12 August 2018
by Ann B.
2 Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2; John 6: 35, 41-51
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of all our hearts be now
and always acceptable in our sight, 0 Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
One of the most frustrating things about being a parent, is that our weaknesses often surface in our children. That's certainly the case in this morning's Old Testament reading in which we learn about the bizarre ending of one of King David's sons, Absalom.
King David is one of the greatest men in the Old Testament: initially a shepherd boy, (he slew the giant Goliath!), a poet, (he wrote the Psalm we read this morning), a king, and also one of Jesus' ancestors. Yet David was weak: a liar, an adulterer, even a murderer! Yet, in spite of all his human frailties, David is remembered and respected for his heart for God. We need to remember that. In spite of our human weaknesses, don't we hope we'll be remembered and respected for our love for God and for what we've been able to accomplish, with God's help, sometimes in spite of ourselves?
No one in Israel was as handsome as King David's son, Absalom and he certainly had some of his father's strengths. The people loved Absalom. Many thought he would make an excellent king. But sometimes good looks can be deceiving Yes David saw in his son some of his own strengths, but he also saw a bitter replay of some of his weaknesses, and this troubled him. David recognized that Absalom, though popular, lacked the inner character, and especially the heart for God, which would be needed to be a great leader.
Whereas David's wrong doings often led him away from God, David's heart for God always drew him back again. David would admit what he'd done wrong, and seek God's forgiveness and help in changing his behaviour. That's what repentance is: admitting to God what we've done wrong then asking God for forgiveness and help in changing our behaviour. We can't always do that on our own! We need God's help.
For us, confession is always a central theme of our worship. It gives us an opportunity to bring before God the things we have done or said, known or unknown, that were wrong, to admit our guilt and to ask God to forgive us and help us in correcting our behaviour. Clearing the slate that way really needs to be a daily habit, - any time, anywhere, especially at bedtime in preparation for a good night's sleep. The wonderful Dutch lady Corrie Tenboorn, who sheltered Jewish refugees in Holland during the second world war, once said, "Sins (wrong thoughts, actions,) sins (confessed to God) with a plea for forgiveness disappear into the depths of the ocean with a sign over them 'No fishing! They should never re-surface!" And I think that means we should Jo the same for others' sins, too. That might mean that some members of the press would be out of work! But, surely, building people up is far better than tearing them down. With less gossip, the world really would be a better place!
In contrast to his father David, Absalom was not wise enough to seek God's help. David was horrified as he saw his son's strengths run wild. David loved all his sons. But when Absalom avenged the rape of his sister Tamar by killing the rapist his half brother, Amnon, (also one of David's sons) David banished Absalom from his presence. For years David and Absalom lived some distance apart, and even when Absalom was allowed back to live in Jerusalem again, he was never allowed to be, in his father's presence.
We're told that David's heart was broken as he realized that his son Absalom lacked the inner character and control needed to be a great leader.
When Absalom chose to fight for his father's throne, King David felt that he had no choice other than to fight back. But David still loved his son, and didn't want him harmed. So heave instructions to his commanders to deal gently with his son. And then we have the bizarre battle story of Absalom racing through the forest and his head getting caught by the branch of a great oak tree, and his mule racing on, leaving Absalom dangling there! Absalom was fair game for his father's men who had been chasing him.
No-one wanted to tell David that Absalom had died. When he did find out, David's cry was one of the most tragic in the entire bible: "0 my son, Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I could have died instead of you! 0 Absalom, my son, my son." David covered his face with his hands, and kept on weeping, "0 my son Absalom, my son, my son." Shorty after this incident, David wrote Psalm 130, the Psalm we read this morning. It, too, reflects the utter despair David felt at the death of his son, Absalom. Yet it also reflects the depth of David's faith in God.
"From the depth of my despair I call to you; Lord. Hear my cry, 0 Lord; listen to my call for help! ... I wait eagerly for the Lord's help, and in his word I trust. ... trust in the Lord, because his love is constant and he is always willing to save."
Note that, in the midst of David's grief he still "waits eagerly for the Lord's help." David trusts in the Lord because David knows from experience that God is always there for him. We, too, can trust in the Lord, because we know that God is always there for us, too.
In Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus, he tells us what we need to do to live a good life.
Put away all falsehood. Always tell the truth. We belong to each other.
Don't let anger control you, or go to bed angry. Anger gives way to evil.
Stop stealing. Use hands for honest work. Give generously to the needy.
Don't use foul language. Say what is good and helpful. Encourage others.
Do nothing to bring sorrow to others. Remember that everyone is special.
Get rid of all bitterness and anger. Be kind. Forgive one another.
Live a life filled with love for others.
Keep your face always towards the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind.
Surely the world would be a much better place with these guidelines to follow - by all creeds and races of peoples everywhere.
In addition, Paul's letter states: "Do not bring sorrow to God ... by the way you live. Remember, (Jesus) is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption."
For us this morning, the Gospel reading about the bread of life really is the icing on the cake!
"I am the bread of life," Jesus said. "No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst." And because the people didn't understand what Jesus meant Jesus went on to say, ... I am the bread of life, ... the bread from heaven [which] gives eternal life to everyone who eats it."
Jesus is "the bread from heaven," the food that nourishes the soul. Jesus gives us the food for the soul that we hunger for. Living and breathing Jesus message (the 'bread from heaven') will nourish our souls forever.
Thanks be to God.