Lament and hope

A Sermon for Proper 8

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27, Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24, Psalm 130,

Lamentations 3:21-33 or Psalm 30, 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43

You know we are following the semi-continuous reading of the Old Testament. So we skipped the last half of 1st Samuel. However, I believe we need that back story, so hold on. Since last week: David and Johnathan, Saul’s oldest son, have become best friends. Saul tries to kill David, many times. David marries Saul’s daughter, Michal, yes after he tried to kill him. Michal and Johnathan help David escape Saul’s wrath. David flees to Gath, a Philistine city. Saul kills the priests who have helped David. David saves the Israelite town of Keilah from the Philistines; presumably not from Gath. Saul chases David through the wilderness. David spares Saul life ~ twice. David and his men serve the king of Gath as mercenaries. Saul consults a Medium to raise up Samuel for a prophecy that reveals that Saul, his sons, and the army of Israel will be given into the hands of the Philistines. Philistines do not want David to go to war with Israel with them, which makes sense because the next things we know David attacks the Amalekites for sacking Ziklag – an Israeli town. And, Saul and Johnathan, and his remaining two sons are killed, as the army of Israel routed by the Philistines at Mnt. Gilboa.

This morning’s reading opens with David learning about Saul’s death. And, immediately we skip a second story of that event. An Amalekite scavenger who comes across Saul, and kills him, at Saul’s request because he knew he was dying. The Amalekite takes Saul’s crown and armlets and brings them to David, hoping for a reward for bringing him the icons of Israel’s King.   (Brueggemann) (BIRCH) David does not celebrate the death of his arch-rival. He and all his men mourn and fast. The next morning David confirms the messenger’s story and has him executed for “daring to strike down the Lord’s anointed.” The story picks up with David’s Lament over Saul and Jonathan.

As you have heard, David has a very complex relationship with Saul. He is married to his daughter. He is Saul’s oldest son’s BFF. Even as Saul chases him through the wilderness, in a vain effort to kill him, David never forgets Saul is the Lord’s anointed, even though he is anointed, in Saul’s stead. (Garber Jr.) Knowing a bit about the complexities of their relationship, and the many faults of Saul’s reign, David’s lament sounds a bit one sided. Scott Hoezee notes David’s lament is similar to Ronald Regan’s and Richard Nixon’s eulogiesthat tell about all the good accomplishments but leave out the ugly stuff. (Hoezee) But such is the function of a lament.

A lament is a communal bewailing of some tragedy or calamity. (Sakenfeld) By emphasizing that Saul and Jonathan gave Israel hope in the face of the Philistine threat and pride in their identity (BIRCH) David publically acknowledges the grievous magnitude of the loss. All of Israel, from the troops and their families to the rich, affluent, and well-off are required to join the weeping. (Brueggemann) Walter Brueggemann believes this story is a model for us. (Brueggemann)  He continues:

The dominant ideology of our culture wants to silence all serious speech, cover over all serious loss and deny all real grief [that] will leave us numb, unable to hope or to care. … [leading us into] self-deception, pretending that everything is “all right.”

In an essay on grief, lament and hope, Emilie Townes cites the prophets. Through lament, Jeremiah teaches us to take responsibility for our actions. (Townes 86)  Ezekiel uses cataclysm and primal events where reason and rationality do not hold to invite us to explore reforming ourselves. (86) And Micah reveals the power of story to establish our true identity. (87) She notes that the language of unequivocal languish is the beginning of healing. (88) She agrees with Brueggemann that the “loss of lament is loss of genuine covenant relation with God.” In the mutual sharing of such deep raw emotions, such primal fear, we can open ourselves to God’s new thing in our midst. (BIRCH)

I chose to stay with the Old Testament track, and David’s lament, because I see this as a time for lament. And not so much because of Ferguson, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Charleston or any of the myriad of national or international cataclysms, but because of Blytheville. In my short tenure here we have faced:

  • Seemingly endless discovery of tax related troubles,
  • A continuing dispute with the county over jail fees,
  • The recent significant loss of jobs, related to the downturn in oil and gas exploration,
  • A related decline in tax revenues,
  • A rash of robberies,
  • The tragic killing of High School students,
  • And in the last week, something like 5

You may not want to scream, but I do! The pace is relentless. And some of the troubles are not of our making. But many are of Blytheville’s own making. Last week some local pastors met with Mayor Sanders at a weekly Pray for Blytheville meeting. They offered prayers for Blytheville, and our leaders. Later they drove the neighborhoods where the shootings occurred, again offering prayers. Yesterday, Greater Dimension World Outreach Ministries hosted a “stop the violence and put the guns down” event that included a gun buy-back. (At least that was the schedule last Thursday.) (Henry) Healing in the Hood is forming a teen summer work program. All these and other efforts, I am not aware of, are excellent. But they are not laments.

And now is a time for communal lament; now is a time for an unabated cry from our souls. Now is the time: to cry from the depths of our souls, without blame, and identify what we have lost; to cry from the depths of our souls, without blame, and celebrate what once was, celebrate what might have been. Knowing our losses, knowing our raw emotions, strips away false layers of “it will be okay” and leaves us open, vulnerable to the transforming presence of God. Therein lies hope, for us, for Blytheville, and for all God’s creation.


References

BIRCH, BRUCE C. New Interpreters’ Bible; THE FIRST AND SECOND BOOKS OF SAMUEL. Abingdon Press, 2001. CD.

Brueggemann, Walter. Interpretation. Ed. Patrick D Miller Jr and Paul J Achtemeie. Vol. Genesis. Louisville, n.d.

Garber Jr., David G. Commentary on 2 Samuel 1:1, 1727. 28 6 2015.

Henry, Tom. “Local ministry to sponsor gun buyback.” Blytheville Courier News (2015).

Hoezee, Scott. Old Testament Lectionary Text is:2 Samuel 1:1, 1727. 28 6 2015. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php&gt;.

Lose, David. Pentecost 5 B: Known and Named. 28 6 2015. <davidlose.net>.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Townes, Emile M. “Just Awailing and Aweeping: Grief, Lament, and Hope as We Face the End of Life.” Faith, Health, and Healing in African American Life. Ed. Stephanie Y. Mitchem and Emilie M. Townes. Westport, CT; London: Praeger, 2008.

Whitley, Katerina K. Sermons that Work – 5 Pentecost, Proper 8 (B) – July 1, 2012. 28 6 2015. <http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/&gt;.

From Elah to Charleston.

A sermon for Proper 7

1 Samuel 17: (1a, 411, 19-23), 32-49, Psalm 9:9-20, or 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16, Psalm 133, Job 38:1-11, Psalm 107:13, 23-32, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:3541

With all the technology, I have at my disposal I could not figure out how to share Leonard’s Cohen’s Halleluiah with you this morning, so we’ll have to settle for a lyrical poetry.

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne,
and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah,   (LEONARD COHEN LYRICS – Hallelujah)

And yes, you heard a reference to David’s musical prowess, but that’s in the preceding story. This morning the army of Israel, led by Saul, is in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. The Philistine have a champion, and whether Goliath is 9 foot 6 or 6 foot 6, he is a striking powerful figure. Even more awesome, is his bronze armor, and the iron weapons. He presents a figure of shock and awe. And he knows how to use it.

As was the custom of the day, Goliath calls for Israel to send over their champion for a one on one contest, to the death, that will decide the matter. But it’s no mere calling out. Oh no, Goliath is a master of the taunt.

Why have you come out to draw up for battle?
Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul?
Today I defy the ranks of Israel!
Give me a man that we may fight together…

Saul and the whole army of Israel are in dismay … they are terrified! This goes on for forty days.

One day, Jesse sends David, with supplies for his three oldest sons, who are with the army of Israel, and instructions to find out what’s going on. David hears about Goliath, and says:

Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

In reply to Saul’s observation that David is just a boy, he explains his shepherding experience with lions and bears. (It’s so hard not to include tigers – oh my.) He concludes:

… this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them since he has defied the armies of the living God. … The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.

After demurring from wearing Saul’s way oversized armor, David heads off to meet Goliath in single combat.

Goliath greets David with even greater taunts than his usual daily offerings; cursing David by his gods, and threatening to feed him to the birds and wild animals. David retorts:

You come to me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand … so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel …

And we know the rest of the story.

A couple of notes: Goliath taunts the servants of Saul, and the ranks of Israel. David reframes the battlefield: it’s now Goliath against the army of the living God; he faces David who comes forth in the name of the LORD of hosts. It’s no longer Israel against the Philistines or David against Goliath; it’s Goliath and the Philistines versus Israel’s living God. And David is confident because of his experience as a shepherd (Nam). He knows he should have died by the paws of lions and bears. He knows God protected him then, and will stand with him now.  (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner)

This morning we heard how the line between good and evil ran through the valley of Elah. At day’s end, Halleluiah fills the air as Israel routes the Philistines.

Wednesday the battle line between good and evil ran through Charleston SC and Emanuel AME Church. Wednesday Goliath was a hate spouting, white supremacist wearing emblems of previous apartheid regimes. He shot and killed nine people, he’d just spent an hour with, in bible study. Our hearts break, for the families of: Depayne Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, The Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, (EROMOSELE) and Dylann Roof.  And yes for Dylann himself; we will never change the world by out hating the haters.

Friday I read accounts of forgiveness of some victims’ families to Dylann (Stewart and Pena). And we should listen and learn from them. We should not follow those who would use this tragedy to promote more guns or to promote gun control; both sides are starting at the wrong place. Both sides have made the same mistake Saul and Israel’s army did, by failing to start with all our trust in Lord even as we stand face to face with our Goliath.

I know my own pain, my own fear, my own frustration. I’ve read the expressions of pain, fear, and frustrations of many. And that’s why I want to go back to Cohen’s Hallelujah. The last half of the third verse reads:

There’s a blaze of light in every word
it doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah.

And the last half of the fourth verse reads:

And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.

There is no question Wednesday night we heard the broken the Halleluiah; Wednesday night it all went wrong…. Among my myriad thoughts are those from chapter 9 of John’s Gospel, where Jesus says:

No one sinned. This man was born blind. Life happens. Let the glory, the presence of God be made known.

It is my prayer for all of us that we follow the faithful voices of families who as they share their grief express their forgiveness (Stewart and Pena). It is my prayer that with them we stand before our Lord in Song with nothing on our tongues but Halleluiah. For it is in God’s presence and by God’s hand that we are delivered from taunting tyrants from Elah, to Charleston.


References

Epperly, ‘Bruce. The. 21 6 2015. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2015/05/pentecostsundaymay242015/&gt;.

EROMOSELE, DIANA OZEMEBHOYA. The Victims of the Charleston SC Church Massacre. 18 6 2015.

Hoezee, Scott. “Old Testament Lectionary 1 Samuel 17.” 21 6 2015. Working Preacher.

Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 21 6 2015.

LEONARD COHEN LYRICS – Hallelujah. n.d. <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/leonardcohen/hallelujah.html&gt;.

Lewis, Karoline. Dear Working Preacher; The Other Side. 21 6 2015. <workingpreacher.org>.

Nam, Roger. Commentary on 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 411, 19-23), 32-49, 21 6 2015.

Stewart, Nikita and Richard Perez Pena. “In Charleston, Raw Emotion at Hearing for Suspect in Church Shooting.” New York Times 19 6 2015. Web.

Seeing Rightly

A sermon for Proper 6

1 Samuel 15:34- 16: 13, Ezekiel 17:22-24, Psalm 20, Psalm 92:14, 11-14, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17, Mark 4:26-34

What in the world happened to Saul? Last week’s reading ends with Samuel anointing him King, albeit with some reluctance. Today Samuel is grieving over Saul, and that just doesn’t sound good. Then God sends him off to Jesse’s because God “has provided for myself a king …” Let’s back up a bit for more of the story.

Last week, God tells Samuel to grant the elders wish for a king. Then we skip forward a couple of chapters until Saul is called forth, from his hiding place in the baggage and is anointed king. Saul initially meets with great success, defeating Ammonites. He son Johnathan ambushes and defeats the Philistines. That’s good news, except that it inspires the Philistines to come after Israel. The people cry out, Samul agrees to come out of retirement and offer a sacrifice. However, he is some days late arriving, and Saul offers the sacrifice instead. No big deal, except that it is, it is not for kings to offer sacrifice, it’s kind of like the separation of powers in the US Constitution. Either way, Israel is eventually successful though it is a mess of a thing. Saul goes on to successively defeat the Moabites, the Ammonites, Edom, and Zobah. One day God tells Saul to utterly destroy Amalekites. He does; well, he almost does.

He burns the city to the ground, kills everyone, except the king, ~ and the best of flocks and herds. When confronted by Samuel, Saul tries to say herds and flocks were saved for a sacrifice. Samuel asks “Does the lord prefer sacrifice or obedience?” (15:22 ff) At this point God rejects Saul as King because he does not listen, does not obey.

So God sends Samuel off to anoint a new King. We know the story, the endless procession of Jesse’s strapping sons. God’s admonition to look rightly, upon the heart. Calling David in from tending the sheep. The smirking description of David’s ruddy appearance, and beautiful eyes. Finally, the rush of the spirit upon David as Samuel’s anoints him. We know the story. We’ve made it our own.

We made it our own, just as we have adopted the parables of scattered seeds, and the mustard seed. David Lose notes that because parables have a tendency to point out something we’d just as soon not see, we make them our own and then we domesticate them. (Lose) Have we done the same thing with the story of David’s calling?

When was the last time you thought about why Jesse and the elders are frightened when Samuel appears? Remember, Saul is still king. To anoint a king, when a king is on the throne, is treason. (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner), (Brueggemann) It’s the stuff of The Game of Thrones.

And of course, there is the wee wrinkle of Jesse’s pedigree. I mean you want your king to come from a long distinguished tribal and family line. Well ~ Jesse’s grandmother is Ruth. You remember Ruth? She’s a Moabite, not Jewish, a foreigner. His grandfather is Boaz. His heritage includes Tamar, an adulteress, and Rahab, the prostitute, who lets the spies into Jericho. And Oh yeah, both of them are Canaanite, foreigners. This is not stuff royalty is made of; it’s not the classic royal family. (BIRCH), (Brueggemann) It kind of draws us back to the mustard seed parable when we realize that in Jesus’ day mustard is an invasive plant. (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner) Back some weeks ago, the Gospel reading was Jesus as the good shepherd and the sheep-fold. I think we touched on how in the Old Testament shepherds are symbols for kings. So here we have a story of Samuel out looking for a king, and about the only place he doesn’t look is among the shepherds. (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner) And we shouldn’t be surprised that God chooses the youngest son. Remember Able, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph? All of them are youngest sons, who are favored over their older brothers. I have got to wonder why Samuel just doesn’t ask for the youngest shepherd, up front. One other thing, the length of the process is curious. All seven sons are singularly paraded out for Samuel. And it must have taken quite some time for someone to go get David from the fields. I begin to wonder if there’s not some gleaning here.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least point to God telling Samuel “the LORD looks on the heart.” We know the heart is a muscle, an organ in our bodies. We also speak of the heart as a type of emotional relationship center, as in “I love you with all my heart.” In Samuel’s day, all inner organs had similar meanings. The heart was the center of  thinking, reasoning, planning, conduct and action; it is the center of spiritual activity the seat of conscience. It is distinct from the soul, though the two can be in synch with each other or at odds. Its importance is revealed in the Shema “… love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your might.”

The flood story links the thoughts of the heart to the evil of man, which causes God to be sorry God made man. (Gen 6:5) (Sakenfeld), (Orr) Perhaps the parable of … the story of David reveals something about the importance of our hearts to God, and to each other.

Karoline Lewis asks what this morning’s parables tell us about the Kingdom of God. (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner) I’m beginning to wonder what the story of David’s anointing tells us about our relationship with God? And not so much from God’s perspective, but Samuel’s. Think of it this way. The elders wanted a king to fight their wars for them. Saul does, but that doesn’t work out. The psalmist, perhaps David, pens a victory celebration in Psalm 20. In the same lyric, the psalmist puts more faith in the presence of God, than the presence of chariots.

On Friday in the news was a story about the House defeating fast-track authority for an international trade negotiation; and the continuing debate about congressional authorization for military action against ISIS; and simultaneous critiques of the President’s plans with regard to ISIS. We continue to seek power within the established patterns of power.

[W]e fail to look for possibilities of grace and hope beyond the traditional channels of power, influence, and success. (Brueggemann)

We don’t trust God to find a new path to a new future among those hiding in the baggage or tending the sheep, or the marginalized and disposed. In our own doubts and distress do we really believe God sees grace in us, or for us? We still look to the traditional places for solutions to individual, local, national and global problems. We don’t look to the very far a-field, we don’t look to the youngest possibilities. And I admit, it’s not an easy path to discern, because the youngest may be ancient, and that which is furthest away may be nearest to us.

So having taken the delightfully giddy story of David’s anointing and brought us around to looking into the mirror darkly, where are we? And that’s the real question isn’t it. Where are we? All this unpacking of scripture and reframing sullied perspectives isn’t about Samuel, Saul, Jesse’s family line or David. It’s all about us. It’s about us looking for, listening for how God is calling us into the future. Will we look at nontraditional long shot prospects? Will we see the very new, very old opportunity? Do we really trust God with our future? I believe we can, for “… we are a people called to walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and as Paul say “… everything has become new.”


References

BATES, DR. J. BARRINGTON. “Proper 6.” 14 6 2009. Sermons that Work. 14 6 2015.

BIRCH, BRUCE C. New Interpreters’ Bible; THE FIRST AND SECOND BOOKS OF SAMUEL. Abingdon Press, 2001. CD.

Brueggemann, Walter. Interpretation; FIRST AND SECOND SAMUEL. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990. CD.

Ellingsen, Mark. Proper 6 | OT 11, Cycle B. 14 6 2015. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Epperly, ‘Bruce. The. 14 6 2015. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2015/05/pentecostsundaymay242015/&gt;.

Hoezee, Scott. Proper 6B. 14 6 2015. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php&gt;.

Lewis, Karoline. Dear Working Preacher A Life in Parables. 14 6 2015. <workingpreacher.org>.

Lose, David. Pentecost 3 B: Preach The Truth Slant. 14 6 2015. <http://www.davidlose.net&gt;.

Nam, Roger. Commentary on 1 Samuel 15:34-16:  14 6 2015.

Hammurabi, Samuel, and Justice

A sermon for Proper 5

1 Samuel 8:411, (12-15),16-20, (11:1415), Genesis 3:8-15, Psalm 138 Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 4:1-35, Mark 3:20-35

Today begins our long 5 months and 22 days season after Pentecost. The lectionary gives the preacher a choice of Old Testament readings, and we will be following what’s referred to as the semi-continuous track. We will read from the Books of Samuel and the Books of Kings, basically the story of the Kings of Israel. We don’t exactly start at the beginning, so let’s set the stage.

The Hebrews have crossed the Jordan into the land God has given them. Joshua has lead the separate tribes of Israel (Sakenfeld) in capturing it all, well mostly all the land. After his rule, the tribes’ become even more distinct (Petersen and Beverly) and we see a developing cycle of peace, Israel wandering off to other gods and getting themselves into all sorts trouble, then crying out God, who raises up a Judge, who leads them back to God, and resolves the  threat. Eli is the last of these Judges. When books of Samuel begin Eli is weak. His sons are taking advantage of their position as judges stealing food offered as a sacrifice, which is a violation Torah. (Brueggemann)

Hanna, as was Sarah, is barren. She goes to Shiloh, a precursor for the Temple, and prays for a son. God grants her prayer. After raising her son, she gives him to God, via Eli, as a Nazirite, one dedicated to God’s service. You know the story of God calling the young Samuel and his coached reply “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Years later Eli’s house dies in one day Eli’s sons die in battle with Philistines while losing Ark. Eli dies when he hears the news. Samuel then becomes the last of Judges and the first of the Prophets” (Orr) He has led Israel with great wisdom, defeating the Philistines, Israel’s constant nemesis, and regained the ark.

This morning we hear Samuel has grown old. His sons are nearly as bad as Eli’s, taking bribes and perverting justice. They’ve managed to be “for profit prophets.” (Hoezee)  In the process, they have struck a blow to the foundation of Israel’s social commitment. (Brueggemann) The elders of the people don’t trust them. They may remember Eli’s sons, they are aware of a threat from the Philistines so they ask for a king to rule over them, “like other nations.” Samuel doesn’t like the idea, and he takes it to God in prayer. God answers “Calm down, they haven’t rejected you. It’s far worse, they’ve rejected me, what’s new.” Then God asks Samuel to instill the fear of politics, conscription and taxes into the people, (Hoezee) by telling them about how kings behave. Samuel does saying “Kings take, take, take, take, take, take; your: sons and daughters, fields, vineyards, and orchards,  1/10 of the produce of your land, your male and females slaves, your cattle, donkeys,  1/10 of your flocks; in essence you will be slaves. And when you will cry out, God will not answer. But it’s to no avail. The elders reply “We don’t care we want a king to govern us and to fight our battles so we will be like other nations.” The people don’t believe that they will once again be slaves. They don’t see how their choice undercuts their very identity of Israel as God’s delivered people. (BIRCH) They are blind to how monarchy generates destructive inequality and stratification and is the undoing of the Exodus.  (Brueggemann) So God gives them what they want.  It’s a cruel irony the warning they cannot hear so closely resembles surrounding Canaanite royal practices. (BIRCH)

All this is deeply disturbing as we come to realize Israel was never supposed to be like the other nations. Israel is Nazirite, they are supposed to be distinct, set apart, holy. They are supposed to be different than other kingdoms because they were the beachhead for cosmic salvation. (Hoezee)(Brueggemann)

You also might think it’s not really that big a deal. Yea Israel didn’t do such a good job, but there are king all over the place, and a king is a king. Well yes, but not exactly. You remember Hammurabi, the king who wrote the first set of laws. The stele that enshrines his coronation depicts Marduk, the god of his people and place, sitting on the throne giving a humble Hammurabi his scepter. It depicts kingship coming from his god; indeed this is the model of kingship everywhere else. Not so for Israel, for Israel kingship rises from below (Nam) from the people, from their distrust, from their greed.

As is my practice I also read the alternative Old Testament appointed for this morning. It is the story of Adam’s and Eve’s encounter the snake, in which they gain knowledge of good and evil, presumably passed on through the generations. One commentator noted that knowing the difference between good and evil does not give you will to choose good. This morning’s reading from Samuel is a great example.  (Jacobson, Lewis and Skinner)

Now we might relate with the elders. The old ways are not working now, they weren’t working then. So there is this inclination to sympathize. However, there is the strong possibility the request for a king comes from those who had accumulated surplus wealth, and they wanted a different government, a strong centralized government, to protect and enhance their surplus. (Brueggemann) We could do well to recognize not only the idolatry, (Jacobson, Lewis and Skinner) the lack of trust in God (Petersen and Beverly) but how this story reveals that every decision about God brings along with it an implicit decision about sociopolitical-economic power. (Brueggemann)

In the last decade or so there has been lots of disruptions caused by emerging thoughts about sexuality. It has caused splits in the Episcopal Church and threatened internal relationships in the Anglican Communion. In the last few years, there has been lots in the news about sex, especially the legalization of marriage for same-gender loving people. It is a political hot topic. The bible not silent about sex and that may be another topic for another time. We should realize the bible shows far more concern about our relationship with God and justice, i.e. our relationship with each other. And we can’t talk about justice without talking about governance. The bible to this point reveals that governance is hard; ask Moses, ask Joshua. The same is true in Jesus day. The scribes from Jerusalem aren’t just any old scribes. They have the authority to judge and they use it to judge that the son of God is the Satan.  (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner) It’s a perverted use of power, it’s a corruption of justice. Governance is hard today. An article on free speech compared the US to France. In France, it is illegal to wear a head scarf. In the US illegal to ban wearing a head scarf. Both countries’ laws seek good intent; French try to keep a sense of equality, and the US protecting free speech, and both have religious entanglement. Governance is hard.

We are entering, no we are already in a Presidential election season. I wish it were a mere 5 months and 22 days; it’s going to be a  l – o – n – g  haul. My prayer is that in discerning who is called to lead the governance  of our country; and yes I believe it should be a calling; not prophetic, but deeply rooted in one’s sense of their own essence as a beloved child of God whose gift is governance, that we’d look and listen for the words, decision and acts that reveal they know they are loved by God; the words, decisions and acts that reveal they know we are beloved by God; the words, decisions and acts that reveal they know everyone on the earth is  beloved by God. This doesn’t mean a grand public display or proclaiming of religious whatevers, this is a time, as Matthew records Jesus saying …. [to] … not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  (Matthew 6:2-4)

Now I know that in Romans Paul says governments are instituted by God, and that we ought to obey. (Romans 13) And I know Jesus says … to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But we should remember both are complex settings and perhaps they too will be a subject for another day. All that is to introduce the idea that perhaps it’s time to look to an extra biblical model for kingship or governance. It’s time to look at Code of Hammurabi where leaders, elected or otherwise humbly receiving the scepter of authority from God, for the good of the people, all the people. Remember God establishes Sabbath for all people, animals, and lands. Remember last week, when Peter quotes Joel about the gift of the Spirit and prophecy, and how radically disruptive, radically inclusive it is by extending closely held powers to the margins of society, i.e. all people.

So yes, I think governance should get back to God, but that it has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with justice of all.


References

Ashley, Danáe. Sermons that Work. 7 6 2015. <episcopaldigitalnetwork.com http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2012/05/21/2pentecostbjune102012/&gt;.

BIRCH, BRUCE C. New Interpreters’ Bible; THE FIRST AND SECOND BOOKS OF SAMUEL. Abingdon Press, 2001. CD.

Brueggemann, Walter. Interpretation; FIRST AND SECOND SAMUEL. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990. CD.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. Proper 5B | Center for Excellence in Preaching. 7 6 2015. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php&gt;.

Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 7 6 2015.

Nam, Roger. Commentary on 1 Samuel 8:411. 7 6 2015. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Orr, James, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. WORD search, 2004.

Petersen, David and Roberts Gaventa Beverly. New Interpreters’ Bible, One Volume Commentary. Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 2010. EBook.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Holy Lord

Holy Lord

A sermon for Trinity Sunday

Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 29 or Canticle 2 or 13, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17

My last quarter college was in England. On one of my side trips, some of us went to Stonehenge. It was long enough ago so that you could still walk amongst the stones. It was a sunny summer English day; the air was cool, it was not very crowded, it was easy to slip off to the side and just be still. As the ambient sounds fade away serenely comes a mystical silence, a mystical being. There is: the ever so slight awareness of the knowable but indescribable; the barest presence of unfathomable power, unconceivable love; the presence of  the Holy.

Many years later we are at the beach. All my siblings and spouses are quietly chatting living room. Our kids all fast asleep in the bunk house. Suddenly the room fills to the bright of noon day, a thunderous clap bang so loud our ears ring. Before peal of thunder can roll away the room filled with uncountable screaming kids; I’ve no idea where they all came from. After we calm the kids down, nestle them back in their bunk house beds, we sit on the porch and watch the massive thunderhead slowly move to the horizon line. It’s the most awesome display lightning I’ve ever seen. It’s reminiscent of the scene Isaiah finds himself in, being in the presence of such a mighty and glorious God that even the Seraphs cover their faces, in the presence of the Holy.

Many more years later, while I was in seminary, Ginny was taking voice lessons. Her homework always included singing the scales. Her teacher taught her to crawl under the piano and sing each note until the piano sings back to her. It’s a phenomena known as resonance. Each string is tuned to a certain vibration when the vibrations of the same sung note move past the sting it begins to vibrate, and Ginny hears the piano singing.

It’s not an uncommon occurrence, it is what allows a singer to shatter a glass. It only takes a little imagination to hear the creative voice of God continuously singing; and then finding ourselves in a heart place where we encounter continuous creative presence of God and our heart, our soul resonate and we know we are in the presence of the Holy. (Safford)

By now you know I’m not trying to explain the unexplainable. It took early church 350 years reach a well actually three explanations we’ve come to call The Trinity; you know them as the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Athanasius Creed. Truth be told it’s still not really settled.  I’ve not been as poetic as Reginald Heber who wrote the words to Holy, Holy, Holy. Still the idea to explore Trinity from the perspective of relationships our relationship with the Divine the Trinity is the same. After all,  that’s what we’re really interested in, or concerned about.

I was drawn to, the Sermon Brain Wave, panelists’ concept that all today’s reading reveal something of a relationship with God. They point out Isaiah reveals an unapproachable God, who is ever present to us. To his surprise, Isaiah lives after such an intimate encounter with God. Psalm 29 is about the majestic untamed nature of God. They spoke about the theology of the storm, we know its awesome power yet we are still somehow drawn to it.  I forget who asks if Aslan dangerous and who answers “Yes, but he is good.” They note that in Romans Paul speaks to God’s desire to be in relationship with everyone. His use of the language of adoption breaks through cultural customs that exclude nearly everyone one from any kind of inheritance and thereby gives everyone an identity, a divine identity. They speak to how John explores: what it feels like to know God, ponder how God is known, and powerfully reveals God’s deepest desire to be known.  (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner)

It is important to remember all this emphasis on Trinity is the early Christian community’s response to charges that they are worshiping many, well at least three, gods. Clusters of three gods are common in nearly every other religion from all over the word. Trinity is an idea that is not easily drawn from scripture. Nonetheless, it is a powerful concept that’s more important than holding adversaries at bay, it allowed the early church, allows us, to experience a fuller, broader, richer knowing of God. (Orr)

As we leave here it’s my prayer that we’ve known our Holy Lord in scripture; known our Holy Lord in the sacrament; known our Holy Lord in prayer, and known our Holy Lord in each other. No I have not counted wrong, it’s just that, as David Lose notes, we really don’t get close to knowing the Trinity until we know it really three in one plus one, who is each and every one of us. (Lose) As fascinating as the resonance between the revealed aspects of the divine may be, the resonance between ourselves, collectively and individually, and the divine is what transforms our lives. To resonate with the divine empowers us to sing Holy, Holy, Holy. To resonate with the divine lets us know we belong. To resonate with the divine, enables us to say “Here we are, send us.” To resonate with the divine, means we are on the right wavelength.


References

Epperly, ‘Bruce. The First Sunday after Pentecost – May 31, 2015. 31 5 2015. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2015/05/pentecostsundaymay242015/&gt;.

Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 31 5 2015.

Lose, David. Trinity B: Three in One Plus One. 31 5 2015. <http://www.davidlose.net&gt;.

Orr, Jame, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. WORDsearch, 2004.

Safford, Timothy B. “Trinity Sunday (B) – 2009.” 31 5 2015. Sermons that Work.