I have talked many times in Bible study and also preached a good bit about the “humanness” of King David, how he was not the totally wonderful God-following king of the Jews, as some have seen him from limited Bible reading or heard about from some ministers. The thing is, he lived in a time and place of ongoing warlike cultures, where various tribes and nations stopped at nothing to destroy weaker peoples and take whatever they wanted. This was the standard of the ancient times, from the ancient Egyptians, to the Assyrians, to the Babylonians and Persians, and then the Greeks and Romans empires—and this was all before the time of Jesus. It did not stop there, continuing with the Moslems, Turks, Crusaders, Mongols, Ottomans, and even British and French dominance and influences. Today, there are still a lot of warring countries and peoples in the Middle East—all using some religious cause as the basis for what they do. So, it was no wonder that King David had some traits that were not up to the standards that God wanted in a devoted earthly Jewish king.
The story today in 2 Samuel follows up on last week’s reading about the horrific actions of David in taking Bathsheba from Uriah, by order and force (including having Uriah, one of his generals, killed in battle intentionally). But Nathan, his right-hand confidante and prophet, calls him out on this in such a clever way that David first reacts as he should when hearing about an awful action by one who is privileged beyond all reality, then Nathan tells him that he is basically that same person.
Nathan also tells David about his future: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.” By the way, those other things Nathan prophesied about David all happened too—it was a very troubled and fractured family that David tried to lead in his 30 some years in power. So, at least in the writing of this story by the Israelites hundreds of years later, there were consequences to David’s actions, no matter how much he professed his sins and how godly he was after this. The best that happened was that his son Solomon became king and was the best king the Jews ever had.
Our Ephesians 4 reading today is full of familiar phrases we likely have heard in our church experiences in the past:
“4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all…”
“7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
“11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”
Paul is working with the people of Ephesus to get them to understand the powerful variety of gifts that they have been given by God, and that they are to be used to build up the one baptized community as followers of Jesus Christ. Here at St. Mark’s I believe we operate very much in this way, allowing people to find where their gifts can be used and where their faith leads them to build up our community. That is what the Episcopal Church calls Total Common Ministry.
In my quick preparations for the sermon this week, everything I read was all about the Bread, Bread of Life, and the Bread of Christ. Well, I know there are other chances for preaching about John’s writing on The Bread in the next week or two, so I hoped not to focus too much on this for this week. But I did find something interesting to talk about, “The Jesus Diet”.
Rev. David Sellery wrote about this in his sermon on this reading three years ago. He says: “This week's gospel is promoting "The Jesus Diet." It's all about healthy choices… making a lifetime commitment that guarantees results. That’s because it comes with a personal trainer. Jesus is with us every step of the way. Feeding us; leading us; getting us in shape for eternity.
In this week's gospel, it's the day after Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. The crowd thinks they’ve caught the gravy train and they don't want this party to end. After some probing, they put in their order: Give us a sign to believe in you. How about a regular diet of manna raining from heaven? Jesus seizes on their opening to explain who he is and why he's here: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.
To the disappointment of the idlers, Jesus is not promising an endless buffet of material goodies. He is offering himself as the spiritual food that will fill our deepest needs.”
Continuing, Rev. Sellery, says: “In Christ we are not separate individuals experiencing something that is strictly private and unique to us. The Bread of Life is not an individual a la carte offering that we get to pick and choose. It is a common feast that unites us. We are fed and fueled by the same bread, the same faith. That is what makes us Church, no matter what our sectarian or doctrinal differences. We are not Christians because we call ourselves Christians. We are Christians because we are baptized into grace; nourished and strengthened, body and soul, fully committed, fully absorbed in the love of Christ. In that context, we start each day. We end each day. We live each day.
So, stay close to Jesus. He'll help you make healthy choices. Keep pace with him in prayer and in scripture. Workout with him in ministries of worship, outreach and fellowship. Get on the Jesus Diet. It's not about losing; it's about gaining… gaining serenity, purpose and direction in this life… gaining the joy of eternal salvation in the next.”