One day Jesus will return. And when he does he will complete the kingdom that he began during his earthly ministry 2,000 years ago. We don’t know when that will be and we’re not even going to guess because the Bible tells us that we won’t figure it out even if we try. All we know is that he is coming.
But until he comes, the Church has an important role to play because the Church today is a representation of the kingdom of God here on earth. Does the Church a perfect representation? Hardly, we make lots of mistakes. But we as the Church are called to mirror the characteristics of the kingdom until Jesus returns. That’s because we, as Christians, should be demonstrating what it is like to live the kingdom way, even if we don’t always get it right.
Effectively, what that means is the Church is called to build the kingdom of God on earth. We are called to show people what the kingdom is like by how we live, and what we do and how we treat others.
Today, we are going to use two Bible passages to talk about that. One of them is the story that Kathy read a few minutes ago about Jesus sending out the disciples to do their ministry. But before we get to that, we are going to come to the end of story of David and his journey to be king.
We have been following David on that road for the last month or so. We watched as he, a ten year old shepherd boy, was anointed by Samuel to be the next king. This was most unexpected because David, a small, skinny kid was not at all what the people thought of when they said they wanted a king. But God chose him. Why? Because while people look at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart and God saw within David the heart of a king.
It was five years later when the people caught a glimpse of that king’s heart when David, now as lanky fifteen year old, challenged and defeated Goliath, the giant warrior in the dreaded Philistine army.
Last week, we moved ahead in time and witnessed the lament of David over the death of King Saul – whom he would replace – and his son Jonathan who was also David’s best friend. Not only did David grieve these deaths, he also asked the entire nation of Israel to grieve with him in his lament.
And this is where I need to pause and confess that I discovered an error in my math this week. I thought that it was thirty years between the time Samuel anointed David and he became king. In fact, I was wrong. It was twenty years as we will see later on as we read through this passage.
So today, we come to a place twenty years after Samuel first anointed David. Saul is dead. His heirs are dead. And Israel needs a new king. David is no longer a skinny, undersized shepherd boy. God has worked on him and moulded him into a leader and a warrior. He has already lead the armies of Israel into battle and is popular among the civilians and military alike. While he looked nothing like a king when Samuel first anointed him, he looks every bit the king now. And he still has the king’s heart to go along with it. David is just the person God needs to lead his people.
Let’s see how this story unfolds beginning with 2 Samuel 5:1-3 (NIV):
All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”
When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.
The leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel gather around David. He is the one who led them into battle and defeated their enemies. In David the heart of the king has shone brightly and now everyone – not just God – recognizes it. And so they anoint David as their new king. That which Samuel had begun twenty years earlier when he visited Jesse’s family in Bethlehem has finally been fulfilled. David is king.
2 Samuel 5:4 (NIV) tells us something about his reign and this is where I discovered my math mistake: “David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.” So we know that David was ten when Samuel anointed him and this verse tells us that he was thirty when he actually became king. So it took twenty years, not thirty. But we also know where he reigned. It was seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.
That might come as a bit of a surprise because most people think the Jerusalem was always the capital of Israel. It wasn’t. Hebron was because up until David’s time, Israel had never been able to defeat the Jebusites who lived there. But now David leads his army against the stronghold of Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 5:6-7 (NIV) says this: “The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.’ They thought, ‘David cannot get in here.’ Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.”
Have you ever wondered why David did this? Theologians and historians have speculated about this and I think the best theory goes something like this. When the people of Israel entered the Promised Land after the Exodus, the land was divided up between the twelve tribes of Israel. Each was given their own land upon which to settle and make a living. If David had chosen any of the existing cities as his capital, it would have been as if he were favouring the tribe on whose land that city was situated. And so, rather than appearing to favour one tribe over the others, David chose a city which belonged to no tribe. That was Jerusalem and Jerusalem could become the capital of all of the tribes and all of the people. It would be something to bring the people together rather than push them apart.
It’s not unlike what the Americans did when they chose Washington for their capital. In what state is Washington situated? It’s not in any state. It’s located in the District of Columbia which does not belong to any state but is a district unto itself. That way no state is favoured over the others. This is the same kind of thing. David needs a new capital for a fresh start in a new kingdom.
Nonetheless, David and his army defeat the Jebusites and claim Jerusalem. It will not become the capital of Israel right away but eventually it will. David will reign his first seven years at Hebron and his last thirty-three from Jerusalem.
We end the story in 2 Samuel 5:9-10 (NIV) which say, “David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.”
David brought the twelve tribes of Israel together. He took a loose confederation of tribes and solidified it into a unified whole. He did it with wisdom and he used his power when he had to. He gave the people a new vision and a new capital. And from there, for the next forty years, he would build the kingdom of Israel into the mightiest empire of its day, surpassing Egypt, Assyria and Mesopotamia.
That’s what he did. But how did he do it? He did it because of one thing. Leadership. David was an incredible leader. Remember that God saw that right away. He had the heart of a king and during his reign, the rest of the world would see it too. And that is how he built his kingdom.
As the Church, if we are going to mirror the kingdom of God on earth we are going to need strong decisive leadership. We need leadership that, like David, is forward thinking, creative, decisive and not afraid to act even if it means stepping out of the box like David did when he built his new capital. This is the kind of leadership that unites the Church under a common cause and common purpose which should be God’s cause and God’s purpose. As the Church, if we are to build the kingdom of God here in Cottam, we need have strong leadership. And do you know what? I think we do. I believe that our leadership is moving us in the right direction. I believe our leadership is asking the right questions about what it takes to unify this church and make a difference in this community so that the name of Jesus Christ may be made known.
That’s the first thing the Church needs. Strong leadership. The second thing it needs is demonstrated in the passage that Kathy read from Mark 6:7-13. This is the story of Jesus sending out the Twelve to begin their ministry. You will note that his instructions were very specific. He told them to go out two by two. He told them to take nothing with them but a staff and the clothes on their backs; no bread, no bag, no money, no extra shirt. He also told them that if they were welcomed in a place, that they should stay there but that they were not to waste their time in places where they were not welcome. Do you remember what else Jesus did? He gave them authority over impure spirits.
How do you think the disciples’ initial response might have been to all of this? I’m sure they said, “Thank you Jesus. We’ll get right on that.” Right? No, I don’t think so. These guys were all human and they often showed that they were filled with fear and doubt. I think their initial reaction was more like, “Are you kidding me? You’re expecting us to go out in the countryside with no provisions and nothing to fall back on. And all you’ve given us is authority over demons. That’s all well and good but you can’t eat demons and, if we don’t eat, we’re going to last very long out in the cold cruel world.” I think that was their immediate response probably because I think that’s how I would have responded back then. And if told you to go out there and preach, drive out demons and heal the sick, you’d look at me a bit sideways too.
They had no idea what they were doing. Sure they had watched Jesus do this stuff but it’s one thing to watch someone else do it and quite something else to try it yourself. And it’s not like Jesus was asking them to do something simple. He was commanding them to do something incredible because he was telling them to go out there and start building the kingdom. And they went, “What!”
But do you know what is the most
incredible part of this story? It is that despite all of the doubt and fear
which I suspect was gnawing at them, they went anyway.
The story finishes in Mark 6:12-13 (NIV) which says, “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” Jesus told them to get out there and build the kingdom and despite their worries and their fears, they went out and did it.
Here’s the kingdom lesson for us. In order to build the kingdom of God, Jesus needs not only strong leaders, he also needs willing followers who will do what he calls them to do. It’s that simple. We need to do what Jesus calls us to do for two reasons; first because it needs to be done and second because Jesus has already equipped us to do it even if we don’t realize it.
We, like the disciples, are fallible human beings. We are prone do doubt and fear. And we are tempted to turn away from the calling of God. We do that for many reason.
We all do it. We all, from time to time, grieve the Holy Spirit by not responding to God’s call the way we should. Maybe we’re afraid of stepping out. Maybe we don’t feel capable. Maybe we just don’t want to do it and we hope someone else will step up in our place. Or maybe we’re just not listening. But it happens all the time. People come to worship or Bible study or a small group or maybe they hear something on Christian radio and somewhere in there God calls them to step out of the box and do something. But they don’t. We can make all kinds of excuses. We can think of all kinds of reasons why not to do something but we know that God is calling us.
How many times has God nudged you to do something and you’ve ignored it. Have you ever felt a little guilty about letting one of our famous clipboards go by without signing your name in one of the empty boxes? Maybe by that guilt the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something. Have you ever had the urge to volunteer for a project or to sit on a committee and then just let it go because you thought you didn’t have time? And has that bothered you? Again, maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something.
The disciples had all kinds of reasons for not going out two by two to do what Jesus called them to do. They could have thought of excuses galore. But they didn’t. Despite their worries and their fears and their own lack of confidence, they went out and did it.
Now can you imagine what they thought the first time one of them tried to drive out an evil spirit and actually succeeded? Can you imagine how they felt when they anointed someone with oil, prayed for their healing and the healing happened? Sure you can because while each of us has grieved the Holy Spirit by not doing what we were calld to do, so too have each of us had the experience of stepping out in faith and doing exactly what Jesus called us to do. When that happens, it feels good because we have been obedient to Jesus’ call.
Those are the times I want you to focus on. Forget the times when you have fallen short. Concentrate on the times when you got it right and then strive to constantly make the decision to be obedient more and more of the time. That is how we succeed in ministry both as individuals and as a church. We make the conscious effort to follow Jesus no matter when or where he calls to go and no matter what he calls us to do.
And always remember this. We don’t do it alone. Jesus will never ask us to do anything that he has not already equipped us to do. That’s because he wants us to succeed because when we succeed we build the kingdom of God through the Church.
As the people of God we can do
this. God gave David twelve tribes and through his leadership moulded them into
a unified whole, a mighty kingdom. God then gave Jesus twelve disciples and he
sent them out and they too helped to build the kingdom. God is still building
the kingdom through the Church. Through strong leadership and willing followers
who say, “Yes,” to Jesus, God will continue to build his kingdom.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of Grace, your light fills the morning sky in radiance and wonder. Even in the night, the lights of heaven mark off the days and give direction to those who have lost their way. Shine upon us. Fill us and renew us. Make us conscious of your presence with us and within us. We call upon your name which is, for us, a sign of wholeness and salvation. Wash us in the blood of your wounds that we may be whiter than snow.
We pray for the Church, for Christians all over the world of every nation and denomination. Thank you that, in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we are one. May we, in unity, reach out to the world with your message of hope, reconciliation and peace.
Holy God, because you live, we too will live forever with you! Thank you for the gift of eternal life made possible by your death and resurrection! No one has to die in sin. All of us can live forever standing before your throne of glory. Help us to boldly share this message with those who do not know or understand.
We pray, also, for those who grieve, especially the family and friends of Helen Upcott and Gail Oliver. Be with them in their sadness. Grant healing for their wounds and comfort in their sorrow.
We think about those who have been sick this week either at home or in hospital, especially we pray for John, Lyle, Sharon, Oswald and David. Grant them, and all of us, your Healing Spirit that you may reign in our hearts as you touch our minds and bodies.
Heavenly Father, inspire us to live beyond ourselves. Enable us to be the Christian story to the people of this world. May we be faithful to your call and loving in our actions.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
July 8, 2018 / Pentecost 7 / Proper 9
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; Mark 6:1-13; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
CALL TO WORSHIP
God is with us wherever we go; let us together recognize God=s presence here.God is the creator of our lives and does not abandon us on life’s pilgrimage. When life=s sorrows weigh us down God=s love is with us. God comes to us in our need bringing new strength to face difficult decisions. God is here. Let us worship him.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Loving God, you have welcomed us into your house of worship and we sing our praises to your name. We welcome you, God of Grace, into our hearts to do your mighty work. You have within you the power of transformation. Draw us toward your light. lead us along the paths of righteousness to stand before the mercy seat according to your promises. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Merciful God. We thank You for being here with us today, to worship and to lay our sins before You. We confess our failures and are content to go on as we are. We have resisted change and challenge, not accepting the possibilities set before us, and turning our backs on the great life Christ offers us. With eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear we miss the glories of being able to serve you in Christ’s Name. Forgive us and restore us to the roles you have planned for us in your world. In Jesus Name. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God, Our Heavenly Father, loves us and is most merciful, compassionate and forgiving. He gives us grace to be even tempered, hard working, diligent, devout and charitable. He defends us against our enemies and grants us wisdom and strength to resist all temptation and corruption in this life. God directs us in the way of salvation , through His Son, Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Move us, O God, beyond the building of monuments to our faith to participate in mission, beyond the giving of our monies to the giving of ourselves. Help us to discern your revelation and to share it . Guide us as we seek to follow Christ among those who know us best and in the company of strangers, that our very being may be our finest offering. Amen.
Like the twelve sent out by
Jesus, so are we sent out to share the Good News! On this journey we are also
invited to join others We will be changed in the process. Send us God and we