June 17, 2001
Proper 6
Second Sunday after Pentecost

from the Revised Common Lectionary
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
Psalm 32
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

[ Read texts at the Vanderbilt Divinity On-Line Library ]
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A Sermon on the Gospel Text

"What Do You Make Of This?"
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15

Today's sermon is a bit different. I want you to think along with me about some very important issues. I invite you to join with me in reflecting about sin and punishment, about God's anger toward sin and love towards sinners. There are some knotty issues in the scriptures about the consequences of sin and how the consequences of sin can have a devastating impact on others. Today's lesson from 2 Samuel is one of those tough passages I would just as soon leave out if I were in charge of putting the bible together.

Frankly people -- I don't care for this particular passage of scripture. This is one of those Sundays when the lectionary text raises more questions than it answers. My good friends who do not use the lectionary as a basis for preaching tell me they do not often, if ever, use this passage from 2 Samuel in their preaching.

I would likely follow suit.

But here it is.

It is inescapable and right there in black and white on the pages of Holy Scripture.

"The Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became very ill." [v.15]

As tough as this is, here's the rub. King David, ruler of Israel and most powerful man in the Kingdom -- the boy who went from tending sheep to delivering Israel from her enemies -- sets up his number one General to be killed in battle when he could not cover up the pregnancy that resulted from an affair with the General's wife. And guess who becomes deathly ill?

Not David, but the child of David and Bathsheba, the General's wife. Here it is again right from the text:

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." [v. 13-14]

Does this seem fair? David sins and lives. The child is innocent and without sin and dies!

I can almost hear what many of you are thinking right now. It goes something along the line of one of my six year old daughter's favorite sayings, "Not fair!" This whole episode raises questions in three major areas. We are challenged to think about:

[1] The nature of scripture

[2] The nature of God

[3] The nature of human beings

As a kind of background to looking at these questions, we need to examine at what Paul Harvey always called, "The rest of the story." This episode is a part of a whole drama that has played out on the stage of Israel's history. If we draw conclusions from only this scene, it would be the same as walking into a theater in the middle of a movie and leaving ten minutes later thinking we had a handle on the whole story.

The story in 2 Samuel has been developing over many years. David, King of Israel, was the product of God's divine care for Israel. Beginning as a lowly shepherd boy, he eventually became King of Israel. But not on his own!

David was a devout and committed believer in God and became a hero in Israel because of his love for God and passion for the people of God. God took him from shepherd of sheep to Shepherd of Israel and David was a model of what it meant to love and serve the Lord with, "... all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." [Mark 12:30]

Eventually David the country boy was David the King. He wanted for nothing and had access to everything. He calls to mind the words from that old Frank Sinatra song, "I've got the world on a string I'm sitting on a rainbow Got the string around my finger What a world, what a life..."  




Reflection on the Texts

Reflections on the texts for the Day of Pentecost are gathered here from prior resources. The links above under lectionary readings will take you to three prior years of sermons on the Day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:1-21

The disciples of Jesus are gathered together after a time of "waiting on the Lord."  The gathering is in response to the command of Jesus.  The key here is that obedience leads to the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.  In short, we need to "follow the directions" or nothing happens. The theme is consistent throughout the lessons for today.  The word of God is central and attending to the word of God in obedience is the key to effective ministry.

The "witness" given by Peter and the disciples when the Spirit has come upon them is evidence of the divine work -- a fulfillment of the promise of God to pour out the Spirit on all flesh. The mighty rushing wind of Pentecost calls to mind the wind Ezekiel calls from the four corners of the earth.  Here in Jerusalem, people are gathered from all over the earth.

The signs of the Spirit's presence includes the rushing wind (Hebrew - "ruach") and the tongues of fire.  Both wind and fire are familiar Old Testament images of the presence of God.

Old Testament prophets speak when the spirit came upon them and the empowering work of the Spirit likewise inspires Peter to rise and proclaim the news that God has fulfilled the promise of Joel that the Spirit would be poured out in the last days.  The "last days" here point to the inauguration of the work of the church.

( Peter's argument that the disciples were not drunk because it was only nine o'clock in the morning would likely not carry the weight today it did then!)


* This passage from Acts comes up each year of the lectionary cycle and may qualify as one of the top ten, "Most Familiar - Least Understood" passages in the bible.  What happens here?   The Holy Spirit energizes and empowers common, ordinary people of the rank and file to take God's message of reconciliation to every possible person who will hear it.

* The reaction is important!   Some who hear the result of the Spirit's empowerment are amazed and impressed.   Others, however, are moved to scorn.  "These guys are drunk!"   The last verse (21) affirms that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved -- but conversely, those who do not call upon the name of the Lord will not be saved.  The message of Pentecost unites -- but it only unites those who "call upon the name of the Lord."  Nevertheless -- from 1 Corinthians, it is essential to understand that those of us who do embrace the Messiah and the message are bound together in a single body.  Mark it down:  "The Spirit of God is the authentic source of unity in the midst of diversity."  Without unity, we do not have the credibility to bring the message to our world.  Without diversity, we do not have the ability to bring the message to our world."  Only Pentecost -- the coming of the Holy Spirit to our community can create the fusion of diversity and unity we need.


 Worship Helps

A Call To Worship (Based on Psalm 104 )

Leader:   Come O Lord, our Lord and fill us with your Spirit,
People:  You alone are the giver of life and restorer of souls!
Leader:   Apart from you Spirit there is no life, nor joy,

People:  Except you fill us, we are empty!
Leader:   As long as we have breath, we will sing praise to you,
People:  And while we have breath, we will rejoice in you!
               Blessed are you, O God!   Glory to you O Christ!
               Reign in our hearts, O Spirit of God!  Amen!


Prayer of Confession

Almighty and most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you and have wandered from the way of life and light you have set before us.  We have not loved you with the whole of our hearts and souls and minds. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not kept these the most important commandments of all, O Lord and our hearts are grieved that we have brought grief to you.  and Amen [Adapted from the BCP]

Assurance of Pardon

Beloved in Christ, our God is merciful and full of grace toward those who truly turn away from their sin and determine to live in love and charity with their neighbors and intend to live a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we have drawn near to God in confession, so now let us receive the good news that in Jesus Christ we are forgiven.  Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

O Lord God Almighty, Ruler of all creation and Redeemer of all who truly turn to you, we are filled with thanksgiving on this Day of Pentecost. On this day you opened up the hearts of your people by the power of the Holy Spirit and the good news of your son Jesus Christ was given to all nations.

We pray that you would give us the joy of seeing our friends and the people of this city [town, village] come to know the joy of your salvation. Fill us with the self same power you gave to your disciples on the day your Spirit filled the apostles with your message for all peoples. By your great mercy, give us open hearts and willing spirits to love one another as Christ loved us and to love our neighbors as ourselves that the world might know you alone are the Lord.

All praise, honor and glory are yours.  Amen.

A Prayer of Dedication

O God of all bounty, Lord of every blessing, Giver of every gift and Source of all gladness, it is a wonder to our minds and joy to our hearts that you should accept these gifts from our hands. May the renewing power of your Holy Spirit free us to be fully given into your hands, that you may bless the world through us. Amen.