Sermon ~ Pastor Annette
A sermon presented on the occasion of Pastor Annette's 25th year in ministry!
A day like this is rather like attending one’s own funeral.
You’ve graciously skipped over all the times I’ve disappointed you
- and worse.
You’ve done so much work and I am grateful beyond words.
My family is here ~ also a big deal:
My sisters Cathy & Jeanne. Cathy’s wife Lisa.
Lindy, Jason, Ethan, Taylor, Parker and Annabelle
Gwenie, Henry, and Jake from Louisville.
Mariah, Jeremy And Carl.
Carl who invented the position - pastor’s husband;
First Gentleman as African American congregations call his kind.
He puts up with more than you know.
We’d all be in trouble without him.
23 years ago I was on retreat at a Benedictine monastery,
Reading about their tradition.
Upon entering the order they take several vows.
One is called the vow of stability; the promise to stay
in the same community of brothers and sisters
for a lifetime.
The vow of Hell or Highwater is another name for it.
Could a Baptist pastor keep a vow of stability with a congregation?
I wondered . . . and decided to see.
To watch your kids grow up and your hair turn gray
~ while mine stays strangely unchanged ~
has been my privilege.
To baptize and marry and bury you and yours
season after season . . .
To welcome you and send you on your way . . .
To build a building and pay it off . . .
Most of all . . . to minister together with you
in this same community
for my entire adult life
has been a richer life
than I could ever have dreamed for myself.
So thank you for the privilege of life together in this time and place.
Now I need to preach.
If the story of King David teaches anything at all -
Surely it suggests there is some wiggle room to be imperfect
when it comes to serving God.
King David is the best . . . And the worst . . . .
Of the bible’s top tier heroes.
Ist Samuel chapter 16 is his opening act.
Since last week ~ Samuel the prophet-judge-priest is all grown up and spends his time helping the king with the Philistines
How did they get here?
The Philistines were but one of the tribes of Canaanites refusing
to hand their land over to Israel without a fight.
The Philistines were metalworkers but would not sell weapons to the Hebrews so the Hebrews could to turn around and murder them more effectively.
Buried in Chapter 13 is a list of prices a Philistine blacksmith charged to sharpen Hebrew tools.
So the Hebrews had to fight with whatever
they could make & muster -
Rocks mostly . . . and you know that story . . .
David and his slingshot . . . .
the victory it was to take Goliath's sword & cut off his head with it.
Before the time of kings . .
As prophet-priest-and judge . . . .
Samuel kept the Philistines
at bay for nearly a generation.
His people did not trust his sons to do the same.
They wanted a warrior king . . .
Someone fierce enough to pick a fight with the Philistines
and beat them outright once and for all . . . .
weapons or no weapons.
They have collectively forgotten about the battle when the Philistines
killed 30,000 Israelites and made off with their Ark of God.
"No king," say Samuel and the Lord,
"it will only come to more war and ruin."
The people would not hear it.
Fine, God told Samuel, give it to them.
That first king was Saul,
the most handsome man in Israel . . .
Head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land,"
the bible says.
It's about the nicest thing the bible has to say about King Saul ~
He was the Mad King . . . .
for the whole 42 years he was king.
All 42 years spent at war;
not border skirmishes like in the time of Samuel,
but full scale war with all the death & destruction therein.
The climax of the story is a battle in which God tells Saul to mount a Holy War against the Philistine forces of King Agag.
What makes war Holy?
Israel was not to get rich at war.
They were to gain no profit or plunder.
Meaning that no living creature was to be left alive,
including King Agag himself.
And Saul obeyed - about 85 percent’s worth.
But he kept King Agag as a prisoner - as a trophy for himself.
And let his officers keep the best sheep and cattle for themselves.
Samuel confronted him.
Saul denied it,
"Oh, THESE sheep and cows?
We aren't keeping them.
We brought them back to you to sacrifice to the Lord."
He’s lying like a dog ~ of course.
But Samuel was neither fooled nor flattered.
He was, the bible says, enraged,
"Which, do you suppose, the Lord asks of you?
Sacrifice or obedience?"
So Samuel himself has King Agag brought in.
Believing himself having escaped a terrible fate -
Agag is full of bragadocious talk -
Until Samuel hewed him to pieces,
which goes to show what?
That if you want something done right,
more often than not, you have to do it yourself.
Lest we wonder why the elders of Bethlehem trembled when Samuel showed up there - verse 4.
Samuel's heart was broken and he mourned for Saul a long, long time.
The bible says he neither saw nor spoke to him again,
and that the Lord regretted ever making Saul king.
Which is how we’ve come to the story of David.
Samuel took no pleasure in being right
But his despondency served no one.
So God called Samuel back to work,
"How long will you grieve for Saul?
You've got a country here to run."
And so God's next awesome idea
is to anoint a new king while the old king is still in power.
What could possibly go wrong?
But I struggle mightily with the character of David . . .
I cannot separate David's legendary biblical status
from the fact that he did the two worst things any person
can do to another person.
And I struggle with the the question of
whether God knew he'd grow up to do those things
when God called him in the first place.
One is rape - the other is murder.
both of which, if I were God, would be deal breakers to me . .
Seriously, they are the worst, don't you think?
Not that God condones such beastly acts in David -
but David still gets to be the all time favorite,
legend king of the bible.
Literally more ink spent on him than any other human figure,
Including our Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ.
David made Israel the Israel she became . . . .
God's chosen nation . . . .
His shadow falls upon the entire bible; old and new testaments.
Even today - in Jerusalem, you can stay in the King David Hotel.
I had dessert and coffee there once, it’s beautiful.
So what gives?
Something's got to give . . .
Either God was naïve . . .
God simply didn't know how awful David would turn out being . . .
Or God knew and didn't mind.
Maybe there is this third choice . . . .
The text says that God knew David’s heart.
Which I understand to mean NOT that God knew
precisely, predictively, everything David would ever do . .
but rather . . . . all the good and bad and in between
that David would have the chance to do
every single day of his live.
If God sees what is in our hearts -
Then surely God sees it all . . . .
I do have to laugh a bit here where the text says,
God looks not at “outwardly appearances but on the human heart."
And then when David actually shows up the bible immediately tells us how beautiful he was.
But knowing what we know of David -
the good and bad he does over the next 50 years of being king -
What might God have seen in David’s heart to make God think,
That boy could be a king.
And I don’t know what God saw.
Maybe I haven’t studied the bible long enough . . .
Or simply lived long enough . .
To know what God saw . . .
But today I’m going with the possibility
that what God saw in David that day
was undaunted courage.
David didn’t get parking tickets.
He didn’t waste work time looking at Facebook.
David sinned BIG.
In fact, when it came to sinning,
David’s sin motto was surely,
Go big or go home.
Because David sinned with same courage with which he slayed Goliath.
He sinned and then sinned some more to cover up his sin.
When he tuned his courage to his own fear and lust and anger and greed ~
that same courage destroyed everything in its path.
And Israel faltered and she failed.
When David tuned his devotion and his courage
to the purposes of God ~ Israel grew and thrived.
And so, knowing all that he might choose to be and do as king,
God still called David.
As David went . . . . so went Israel.
Into joy and into sorrow ~
But it all came from David’s heart.
God turned away from Saul, the bible says,
And for all his hellbent ways,
God never turned away from David.
From David came the Saviour, as you know.
And through the Saviour we have come to know the Lord.
Having come to us in Jesus Christ,
God has promised never to leave us alone again.
So it cannot be with us like Saul and God.
HOwever much God regrets having made us God’s own;
We can’t be unadopted now.
This is no doubt far more inconvenient for God than for us.
But on the good days,
we know without a doubt
That God has made us partners in the amazing task
of being holiness and grace
to one another and to the world.
We are as called as King David ~
To live our lives in such a way
that all that lives
may live more like God intended . . .
It pains me almost more than I can stand sometimes
that God won't take my advice.
In this case, that God refuses my idea that certain sins should always be deal breakers
when it comes to kings and preachers.
That may be what makes God God and me a small town preacher -
I can cause less harm from here.
I am aware . . .
That insofar as I compare myself to God at all
I've largely missed the bible's point . . . .
because I am the called - not the Caller.
My heart is as mixed a bag of faith and fear as David's,
even if I do neither with as much courage.
I am more lame than him in both directions
but I am no less called to faith than him . . .
God still looks upon my heart and yours
Sees all the choices we might every make;
And calls us to live like we are called . . . .
And no matter what our record is so far -
the Lord does not stop calling us to come along and help . . .
Because the world has not stopped needing to be loved, . . . . . Including us.
We are called by God to live like we are called . . . .
To be about God's business all our lives . . .
And in our life together . . . .
My precious, precious friends.