Sunday, July 15, 2012
Monday, July 9, 2012
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 And here we come to the end of this movie we have been “watching” for the last six week, and the crown is finally on the head of the king. This event, toward which David has been working since he was a young lad, has been achieved. It was just about twenty years ago that Samuel came traipsing into town claiming to be making sacrifices, but secretly looking for the man God wanted him to anoint as Israel’s next king an instead of anointing a man he had anointed a shepherd boy just come in from the fields. Since that day, David has killed a giant, married the old king’s daughter, declared everlasting friendship with his son, lead the armies of Israel into battle and generally won the acclamation, and respect of everyone. Last week I said, “Women swoon at the sight of him, fathers want him to wed their daughter’s, boys play act at being him and men try to emulate him,” and it’s the truth. David is the man. So much so that after the death of Saul, David has to do nothing to get himself appointed king. The people are clamoring to have him as their next king. David gets appointed king because he is a pretty awesome guy. The people came together and saw that David was the best choice for king. In many ways they come together to confirm God’s choice. They wanted a king who could lead them in battle; David has proved he can do this. They need a king who will be just and fair, and David has proved that he is this as well. They need a king who listens to and follows God, David has shown that this is his way of life. Look, isn’t it amazing, God choose well! This is the high point toward which David has been moving almost all his life. Here he is, he is being crowned king of Israel and suddenly all the many nights, and months of nights he spent hiding in a cave or sleeping in a tent, running for his life, fade into the back ground. Triumphant music plays and flashes of memories from that day when he was summoned in from the fields with the sheep to be anointed as king by Samuel are inter-mingled with the coronation events. He was the shepherd of sheep and now he is the shepherd of God’s people. By the music we, his audience know that he is to be a great king and the way the light play around his face, his crown his shoulders, we can see that the presence of God almighty is upon him, it is God who has brought him from the sheep fields to this place today. The journey has been long, circuitous and has had its’ fair amount of trials along the way, but the fact of the matter is that God has been with David the whole time. The scripture tells us that the Spirit of God came upon David on that day so long ago when Samuel anointed him king and God has been with him ever since. God has been with David and David has walked with God. This journey has not been a journey of chance or happenstance this has been a guided tour; a guided tour of a life that leads to greatness, a king who is honored and respected by all, of one who walks with God. I was thirteen when God called me into the ministry. I was young and immature. I was one of those thirteen year old girls who cried if you looked at me slantways. But I loved God and I was stubborn. If God wanted me to be a pastor, than woe be it to the person who choose to stand in my way. Isn’t great how God uses even our most unattractive traits to accomplish God’s will. It was during an evening service, one of the first ones our new youth pastor preached. I don’t know what Pastor Rick preached about that evening. I just know that I knew that God needed to speak to me, so after church I went forward to pray and God told me in no uncertain terms that I was called to pastoral ministry. From that day forward I told anyone and everyone who would listen that God had called me to pastor. I finished up High School knowing I would attend a Nazarene College and study religion, so that I would be best prepared to attend Nazarene Theological Seminary, so I could then be a pastor. I asked for and received my local ministers’ license when I was still in my freshman year at Eastern Nazarene College. I spent a summer working with the youth group at The Lamb’s Manhattan Church of the Nazarene and another summer with the youth group at Hollywood Church of the Nazarene in Hollywood, Maryland outside of DC. I applied for and received my district ministry license while I was finishing up my senior year at ENC. I went to NTS and received my Masters of Divinity, married Mike the January of my last year there and we got our first pastoring job in Mulvane, Kansas, which we started within weeks of graduation. After two years of ministering in Kansas, General Superintendent, Talmadge Johnson, District Superintendent Ed Nash and the minsters of the Kansas District laid hands upon me as I was ordained elder in the church of the Nazarene. My ordination day is one of the most important events in my life, up there with my wedding and the births of my two girls. I think the sanctuary of Wichita First church of the Nazarene will always be an especially holy place for me. I remember sitting there with Dr. Johnson’s hands on my head thinking, this is it, this is the day toward which I have been moving since I was still really a very young girl. This is the arriving point. This is where I have always wanted to be, this is the moment, God has been leading me here my whole life, I have arrived. And then after the GS prayed and my father prayed and the ordained elders of the Kansas District prayed and I stood up I looked out across the delegation from the KS district who had gathered that day and my life went on. Everything had been building to that one moment and just as all moments that had come before, it was gone. Moment was followed by moment just as always. I had arrived at the point toward which I had oriented my whole life and life just went on. For 15 years, God has been with me, guided me, directed me, had been with me when I had made poor choices, had been my strength and support in the rough times. God had brought me to this point. Everything I had ever worked toward had brought me to this moment in my life and then that moment was gone. Life moved on, I had to go on from there. Here David was, he had come to the point in his life, toward which he had been moving since he was still a boy. Everything in his life had prepared him for this moment. He bows his head the crown of kingship is placed upon it, he rises and he looks out across the crowd of people who are now his subjects and he had to realize the same two things I realized when I stood before the delegates of the 2004 Kansas District Assembly, that first of all God had brought me to this place and secondly I was not going to continue to make it unless I continued to walk with God and God was with me from this moment forward. David knew, God was there with him in the field of anointing. God was with him when he slew the giant. God was with him as he played songs for Saul in his courts. God was with him when he befriended Jonathan. God was with him as he led armies into victory. God was with him as Saul chased him across the countryside attempting to kill him. God was with him when he heard of the death of Saul. It is God who brought him to his coronation. It is because of God that he had arrived and if any of this was going to work out God needed to continue to be with him, in all things, all of his days. And God is with David throughout his reign. “David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.” David’s greatness, David’s success is due to one thing and one thing only, that God was with him in all that he did. He walked with God and God walked with him. It is easy for us to come to believe that there is a point at which we have arrived, at which we have or will have accomplished that which God has before us; that our walks with God are finally complete; that we have arrived, when it comes to us and God. We want there to be an end game, a goal toward which we are moving, something that once it is gained we have what we need. Let me tell you a story, about a man who lived on one side of a mountain and had spent his whole life wondering what was on the other side of the mountain, he talked about how he would one day climb the mountain and see what there was to see, that he would see the glory of the land that the mountain kept hid from his eye. When he as young and told the other villagers about this they chuckled and said it was a young man’s dream. He married a beautiful young woman from the village and he would tell her about how one day when he had the time, the money the inclination he was going to climb the mountain and see the mystery it hid from his eyes. She would smile and say, “Go then, climb your mountain, and then return to tell me what it is you see there.” He would nod and say, “Someday.” Seasons passed and she bore him little boys and little girls and in the evenings, when all the chores were done, he would gather them on his lap and tell them about how one day, he was going to climb that mountain and bring back the treasures he found on the other side to give to them. But the children grew and had households of their own. And as he aged he would go and talk to the other old men about his dream and they chuckled because they knew that he would never go. Then one day, his wife died and he realized that his life was soon to come to an end, so he sold everything he owned packed up all he had left and journeyed to the top of the mountain. He journeyed one night and one day, stopping frequently because his old legs wearied easily. When he reached the top and looked down at the world, he saw that there was another mountain and beyond that another mountain, that beyond his mountain was a whole world that he was too old to explore. So he went back down the mountain disappointed that he had spent his life not in the shadow of just one mountain but in the shadow a world of mountains. He had lived his whole life believing that when he reached the top of the mountain he would have arrived, but the top of the mountain proved to be just a gateway to an entire world. We really cannot live our lives believing there is a point at which we have arrived. When we have arrived, when we stand at the top of that mountain we will then see that there is beyond this point a whole life yet to be lived. And we have to live our whole lives with God, not just up to a point, not just aiming for a stopping point, but a whole life in relationship with God, a whole life lived differently, a whole life given over to loving God and loving one another. David did not abandon God once God had brought him to the place of kingship. But he became greater and greater because God was with him. God was with him from the time he was but still a young lad; through all the years that led up to his kingship and then God continued to be with him all the years of his life. He became greater and greater because on the day of his coronation he realized two things. God had been with him all along the journey that had brought him to this place and if he was going to continue to prosper and flourish he needed to realize that he had not arrived at a stopping point, at his destination with God, but that this was just another whey point on a greater journey that must be continually traveled with God. God must continue to be with him all the days of his life. The kingship did not mark the moment of his arrival, the moment when he had received all he needed to receive, the moment when he no longer needed God because he had it all, but this was the moment that would now lead to all the moments that are to come and if God has brought him to this place here, then the only way he would ever be able to go on is if God continues to be with him in all things from this moment on. There is no point at which we have arrived. There is no point toward which our spiritual journeys are moving that once gained we can count ourselves as having arrived. We are always moving, always walking, always journeying with God. Every moment, every stopping point, every mountaintop to which God brings us, is a moment that leads to all the next, is yet another stopping point along the journey, is the mountaintop that reveals to us the mountains we have yet to climb. Being with God is not something that culminates, it is not something that has an arriving point, there is no place along this journey that is our ultimate goal. The goal is the journey, the goal is the relationship, the goal is to be with God and for God to be with us all the days our lives. A life lived differently, a life lived with God.
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-26 As our movie about the making of King David continues, we follow David to the next stop in his life, the death of Saul. We have come a long way in the life of David since he left Goliath dead in the fields of Ephes-Damim last week. Last week, he was just a boy with a promise that someday he will be king, some stones, a sling and God on his side. This week his is a man lamenting the death of his enemy. After David killed Goliath, Saul gave Michal, one of his daughters to him as a wife and David became a member of the royal household and the royal court. David was Saul’s champion, the mighty warrior of Israel, the go to man when it came to getting battles won and foes defeated. David is not only Saul’s son-in-law but he is Saul’s son Jonathan’s best friend. David has managed to ingratiate himself everyone. Women swoon at the sight of him him, father’s want him to wed their daughter’s, boys play act at being him and men try to emulate him, But it is only a matter of time before Saul goes from being absolutely thrilled with David to jealous of his fame and popularity, and then his jealously turns to homicidal thoughts and actions and begins a long campaign during which he attempts to kill David. David on the other hand has several opportunities to kill Saul and decidedly chooses not to, making a point to let Saul know that although Saul means David harm at every opportunity, David is not working in like manner to end Saul’s life. In fact David says on more than one occasion that it is not his place to bring an end to Saul’s life. No matter how many times or how many ways Saul attempts to kill David, David refuses to respond in kind. He might work against Saul, he might in Sung Tzuesk fashion declare the enemy of his enemy his friend and go fight alongside the Philistines. But he would not work to directly bring about the death of Saul. In fact he does not fight in any battles in which the Philistines attack Saul’s forces. David spends years in hiding, fearing for his life, living in caves; doing whatever needs to be done to keep himself alive. All the while Saul is working to bring an end to him. No matter what he does, no matter how hard he works, to prove to Saul that he is not only not Saul’s enemy, but he is not a threat to him in in way shape or form, Saul continues in his full attack against the life of David. Just prior to the passage we have before us this morning, Saul and Jonathan are killed during a battle. Jonathan is his best friend, so of course he is pretty broken up to hear of the death of his good friend. David writing, singing and requiring all the men of Israel to learn a lament about the death of Jonathan is not too surprising. But, considering the history David has with Saul, one would think that, upon hearing about Saul’s death, David would be rejoicing. I mean, seriously come on, how many times has Saul tried to kill David? And now he is dead. All David’s cares and woes are gone. He can walk opening in the daylight once again without worry or fear. I would think that David would have a parade, throw a party, write a song of rejoicing and victory, but instead David writes a dirge, a song of mourning. Instead of a victory shout, David lets out a wail, a sigh, a lament. One would think that he would want the death of his enemy proclaimed from the mountain tops, proclaimed in any and every way possible. Let Saul’s enemies know that Saul is no more that he is finally gone, rejoice with me oh enemies of my enemy let us sing for joy together. No David, declares that this information should be kept from Saul’s enemies, not only is David not rejoicing but David does not want Saul’s enemies to have the ability to rejoice either. This is not a day of victory this is a day of sorrow and torment. Everyone should be in mourning. This is a day of regret and great sorrow. Mighty men have fallen and we should lament their falling. Now that is an incredible response to the death of the man who has spent the last several decades trying to kill you. From the time of the death of Goliath, until this day, David has time and time again showed that he is a man of integrity and honor; a man, who when given the choice, will choose the high road. Here is a man of honor if I ever saw one. David knows that God has appointed him to be the king after Saul. The throne is his rightful place. Most of us knowing where it is that God is leading us, might be tempted to do all that is in our power to hurry things along, especially if it would ensure our safety and put us in place in where would could breathe a little freer and get us where we want to be a little faster. But David does nothing to force God’s hand. He does nothing to bring harm to Saul. And now when Saul is dead and not only is the path to kingship now open to him, but he no longer has to live in fear of what will come next, David writes a lament over Saul. Mourning is something with which we often have a hard time in our culture. We have our rituals. We have the viewing or wake, we have the funeral and the dinner to follow. But we pretty much expect people to move on from there. It is ok to be sad for a little while, but pretty soon after the death of someone we expect them to go on with their life, no matter what your relationship is to that person, we don’t really understand why someone would continue to struggle with dealing with another’s death, months, years, decades later. It is almost as if we expect people to just get over the fact that someone they loved dearly is gone and there is no getting that person back. There is no righting in any wrongs, real or perceived, there is no saying that one thing you always wanted to say, that shoulder to cry on is gone, that person’s strength in our lives is no longer with us and we can no longer go to that person for advice. They are gone from us and we miss them. Especially as Christians we want to down play the affect death has on us. Yes, we have hope in a reality beyond death; in a life eternal. But that does not negate the reality and seeming finality that death has here in this life, on this earth. In this broken world, we live and we die. This is the way of things. And no amount of hope for the future, can change the reality of the pain that death causes in our lives. Heaven brings us glorious hope, but we mourn now, we hurt now, we miss our loved ones here today in this place. One of the most real things I think someone has ever said to me about the death of a loved one, was spoken by a 90 some odd year old lady I had the privilege to Pastor when I was in Kansas, she turned to me one day and said, pastor, it has been 40 years, but I still reach for the phone and attempt to call my mother. I miss talking to her so badly. 40 years! She was not “unhealthy” she was not crazy. She missed her mother and that is the honest truth. Death is final. Death is real. Death changes our lives and in very real ways who we are forever. David I not only mourning for someone he loved, but he is mourning for someone who in a very real and literal way, wanted him dead. It takes a lot to lament the death of your enemy. It takes a lot to see harm for another human being, no matter how good it may be for you and your situation in life, as a tragedy. The death of a human being no matter how convenient is a cause for rejoicing. Death is always a cause for mourning. Death is always a tragedy, whether it be that of a still born infant or a person who has lived a long, full life; whether they be the president of the United States, a famous actor or a heroin addict; our mother, our father, our dearest friend or our worst enemy. Everyone’s death is to be lamented and mourned. This is the honest truth. We may be relieved that our loved one is no longer suffering, we may be relieved that the one who hated us so much will no longer plague our lives but it is still a tragedy a reason for sorrow. David as a man of dignity and honor, mourned over the death of his enemy, lamented the ending of one who tried so hard to end his own life. He did not see a victory in death. He did not find pleasure in the passing of another. When confronted with both the death of his dearest friend and his worst enemy, his response was exactly the same anguish, lamenting mourning. We can expect no more and no less from ourselves. We should neither rejoice over the death of one who has continually sought to bring us harm, nor should find it odd that we mourn over the loss of a loved one. Death is real. Death is hard.