Saturday, 18 October 2014

In the mirror

2 Samuel 12:1-9
​ and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meagre fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites."

Psalms 51:1-9
Prayer for Cleansing and Pardon
To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
​ Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities."

We continue our journey with the stories of the people of God through the Old Testament.
Two weeks ago, we looked at the Ten Commandments, God's laws, given in love to God's people who, having escaped from Egypt were wandering in the wilderness.
Last week, as they reached the promised land, Joshua, the leader who took over from Moses, invited them to "Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord"
This week, we encounter God's people under the reign of a king, King David.
A recurrent theme, you'll have noticed, is that though the people are always full of good intentions, their memories are short.
So they go from one crisis to another, very quickly forgetting at every turn the amazing promises that God has made and the amazing things they have learned of God.
One of the things about the Narrative Lectionary that we're following that's a bit frustrating is the wee snippets of stories that are scheduled as readings Sunday by Sunday. It seems we'd have to read a whole lot more- not just verses but chapters - or spend half the service putting the stories in context to really get a grip on how the stories fit into the overall arch of the Old Testament Scriptures.
And perhaps that's no bad thing.
If the readings, Sunday by Sunday whet our appetites to delve a bit deeper, then that's good.
Already a few folk have commented on how they haven't noticed before some of the stories we've read these past few weeks.
It seems that the people who put together the Sunday Readings for the Narrative Lectionary tried to find less obvious but extremely tantalising bits of the Bible stories for us to consider in worship week by week.
And today's story is no exception - it merely touches on all that was happening in the life of David when this particular encounter happened.
At first glance, it seems like an innocent parable.
The prophet Nathan, coming to tell the king a story.
The story is of a poor man who has been wronged by a man of wealth.
King David, on hearing Nathan's story, indulges in righteous anger.
Of course this is unjust he decrees. The rich man, with all the riches at his disposal has no right to rob the poor man of the one cherished possession that he has.
The rich man must recompense the poor man - 4 fold.
It is then that the prophet, Nathan, informs the king: You are that man.
And the story unfolds - or more like, unravels.
Behind this story is one much darker- the story of David and Bathsheba.
The somewhat censored version is that David had his way with Bathsheba while her husband Uriah was off fighting for his king and country.
When he discovers that Bathsheba is carrying his child, King David has her husband killed and makes it appear that he was killed in battle.
You can read for yourself the uncensored version!
It's the kind of story line we see in our nightly soaps - or in more brutal terms on the Jeremy Kyle show.
We see it in individuals and in corporations when they lose sight of their connectedness to one another and allow greed to overtake them.
We see it in organisations and institutions set up to serve but losing sight of their purpose, using their power to abuse and corrupt.
These are everyday stories.
Stories that we hear about, or see unfolding around us and feel outrage.
Just as David did.
But what King David didn't realise was that, in telling him that story, Nathan the prophet was, in fact, holding before him a mirror.
A mirror in which was reflected the wrong that David had done.
Nathan wasn't there to pose hypothetical questions.
Or to ask the king to judge a theory.
He was there to hold a mirror up to the king and to force him to take a look and confront his own wrong doing.
Sometimes we're so caught up in life.
Sometimes we've managed to convince ourselves that our lives are OK.
That what we have done is for the best.
That the end justifies the means.
We can explain, we can convince, we can rationalise all that we do.
And sometimes, we need someone like Nathan to come along and hold up a mirror to our lives.
To let us see what we're really like.
In the words of Robert Burns:
O wad some pow'r the giftie gie us
Tae see oorsels as ithers see us.
(From the poem: To a louse)

Or more contemporary, the lyrics of Michael Jackson's Man in the mirror:

I've Been A Victim Of A Selfish Kind Of Love
It's Time That I Realise
That There Are Some With No Home, Not A Nickel To Loan
Could It Be Really Me,
Pretending That They're Not Alone?
A Widow Deeply Scarred,
Somebody's Broken Heart
And A Washed-Out Dream
They Follow The Pattern Of The Wind, Ya' See
Cause They Got No Place To Be

That's Why I'm Starting With Me
I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change
Man in the mirror.

The Psalm we read today, is David's response to being confronted with himself:
​ Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

David, even though he was a king, could hide no longer from the wrong he had done.
There was no escape.
All he could do was throw himself on the mercy of God and seek forgiveness.
And, in among the sleaziness of our story today.
In all the scandal and outrage.
In all the shame and wrongdoing.
This is the good news:
We are loved by a God who knows us with all our faults and failings, a God who loves us nonetheless.
A God who confronts us with our wrong doing.
But a God who promises forgiveness when we face up to who we are.

King David, even in the depths of his despair when confronted with the wrong he had done, yet knew the love of God that reached into those depths to offer love and forgiveness.

As we affirmed in baptism this morning, each of us is loved by God before we even know it.
And none of us can stray so far that God cannot reach us with that love, drawing us back.
So,let's be prepared to take a good look in the mirror.
The sight may not be pretty.
But we have the assurance that there is no darkness that God cannot reach.
And, as we focus on our own reflection, may we be conscious of the power that we have, power that can be used for good - to change the lives of others.
Change begins with us.
A better world begins right here in our hearts.
We give thanks today for the love of God that knows no bounds.
We give thanks for those who act as Nathans for us, holding up a mirror to our lives.
And we give thanks for the power to change the world, beginning with us.

You received a piece of paper as you came into worship this morning. 
I am known and loved by God
How about taking that affirmation and sticking it on a mirror on your house today.
And, in the days to come, every time you look in the mirror, whether you like what you see or whether you don't, you will be reminded that you are known and loved by God.

Glory be to God who knows us, who confronts us, who forgives us and who loves us.


Terri said...

Well done! I appreciate how you wove the Psalm and the OT together and tied into baptism and the Michael Jackson song! Well done, indeed!

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