A Sermon for the Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
August 2, 2015
(2 Samuel 11.26-12:13a; Psalm 51:1-12; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35)
‘If you want to go fast, travel alone.
If you want to go far, travel together’
David’s deed is done. He’s had his way with Bathsheba. Covered his path. Murdered Uriah. Bathsheba lives in the palace as his wife. A Son is born.
Adultery. Cover-up. Murder. The perfect crime.
The ‘man after God’s own heart’ has sealed the lid on the the whole episode. No one – not even Bathsheba – knows the whole story.
That is, until Nathan turns up with his God-given parable. His story seems so innocent until David is forced to view it from such an uncomfortably personal angle: ‘You are the man!’
David is exposed. His crafted seal leaks.
His response could easily deepen the conspiracy. Silence Nathan in a dungeon. Order one of his executioners into action. David has the power to continue the cover.
But this king has had enough. He confesses to his prophet: ‘I have sinned against the LORD’.
The traditional opening notes to Psalm 51 attribute this prayer of repentance to this very moment. It is surely one of David’s must exposing songs. It amounts to nothing short of a desperate plea for help: ‘have mercy on me…’, ‘wash me’, ’cleanse me’, ‘teach me’, ‘purge me’, ‘support me’.
David seems relieved to finally confess: ‘my sin is ever before me’. The incident may have been buried from human sight, but David’s sin lives in him. It steals ‘joy’. Crushes ‘gladness’.
And so David casts himself on the mercy of God. A ‘broken spirit’ before the God who refuses to turn from the repentant. He even reminds the creator: ‘a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise’.
Perhaps confession really is good for the soul.
The same crowd among whom Jesus divided five barley loaves and two fish search for Jesus. Their motives have changed. They initially sought Jesus for his teaching. Now, however, they have tasted free food. They miss heaven’s ‘sign’ and seek merely more bread.
They look for the ‘perishable’ among the ‘eternal’.
Of course, Jesus wants more. The work of God is to ‘believe’, to trust, in the one who stands before them.
For that, however, they will need another ‘sign’. They suggest an echo of Moses’ wilderness manna: ‘Make some more food’.
Stuck on a theme.
The only bread Jesus will offer today, however, is far superior. Jesus’ loaf is both ‘true’, ‘heavenly’, and ‘life-giving’. Their hearts are changed: ‘Sir, give us this bread always’.
And ‘Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”.
‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ ‘Come’ to Jesus and ‘believe’. God’s simple call to all humanity.
Be warned, however. Paul begs the believers in Ephesus not to be satisfied with anything less that a ‘life worthy’ of this calling. Truly trusting the call of Jesus develops a humble, gentle, and ‘patient’ ‘love’ in us. It strives for ‘unity’ and ‘peace’.
After all, God imagines a ‘one body’, ‘one Spirit’, and ‘one hope’ stemming from ‘one Lord’, ‘one faith’, ‘one baptism’, and the ‘one God’ who is above all things.
And the resurrected, ascended, and enthroned Jesus has not left us unequipped in this calling. We are a community of ‘apostles’, ‘prophets’, ‘evangelists’, ‘pastors’, and ‘teachers’.
You may not easily see yourself in this list, but, according to the Apostle Paul, Christ gives such gifts to ‘each’ one of us.
And their use is clear: to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry’, and to build ‘the body of Christ’ in ‘unity’, ‘faith’, and ‘knowledge’ of God’s Son, Jesus. We enable each other to grow – staggeringly – into the maturity of the ‘full stature of Christ’.
Our method, also, is clear: we speak God’s ‘truth in love’.
Somehow, I imagine David agreeing with Paul on this. He is thankful for the freedom he found through Nathan’s courage, truth, and love. No doubt it was a distinctly uncomfortable experience. It paved the way, however, to forgiveness and freedom.
Coming to, and believing in, Jesus is not an arrival. It instigates a journey.
And this is no solo journey. Christianity is a together journey. We are a people travelling together in order that we may love like Christ. If we want to go far in the likeness of Christ we will need each other.
I pray that a deep-seeded unifying and peace-creating God-love for your fellow travellers may find its way into your hearts this day.
And who knows what God may grow from such a planting.