We continue this week with the story of David. Two weeks ago we saw Samuel anoint David, a ten year old shepherd boy, as the next king of Israel. That was a bit of a surprise because David was not at all the kind of person the people would have chosen as their king. But God chose him because while people look at outward appearance, God looks at the heart and God saw within David the heart of a king. David, however, would not become king right away. King Saul would rule for three more decades while God prepared David for his future role.
Last week, that king’s heart was displayed when David challenged and defeated the Philistine giant named Goliath. While no one else in Israel’s army would face Goliath, David did and with a slingshot knock him out and with the giant’s own sword finished him off.
Chronologically, that was twenty-five years ago. Today’s story from 2 Samuel 1 focuses on the end of Saul’s reign. Israel is still at war with the Philistines and the army of Israel has been defeated at Mount Gilboa. King Saul and his son Jonathan were both killed. That’s significant for David because he was very loyal to the king and Jonathan was his best friend. He has lost his king and he has lost his friend, all in the same day. So this is tragic and David is in mourning.
One of the ways that David deals with his loss is to write a lament. A lament is a poem, often a song that expresses the depth of the pain that someone is feeling. I want to read it to you now from 2 Samuel 1:19-27 (NIV).
A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
How the mighty have fallen!
Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.
Mountains of Gilboa,
may you have neither dew nor rain,
may no showers fall on your terraced fields.
For there the shield of the mighty was despised,
the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.
From the blood of the slain,
from the flesh of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.
Saul and Jonathan—
in life they were loved and admired,
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.
Daughters of Israel,
weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.
How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
How the mighty have fallen!
The weapons of war have perished!
Can you sense the pain and the sadness in this poem? David talks not just about his own loss but also about the loss to the nation. David notes the bravery of Saul and Jonathan in battle, how they were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions. He pleads for the daughters of Zion to weep for the fallen for it is they who made Israel rich and powerful.
And then David offers his own personal lament in verse 26: “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” This is an expression of depth of the friendship that he had with Jonathan and how much he will miss him. And so we see a nation in mourning.
WHAT WE LAMENT
I was thinking about that as I was preparing for this message today and though how ironic it is that we read this passage on Canada Day, the birthday of our nation. And this is where my spirit went. Normally, we like to pump ourselves up on Canada Day. We talk about the greatness of this land and how it is the best place in the world to live. We talk about how good we are and how tolerant and decent. We remind ourselves that we are the envy of the world and a model for other nations to follow. And we wave flags and set off fireworks and pat ourselves on the back. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that because, on the whole, I think it’s all true.
But that’s not where I’m going to go today. I’m going to go out on a limb and go with the sense of lament that we read in David’s poem. David, personally, has lost something important. Israel, as a nation, has lost something important. And I think that we, as Canadians, are in danger of losing some things that are important to us as well. So I’m going to ask you to bear with me because I want to share with you some reasons why we may need to lament what we may have lost.
Here’s the first one. I believe that we have lost or are in danger of losing our sense of compassion. I see this in the growing resistance to immigration that, at times, almost becomes an obsession. I hear in the voices of people who say things like, “If you want to come to Canada, then you have to change your culture and do things the way that Canadians do things.”
That sounds good until you realize that there is no single way that all Canadians do things. Having lived and ministered in various parts of this country I can assure you, for example, that the way that we do funerals in this area is very different than the way funerals are done in the prairies and in Northern Ontario.
And have you noticed how, even in Windsor/Essex, the way funerals are done is changing rather dramatically? Those who are older can probably remember when it was traditional for funeral visitation to last two days and that people always sang hymns and that the mourners always wore black. They don’t do that anymore. The point is that culture is changing, it has always changed and it will always change. As a country of immigrants, we all have a right to celebrate and appreciate our cultural backgrounds.
And so we make a choice. We can choose to be afraid of those who are different or we can choose to learn about other cultures and how they can fit into the Canadian cultural mosaic.
The Bible, in fact, has a lot to say about the way we are supposed to treat immigrants and refugees. Here are a few examples:
1. Treat refugees that way you want to be treated.
Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV) says this, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
2. Provide food for the needy and the foreigner.
Leviticus 19:9-10 (NIV) says, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.”
3. We should love foreigners – after all, God does.
We read this in Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (NIV): “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
I think the Bible is very clear. As Christians, we are to treat immigrants and foreigners with respect and dignity because that’s what God wants and that’s how we demonstrate the compassion with which God calls us to live.
Here’s the second one. We have lost our humility. I see that in the inability for people to engage in honest debate. One thing I have always appreciated about Cottam United Church is our ability to get along and work together despite some pretty significant theological differences. We have great discussion in our Bible studies and small groups. At our Church Board meetings, we often get differences of opinion and sometimes the debate becomes quite spirited. But we understand that those debates are not something that should separate us. Rather they an indication that people of good faith can see things in different ways and that, ultimately, what all of us want to do is fulfill our mission statement which is to know Christ and make him known.
I don’t think that it will surprise anyone if I said the practice of honest debate is in serious decline. It is increasingly difficult to find some who has the humility to sit and listen to another point of view. Often, differences of opinion are not tolerated especially by those driven by ideologies. The my-way-or-the-highway attitude is becoming more and more prevalent. Those who disagree are seen as Philistines to be defeated by the ideologically pure.
And that all goes back to humility. Humility means that I have to seriously consider the possibility that I might just be wrong. Humility means that there is more than one way to look at things. Humility means that the person who disagrees with me might just have something important to say that I need to hear.
What does the Bible say about this? Paul wrote about humility in Philippians 2:3 (NIV) which says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” That points to the fact that other people’s opinions may be just as important as ours.
He also wrote about the proper attitude if we find that we disagree. In Philippians 3:15-16 (NIV) it says, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Did you hear that? It talks about mature people being able to disagree. Maturity and humility then, seem to go hand in hand.
We have lost or are in danger of losing our sense of compassion and our sense of humility. The last one is that we losing our sense of civility. Especially, when we look at social media, there seems to be no filters on what people say. There are no limits to the depravity that is exhibited in many of the memes and posts that people put up on Facebook. And it is especially prevalent when it comes to politicians.
I don’t really care what you think of Doug Ford, Justin Trudeau or Donald Trump, nothing that those people have done deserves the kind of hatred that is thrown their way on a daily basis. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore how vile or disrespectful something is, people are more than willing to like and share.
I get that when it comes to the general public. I don’t expect much of the average person. What does concern me – and I think what disturbs God – is the willingness of some Christians to dive into the ditches too. There is a certain respect that was once due to political positions by virtue of those positions. Respect was due to the office of the Premier of Ontario and the Prime Minster of Canada and the President of the United States. That respect has evaporated. But I hear people say things like, “Those people don’t respect the positions so why should I?” To which I reply, “If someone puts their finger in a light socket does that mean you should to it too?” That’s not a reason. It’s an excuse.
As people get higher and higher up the political food chain, the attacks just become more and more vicious. And then we wonder why people of good character don’t want to run for public office?
I greatly lament that as a country we have lost compassion and humility and civility.
But I also believe that in the midst of the lament for what we have lost there is a reason for hope. I find that in the story that Ruth read a few minutes ago about Jairus’ daughter. Jairus, an important leader of the synagogue, had come to Jesus to ask him to heal his sick daughter. Jesus had agreed to go but along the way got sidetracked. But then the news came that the little girl had died. His friends who brought the news told him to let Jesus go because there was nothing more to be done.
Jesus could have given up at the point and turned away to the next task but, instead, continued on with Jairus to his house. He would not give up. He would not turn away just because there was a major setback. That’s because Jesus’ life and work were all about fixing life and making it better. It was about healing and freeing and restoring that which was lost. And this would be just one more example.
To make a long story short, Jesus healed the little girl and raised her from the dead. In doing so, he restored her to her father and proved once again that even that which seems impossible is possible when we turn to Jesus.
What does this say to us? It tells us not to give up. It tells us to keep being the people God calls us to be. It reminds us that we are called to live in the world but not be of the world. When the rest of the world is turning away immigrants and being so intolerant of those who might dare to disagree and lacking civility in its vile and hateful attack on people, including politicians, we are called to set a higher standard. The very first thing we can do is stop participating in those activities. Refuse to get caught up in the ways of the world and choose instead to be the people God wants us to be. Those are people who reflect the character of Jesus in their lives, who are compassionate, humble and civil to all people.
We cannot change the world, but we
can let Jesus change us so that we can be the people he created us to be.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Heavenly Father, we walk this earth day by day receiving blessing upon blessing. We offer our thanks for your many gifts given freely to us out of your generousity and grace. We praise you and thank you for the beauty of summer, for bright flowers and rustling leaves, for clean water and refreshing swims, for lemonade and ice cream.
We thank you for our nation, for Canada Day. Thank you for family activities and fireworks. Thank you, especially, for the freedom and prosperity that we enjoy. Our life style and peaceful existence are the envy of much of the world. Help us never to take these blessings for granted for they can quickly slip away. Enable us, also, to be generous in our gifts to others. We have so much. Help us to resist the temptation to hoard and bless us with the gift of sharing.
We remember, especially, those who give so much of themselves so that we can enjoy the freedoms that come from living in this great nation. Bless the members of the Canadian Forces as they put themselves in harms way for us all. Bless also our monarch Queen Elizabeth, our Governor General Julie Payette, our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Premier of Ontario Doug Ford. May they all serve and lead well and give the glory to you.
We thank you for the life of Helen Upcott and pray for her family as they mourn her loss. She was such a dear and faithful person. Thank you that for her, pain is past and she is in your arms in your heavenly kingdom.
We lift up in prayer, also, those who are sick at home or in hospital, remembering especially John, Sharon, Larry, Lyle and David. Bless them with your Healing Spirit for we believe that you desire to heal all people.
God of Life, regardless of what
happened yesterday, your mercy is new today. Regardless of what happened last
year, or any time in the past, your love is eternal! Enable us to move forward
in the walk of faith with renewed hope for the future which you have prepared
for us. We thank you that your mercy and compassion have no limits and that we
can look forward with hope and renewed strength. We seek, every day, to trust
in your great faithfulness and unfailing love. Our prayers, we pray in Jesus’
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
July 1, 2018 / Pentecost 6 / Proper 8
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; Mark 5:21-43; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
CALL TO WORSHIP
Out of the depths, we call to our God
who hears our pleas and answers our cries.
Out of the depths, we wait for our God
whose love is unfailing and mercies endless.
Out of our need, we seek the one who meets all need.
Into our lives, the Saviour comes.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Holy God of Earth and Heaven, we come into your presence seeking words of encouragement and blessing. We are so thankful that you have extended your grace to us though we have neither merited or earned your favour. By your grace, we live life on earth to the very fullest. By your mercy, we accept the renewed hope of eternal life. Rain upon us with your unfailing love as we bow before your throne of glory. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
In the midst of your blessings there is the reality of our sinfulness. We were made good but we fall far short of your perfection. As we grow more mature in you, we will not be deceived, for your truth will become ever stronger within us. Expose everything that we do to the light of your word, correcting any areas of sinfulness, and strengthening the rest. Help our lives to be lights and beacons of your salvation. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The great deceiver is set to bring us down from the grace of God. But nothing in heaven or on earth has any power to separate us from God’s love given to us in Jesus Christ. Hear the Good News of redemption. Receive the life that only Jesus brings. We are forgiven. We are free. Alleluia!
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. The heavens are filled with the wonders of God. Our lives are gifts given to us by God our Creator. Our offerings to God are in gratitude for the countless blessings that come to us every day. We thank you, O God. Amen.
The great and wonderful love of God moves in our
hearts. It shines through our words and actions. May we so live that all that
we do and say will give glory to the One whose glory is everlasting. Let us go
and live our faith to the fullest.