Sunday October 23, 2022
Life and Work of our Church
The church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing God’s goodness for joy on this day.
The church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way.
Carol Rose Ikeler 1959 © 1963 W.L. Jenkins. All Rights Reserved. Used and adapted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. LicenSingOnline#605486
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and we commit ourselves to use and share this land wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
And as we light our Christ Candle this morning, we are reminded that regardless of what is happening in the world around us, God’s Light and God’s Spirit are still here, actively at work in the world today. Once again, we commit ourselves to follow and to share that light.
Call to Worship
We gather here today aware of the many ways in which we do not live up to our potential or your promise.
We gather here because we long to do better.
We gather here today aware that there are times we give in to our own passions and obsessions even when we know we shouldn’t.
We gather here because we long to do better.
We gather here today in deep gratitude knowing that despite all our flaws, our mistakes and our stubborn self-will, you never give up on us.
And so, we gather to worship you, our loving, understanding and forgiving God.
God, we come to you in humility and repentance aware that, even when we try our best, we seldom if ever live up to your call or to our own beliefs and ideals. You have reminded us through the stories of our faith ancestors that although we are all flawed human beings, in need of your forgiveness and your direction, we are also filled with your potential and your love. Open us to accept fully all that we are and to embrace your loving grace and forgiveness. Amen
Gift of Music All My Hope Is Firmly Grounded #654
The story of David and Bathsheba is a story of passion and obsession to match any modern movie plot. David sees Bathsheba from afar and is so overcome with lust for her that he eventually arranges for her husband to be killed in battle so that he can take Bathsheba for his wife. And although David believes he will get away with this, he must eventually face the reality of what he has done.
2 Samuel 11:1-5, 26-27; 12:1-9 Good News Translation
The following spring, at the time of the year when kings usually go to war, David sent out Joab with his officers and the Israelite army; they defeated the Ammonites and besieged the city of Rabbah. But David himself stayed in Jerusalem.
One day, late in the afternoon, David got up from his nap and went to the palace roof. As he walked around up there, he saw a woman taking a bath in her house. She was very beautiful. So he sent a messenger to find out who she was, and learned that she was Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David sent messengers to get her; they brought her to him and he made love to her. (She had just finished her monthly ritual of purification.) Then she went back home. Afterward she discovered that she was pregnant and sent a message to David to tell him.
When Bathsheba heard that her husband had been killed, she mourned for him. When the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to the palace; she became his wife and bore him a son. But the Lord was not pleased with what David had done.
The Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David. Nathan went to him and said, “There were two men who lived in the same town; one was rich and the other poor. The rich man had many cattle and sheep, while the poor man had only one lamb, which he had bought. He took care of it, and it grew up in his home with his children. He would feed it some of his own food, let it drink from his cup, and hold it in his lap. The lamb was like a daughter to him. One day a visitor arrived at the rich man’s home. The rich man didn’t want to kill one of his own animals to fix a meal for him; instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared a meal for his guest.”
David became very angry at the rich man and said, “I swear by the living Lord that the man who did this ought to die! For having done such a cruel thing, he must pay back four times as much as he took.”
“You are that man,” Nathan said to David. “And this is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I made you king of Israel and rescued you from Saul. I gave you his kingdom and his wives; I made you king over Israel and Judah. If this had not been enough, I would have given you twice as much. Why, then, have you disobeyed my commands? Why did you do this evil thing? You had Uriah killed in battle; you let the Ammonites kill him, and then you took his wife!
Covenants Made Broken and Renewed
Last Sunday we talked about Joshua. This Sunday we look at the only text we have this year dealing with King David. But so much has happened in between. When the people settled in the “Promised Land” they set up a system of government that was controlled by Judges. This was very different from the surrounding culture and after a while the people began to demand that they have a king, just like everyone else did.
So, Saul is eventually anointed as the first king of Israel. But Saul proved less than ideal, and eventually God directed Samuel to anoint David as the new king and God makes a covenant with David that he and his ancestors will rule over Israel forever.
Today, we skip over the selection of David as king, the defeat of Goliath, David’s relationship with Saul, the covenant made with David when he eventually became king, and the stories of his many successes in battle. Today we read one of the most challenging stories of David’s reign, the story of David and Bathsheba.
This is a story in which David appears to be any but an ideal king. Despite all of the wonderful things that David has done, in the story of his relationship with Bathsheba, David is revealed as being selfish, deceitful, lustful, conniving and even murderous. This is not what we want to see from someone who is supposed to be righteous, faithful, ethical and devoted to the God who has given him so much. We have a hard time squaring this image of David with the boy who trusted God so much he was willing to face a giant with nothing but a slingshot.
The story of David and Bathsheba begins with a note that the entire Israelite army had once again gone to war, but this time, David had remained in Jerusalem. The entire story begins with David being in a place he should not have been. As the head of the Israelite army David should have been in the field, leading his troupes. We are never told why he is not there. Perhaps there was a good reason, but we are only told he had remained in Jerusalem.
And so, one day as David is taking a casual walk around the palace roof, he spots Bathsheba, who is bathing on the roof of her home. Overcome with lust for her, he sends a messenger to bring her to him and has sexual relations with her. Whether she was a willing partner or no, we are never told. When he is done with her, sends her home, but shortly afterwards, she sends word that she is pregnant.
In an attempt to cover up his adultery, David sends for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband who is away fighting with David’s army and he tries to arrange for Uriah to spend the night with Bathsheba so than, when the child is born, Uriah will believe it is his. This plan fails, so David then arranges for Uriah to be put in a position on the battlefield where he will certainly be killed. This plan succeeds and after an appropriate time of mourning, David takes Bathsheba for his wife.
But the scripture tells us, the Lord was not pleased with what David had done. And so, God sends Nathan, the prophet who acted as the advisor to the King and who was understood as speaking on behalf of God, to call David to task for what he had done.
Surely this was not the kind of job that anyone would willingly volunteer for. To challenge any decision made by the king was extremely dangerous. The king could choose to have anyone sent away, locked up or even killed for any reason. He had already had Uriah killed in an attempt to cover up his adultery, and now God wanted Nathan to challenge David’s behaviour.
And this is where the story takes a wonderful twist. Nathan, rather than condemning David, appeals to David’s own sense of justice and integrity. He comes to David with a story. “There is a man in your own kingdom who is very rich but when a guest arrives, rather than slaughtering one of his own animals for a feast, he steals the only lamb that his poor neighbour has, even though that lamb meant everything to his neighbour, and slaughtered and served it instead.”
David is incensed by the injustice of the situation and vows that the man who would do such a thing, deserves to die. And Nathan responds, “You are that man”. The very principles of justice and integrity that has caused David to condemn the man in Nathan’s story are the principles he himself has violated.
God has given David riches beyond measure. All of Saul’s wives and Saul’s property have been given to David and David has added to that wealth until he has more than double what Saul ever had. Nathan reminds David that God has given him more than he could ever have asked for, and yet, You had Uriah killed in battle … and then you took his wife!
If Nathan had approached David accusing him of adultery, deception and murder, who knows what would have happened. This story would likely have a very different ending. But instead, it is David who ultimately condemns himself. David cannot deny what he has done when he himself has said, “the man who did this ought to die!”
But David does not die. Nor is he replaced as king. Despite the death of the child who was conceived while Uriah was still alive, Bathsheba eventually conceives again and gives birth to Solomon, the one who would become king after David and who would, in many ways, be a far greater king than his father.
There is a part of us that can’t help but wonder why God didn’t simply reject David. Why didn’t God just replace him with someone more appropriate? The thing is that God made a promise to David when he became king, a covenant that stated, “I will not withdraw my support from [you] as I did from Saul, whom I removed so that you could be king. You will always have descendants, and I will make your kingdom last forever. Your dynasty will never end.”
God’s covenant with David, was that David’s descendants would rule over Israel forever, and God does not break God’s covenant. No matter how often human beings may break our part of the covenant, God never breaks God’s covenant. Now that does not mean that David simply got away with things. Actions have consequences and we must all face the consequences of our actions. When Nathan confronted David, David could no longer deny what he had done, he had to face the reality of his own actions.
And David did. He took responsibility and admitted his sin. Psalm 51 begins with the explanation , “A psalm by David when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba”. This is what David says in that psalm.
You are kind, God! Please have pity on me. You are always merciful! Please wipe away my sins. Wash me clean from all of my sin and guilt. I know about my sins, and I cannot forget the burden of my guilt. You are really the one I have sinned against; I have disobeyed you and have done wrong. So it is right and fair for you to correct and punish me. I have sinned and done wrong since the day I was born. But you want complete honesty, so teach me true wisdom … Turn your eyes from my sin and cover my guilt. Create pure thoughts in me and make me faithful again. Don’t chase me away from you or take your Holy Spirit away from me.
It is only in asking for and in receiving forgiveness that David’s relationship with God is restored and it is only in the restoration of his relationship with God that David’s relationships with Bathsheba and with his people can be restored. The transformative work of forgiveness cannot be achieved without the transformative power and grace of the Spirit.
David, despite being chosen as God’s king, despite being the one with whom God would make an everlasting covenant, was a deeply flawed man. He allowed his own passions and desires to outweigh his ethical sense of what was right and wrong. His pride and his fear of being exposed for what he had done, caused him to try to cover up his action. This only compounded his original sin and caused even further damage and destruction.
The truth is that David is very much like us. We are all flawed human beings that sometimes allow our desires and passions to take over, even when we know in our hearts that what we are doing is not right. And like David, we often tend to make excused and try to cover up what we have done. We do not always live up to our own principles and ethics, any more than David did.
But for me, the most wonderful part of this entire story is that, just like God never deserted or rejected David, God will never desert or reject us. No matter what has happened in our lives, no matter what we might have done, when we ask, God will show up and do what we can’t do ourselves. God will restore and repair our brokenness; our broken relationships, our broken sense of self and self-esteem, our broken honesty and truth telling, and our broken commitment to live out our part in God’s covenantal relationship, a covenant that is for all time and for all people, God’s covenant of Love. Amen
Gift of Music O God How We Have Wandered #112
We Offer Our Gifts
In gratitude for all that God has done for us, let us present our offering. The gifts we offer may our financial contributions that we place on our offering places in the church entryway, the change we put in our Mission & Service piggy bank, or the donation we make through PAR or online, but they may also be the gifts of our time, our talents, our caring and our sharing. Whatever gifts we bring, we offer them to God as we sing together our offertory response.
Offertory Response Tune # 549
For all your goodness God, we give you thanks.
And so we offer you, all that we have and do,
To serve and honour you and give you thanks.
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As you have blessed us in all that you have given us, we ask that you will bless the gifts that we bring that they may become a blessing to others. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath. God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts. So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Love, perhaps the one thing we need most as we come before you in prayer, is for our encounters with you to be genuine. So much of the time our prayers are to you or about you rather than with you. We hold back the truth of who we are and what we feel. Like David, we are ashamed and try to cover up our flaws. Yet we know that it is only when we fully open ourselves to you that we can fully experience your love and your forgiveness. Penetrate our facades, our emptiness, and our guilt so that we may know and be known, for who we truly are, loved and forgiven…
But you remind us that fullness and forgiveness are not only for us but for all people. Open us to forgive as we have been forgiven, knowing that it is only in relationship with you and with one another that we can find your deepest peace and fulfillment…
As we look at the world around us, we often see only the damaged, the broken, the evil and the suffering. We see the damage and destruction of the land, the sea and the resources you provide. We see the brokenness of relationships, of promises, of ethics and of justice. We see the evil of greed, violence, wars and hatred. We see the suffering of inequality and poverty, of fear and oppression, of physical, mental and spiritual sickness. We see all this and we are sometime tempted to give in to hopelessness rather than doing our part to change these things…
Yet your love calls us to trust in you, to turn to you and to do all that we can do to live fully into our ongoing and everchanging relationship with you. Guide us, encourage us and open our hearts to live more intentionally and completely into our relationship with you. Amen.
Gift of Music Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah #651
Isn’t it amazing to know that now matter what we have done in the past and no matter what we may do in the future, no matter where we have been or where we might go, God will never abandon or reject us. And so, as we go out from here today, we go in the certainty that God is with us, Christ leads us where we should go, and the Spirit walks beside us and within us every step we take. As we go from here, we go with God. Amen
Choral Blessing #298
When you walk from here, when you walk from here,
Walk with justice, walk with mercy, and with God’s humble care.
© Words and music; 1991 Borealis Music. Used with Permission. OneLicense.net#A-723756