First Reading 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
Second Reading Ephesians 4:1-16
Gospel Reading John 6:24-35
Sermon: “The Truth Hurts, but Ultimately Heals”
How do you respond when someone rightly calls you out for something you have done? In our text for today, David was caught. His adultery with Bathsheba and his arranged murder of Uriah, her husband, was put before him in a vivid way. What would he do? How would he respond? He had a lot of options, he was the king after all. His response tells us a lot about the man, just as our responses in similar circumstances tell a lot about us.
We can have many different reactions to being accused of something. All but one of them are bad, several are downright evil. Denial is very popular these days: “O, that wasn’t me!” or the ever popular “that’s a lie!” Heated anger can accompany our response… yelling and screaming does tend to shut down unwanted information. (At least for a moment or two) Accusations of our own might work well at shutting them down as well. Everybody has something their feeling a little guilty about, how dare they point out mine! We can even resort to blaming the victim – it was really their fault in the first place, so why was Bathsheba bathing where she could be seen from the palace, David might have said. Thanks be to God he did not.
Other times we reply with a variety of excuses, a few weeks ago, we heard Saul go this route several times with Samuel, it didn’t do him any good by the way and it won’t for us either. So, sometimes, we just pretend that we just didn’t hear anything and attempt go on about our business. Or, perhaps we protest our innocence as our conscience shrivels up within us. We all have seen the lawyer’s billboard just south of town proclaiming “Just because you did it, doesn’t mean they can prove it!”
Sometimes, particularly when the offender is powerful, things go very badly – even physical violence happens. … killing or brutalizing the messenger is a well practiced response. Getting rid of the witnesses and those who could reveal the truth not only happens in the movies, but in real life as well. Sadly David went down that road with Uriah.
All of these things are common in society, but scripture calls us to a very different response. Let me propose and analogy for a moment before we get back to David’s story: Suppose you get a cut or injury out in the yard. It’s bleeding and it’s dirty and it’s ugly and it hurts! What do you do? Well…We could go through the poor choice list above and deny it happened, we could get mad about it and scream and shout a lot, we could blame someone else and offer a whole lot of excuses for why we allowed it to happen, but all the time we are bleeding, hurting, risking infection and further injury. Normally, as adults, we know better than to behave like that, though I have certainly seen folks do all of those things. Eventually, we calm down and begin to address the real problem. We stop the bleeding, we clean out the wound, we apply an antibiotic and we put in a bandage to protect and cushion the hurt.
So why is it that we can’t seem to do the same thing for hurts and injuries to our relationships with others and we have such particular problems with injuries to our relationship with God?? That a good definition of sin by the way. The first aid sequence is almost automatic with us, so why is relationship first aid so foreign: it’s not a complicated process but just like washing out a wound it can hurt a lot and requires an act of will to get through it. Just like those old first aid tinctures that most of you are old enough to remember, confession is painful at first, but prevents things from getting worse and leads to healing and reconciliation over time.
Let me be clear hear about that word Confession. It’s not about excuses, its about admitting to yourself, to the other and to God that you messed up, you fell short, you let them down. It is admitting that you are in fact guilty. That is the first step to addressing the problem. It might hurt a lot, it might bring on consequences (but you know they are coming eventually anyway) but it stops the damage from getting worse. If David had only been able to do that when Bathsheba came to tell him she was pregnant, think how the story might have been different. Oh yes. it would have been tough but it would have stopped him from from having her husband murdered and making the whole situation even worse. Eventually David was able to confess, with some help from Nathan the prophet, who told him the parable about the callous wrong done to the poor man and his precious pet lamb by the cruel rich man who only cared for his own circumstances.
David was indignant at the rich man until Nathan pointed at him and said “You are the man.” Now what was David to do? He was powerful, he had already had one man killed, and Nathan wouldn’t be the first prophet to be persecuted and threatened or killed for delivering the bad news. Instead David’s inner heart, gifted to him by God prevailed and he simply said “I have sinned against the Lord.” No excuses, no angry denials, no threats or counter accusations. Just simple confession. Psalm 51, which we used a portion of for our prayer of confession today, is David’s extended confession. In it, he strikes at the heart of the issue when he says that “God desires truth in our inner being.” In other words, confession is admitting to ourselves, to God and to those we have wronged what our heart already knows. Confession is intended to be the first step on a longer road.
After confession comes repentance and restitution. In these steps, we are called to begin to repair what we have broken, if it is possible. We publically resolve to change destructive behaviors and to take a new and righteous path. This normally requires a lot of help from God. David says it well in the Psalm when he asks God, not to just dust him off and wipe away a smudge or two, but instead, he asks God to create in him a new heart – a right spirit within him. In other words, a new life, with a new and righteous perspective, from God’s point of view. This is a gift that God loves to give. It is freely available to all who put their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. In Christ we can find what we so desperately crave: forgiveness and new life.
SO… does that mean that we don’t have to worry about consequences? No, I’m afraid we do. God forgave David, but there were consequences. The child that he and Bathsheba conceived did indeed die. Furthermore, David will suffer other consequences within his own family as we will hear next week. But there will also be life. David will be led through it all. It won’t be easy, but he will make it through. He and Bathseba will have another son – named Solomon. He will be king after David – he will be in the human lineage of our own Lord Jesus, and he will erect a stunningly glorious temple dedicated to the glory of God.
God is so good and so lovingly gracious to us. God sent his own son into the world to pay the penalty of our sin so that we might have life – here on this earth and eternally in fellowship with him. Yes our wrong words and misdeeds have consequences, but we are called to stop and take a good look at ourselves on a regular basis – a look from God’s point of view, to see our words and actions and inner motivation from the perspective of God’s perfect will for us as it revealed in holy scripture. Each week, our worship is shaped by a familiar pattern with this very thing in mind. We gather and approach God in Praise and thanksgiving. Immediately then we come to God in confession of the things we have done and allowed to be done, or neglected to do that are against the laws of Love – Love for God and love for neighbor. We do this corporately, as the body of Christ and then individually in silent prayer. We then hear the blessed words of assurance that we are loved and forgiven by God. Then, and only then, are we ready to hear the word of God read and proclaimed. We respond in affirmation of our faith, and prayer and often with receiving the sacraments, as we will do today. We are fed by the word and the bread of life. We are then sent out into the world to live and love as we are called to do.
God appointed David to led the people of Israel and gave him the gifts and skills to do so. David was not a perfect man – not at all. But he was a faithful man who loved God more than he loved anything else and God loved him and forgave him, and that is the truth. It is also true for each and every one of you. For you see, God assures us through the pages of scripture that each of us has been given particular gifts and circumstances so that we can live as the children of God. None of us are perfect either. But all of us are invited to come to God, to confess our sins, to be forgiven, strengthened for the road ahead and to be sent out into the world as instruments of the Kingdom of God. We are to speak the truth in love, to love and Christ loves us and to tell anyone who will listen where to find pardon, grace and the very bread of life.
So may it be for us today. Amen.