful truth because, if you’re like me, I don’t want to rely on anyone else.

If I’m going to find myself, I want to do it alone and on my own terms.

But that is not how God seems to have wired us.  I’ve heard many people say things like, “I’m trying to find myself,” and then the way they do it is to abandon all their relationships and withdraw from everyone they’ve ever known.  That is the worst possible way of doing it.  It is precisely in the context of interacting with others in a healthy way that we can often find out who we are.

The second painful truth in this story is David’s family.  How exactly would you feel if someone important showed up when you were a kid and told your father or mother, “I’d like to bless one of your children, bring them all in” and your parents brought everyone in but you!

Yeah, definitely some Freudian junk going on there in David’s family, huh.  In his book on David’s life, our friend Jerry Vreeland points out that David’s relationship with his brothers, as revealed in the text of Scripture, is very disjointed and broken.  There is not a lot of love there.

Samuel could spot that David was the one, but his family either didn’t spot it or they didn’t want to believe it.  David is almost a masculine version of Cinderella in that regard, huh?

That is the other painful truth in finding out who we are; sometimes our families, or the ones closest to us, either hinder us or actively work against us journeying toward self-discovery.

I don’t know why that is, but it is.  So there is a paradox.  It might be our community that recognizes our giftedness and purpose, but it will not necessarily be the ones closest to us.

CELEBRATING A DEATH

Never in my life have I celebrated a person’s death.  Never.

I confess, at times, to being indifferent—particularly celebrities.  The media go super-crazy when celebrities like Liz Taylor or Michael Jackson die.  Celebrities have no impact on my life so their death means less to me than, say, the beloved saint who has been wrestling with cancer and dies at home with only a brief obituary in the paper.  Those are more touching to me than celebrities.

Today, however, I feel oddly hopeful at the death of someone.

When I heard President Obama announce Bin Laden’s death a shocking and disturbing feeling of gladness came over me.  Bin Laden changed our world for the worse, culminating a decade ago in the infamous attack.  I think of my daughters—one 16 and the other 11.  Neither one of them will ever remember America the way it was before 9-11.  I think of my nephews who are 19 and 15.  They cannot fully comprehend what Bin Laden’s death means to me.  It would be a merry thing if their lives could be made better—not just safer, but measurably better.

But, how do I feel about his death?  Emotions are complicated things, but the overall feeling is one of relief.  I also feel proud of the Navy Seals.  I know so many sailors and courageous, dedicated soldiers and I am proud for them.  Good job.  There is also a sense of justice—that might be the greatest feeling.  Ten years ago we prayed for justice.  Now that prayer, in part, has been answered.

As a Christian, though, I wonder.  Is it okay to celebrate at seasons like this?  David wrote “Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.  But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Psalm 37:37-38 ESV).  Peace, sometimes, can only come when the wicked are dealt with harshly.  King David certainly would be celebrating the demise of evildoers.  Sometimes we forget that peacemaking is not for the faint of heart.  It is hard, and sometimes dirty work.

The world has been off-balance since Bin Laden unleashed his plans (Psalm 2:1-2).  Perhaps now the spiritual equity of justice will return some semblance of balance.  That is my prayer.

I do not celebrate Bin Laden’s death, but I am glad he is dead.  I am hopeful.