Late last night, I took a moment to read through the coming week’s lectionary passages. Over the past few Sundays, I’ve wandered down the Old Testament path, looking at 2nd Samuel. That’s made things a little easier. The gospel and epistle readings have been tough. I say this prayer before I turn to the new readings, “Please God, don’t let them be about treating immigrants fairly, offering free health care to everyone in Galilee, and feeding people who aren’t on a welfare to work program. Amen”. That prayer never works.
Words like immigrants, justice, and peace keep popping up in the readings. It’s almost like Jesus wants me to talk about these important issues. In fact, it’s like the Bible is speaking directly to the social and political divides which haunt America. At those moments when I think I could marry some self-help mumbo jumbo with a bit of Jesus and preach about the “safe” topics; Jesus puts me back in the middle of the briar patch. Sure I could look for something else. I could go to other texts. I could preach a seven part summer sermon series with titles like:
Choices in Prayer
Life in Pieces
Spiritual Ideas I Gathered from Watching Marvel Superhero Movies
How to Calm the Waves of Brokenness
Jesus Died for Your Comfort
God Wants You to Walk on Water
You Have to Get Out of the Boat
Yes, I could preach those sermons but then I wouldn’t be preaching the Old Testament, the demanding stories of Jesus, or the hard words of Paul. But is that really preaching? If worship becomes a cross between Tony Robbins and a Ted Talk is it still church? No. It’s entertainment.
Still, when I read what’s on offer, I’m sometimes taken by surprise. Last night was no exception. I looked at where we’re headed in 2nd Samuel and there it was: King David is having an affair with Bathsheba. I immediately sent an email to God:
RE: 2nd Samuel 11
You want me to talk about a powerful ruler who has a history of sexual indiscretions and then commits treason by having one of his own men killed in battle? Do you realize how awkward this is? Aren’t people liable to get uncomfortable and draw conclusions to the world beyond church? This is what I’m supposed to preach! Not to mention, there are probably people in my congregation who’ve been impacted, in their own right, by infidelity and betrayal. Color me queasy.
God is incredibly busy so I’m not expecting an immediate reply. That being said, I’m going to go ahead and mull this one over. So, without pushing too many hot buttons, I think King David is a real twit. In fact, I am all for removing King David’s security clearance. Have you seen this man’s history? A man who can’t be trusted to be faithful to his own wife or lead his own men in battle and is responsible for the murder of one of his own soldiers has lost the trust of the nation. There are words to describe such conduct: treasonous, cowardly, and a traitor. David has betrayed the very idea that undergirds the Kingdom of Israel and the very God who placed him on the throne. No, this man, this Judean shepherd can no longer be trusted to guide, guard, and shepherd this Kingdom. His clearance must be removed. Maybe, just maybe, Israel needs to think about getting a king who doesn’t give lip service to God.
If God gets back and wants me to talk about walking on water, I’ll let you know.
Richard Lowell Bryant