Anchoring the Ship: Responsibility 2 Samuel 24: 18-25

A real-life story of a politician turning down a legal gift from a constituent because it wasn’t ethical or proper, go figure!  In this case, it is hard to grasp why God considers the census David ordered to be presumptuous, thus a sin.  It is even more difficult to understand God’s unexplained anger toward the people who caused a plague on the kingdom.  The other account of this same story in 1 Chronicles doesn’t clear things up.  It portrays Satan as the agitator; proving how ambiguous evil is and how hard it is for any of us to say for sure what makes us do the things we do.

To blame God or the devil misses the point of responsibility.  We’re not dupes of Satan or puppets of God.  Our actions are not the direct results of divine or demonic whim, which we’ve no power to resist.  We’re not predetermined to sin because it’s in our genes, even if our inherited nature begs us.  All of us are capable of doing right and being good.  The fact we do not because of our sinful nature doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for our actions.  It means we must depend more upon God to aid us.

David takes responsibility.  Counsel would’ve advised use the passive voice, “Yes, there were mistakes, but the king isn’t fully responsible, some of this is the responsibility of others.”  Typical doublespeak: mistakes were made, but nobody made a mistake.  To David’s credit he understands he is the king.  If evil befalls because of his presumption, then he must step up to the altar and offer himself to God for the sake of the people and the peace.

David goes to Araunah, the Jebusite, to buy his threshing floor, so he can build an altar to God, making the needed sacrifices to cover Israel’s sin.  Araunah makes him a better offer; giving him the threshing floor and any animal or materials needed.  David refuses no matter how expedient; for his sense and spirit of personal responsibility knows the difference between an altar paid in full and free altar.  David knew God was more interested in right sacrifice than a well-cooked bull served on a convenient altar.

It has been said, “Wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principles are good things corrupted by the absence of responsibility.”  Segregating ourselves from full and personal responsibility by choosing the easiest way is a slippery slope.  Full and personal responsibility, which refuses to let anyone do our part, must anchor all endeavors on the FUMC mother ship.

Tax-payers aren’t angry with people who need welfare because disability or dire straits prevents them from working.  People are upset at those who prefer collecting from others rather than earning for themselves.  Working people aren’t in a rage over people who make lots of money.  They’re hostile at persons who use position to acquire information or influence to avoid certain costs others have to pay.  Healing could take place in our land if we are able to recapture David’s sense of personal responsibility.

Responsibility believes we have a part in every relationship.  Irresponsibility has a sinister effect of dragging others down.  If David had accepted the offer; he would not be able to hold his subjects responsible.  They could say, “I found another person to satisfy my responsibility.”  There wouldn’t be any difference between what he could have done and what they might do.  A person’s action effects everyone else.  Failure to be responsible for our part causes others to be responsible for ours and their part too.

Irresponsibility brings on a fatigue that breeds greater irresponsibility.  For example, when persons with clout, wealth, and good lawyers aren’t held fully responsible, others think they can live above the law.  Our common complaint of having to pay extra because someone previously took advantage of a situation illustrates how interconnected we are, and how unfair and wrong it is for others to carry the load shunned.  Each one of us has a responsibility to carry in every relationship and endeavor.

This is true in a marriage.  It is wrong for a partner to carry an undue portion of the emotional load of their relationship; becoming the sacrificial spouse, while, the other spouse has little emotional investment.  Soon, a breaking point will come as symptoms surface that point to a family out of balance.  The first symptom the public may see is a divorce filing.  It may look as if the spouse who files is abandoning the marriage for selfish reasons, thus igniting a great amount of undue sympathy on the one being left.  Reality is, the one being left stopped taking responsibility years ago, effectively ending the marriage then.  One person’s actions can affect everyone else, regardless how responsible other members may be.

Two men meet passing on a bridge.  One man has a rope and begs the other man to hold the end of rope.  The man agrees.  The other man ties his end of the rope around his waist and jumps off the bridge.  The startled man left on the bridge strains under the weight of holding up the dangling man.  “What are you doing down there.” he calls to the manDon’t worry, just hold on,” the man dangling says.  The noble man holds on.

Moments pass and the dangling man does not move.  The Good Samaritan says “Hey, what are you going to do?”  The man thanks him, and tells him how great he is to help him out.  Finally, the guy has had enough as his arms are breaking under the strain; besides he has places to be.  He yells in desperation, “I can’t hold you any longer; you’re going to have to climb up here and let me go my way.”  The dangling man screams, “You have to hold on because you have my life in your hands, I’m depending on you.

The man on the bridge considers the gravity of the situation in light of the gravity of the man on the rope.  He yells, “I am going to count to three, and if you don’t climb up here, I will let go of the rope.  “One” the man said.  “No you can’t, please.”  “Two,” said the man holding the rope.  “Wait, if you drop me, I will die.  You will have blood on your hands.  Don’t do it you will be sorry.”  “Three! And he let’s go.  “You killed me!  Who is responsible?

Sorting out exactly who is responsible for what is sometimes difficult.  We cannot avoid the question of responsibility because of its complexity.  We must ask questions like: Who’s responsible for telling the good news to our community-the pastor and a few old saints?  Or, is it each of us; sharing Christ’s love among neighbors and in our workplaces?  Who’s responsible for the creative endeavors that make disciples who transform the world-a few dedicated servants who are doing the best they can, keeping the same things going because that is all they have time in a week?  Or, is it each of us; initiating new things for new people?  Who’s responsible to fund the work of the church-those who faithfully give year after year to cover costs?  Or, is it each of us who benefits from the ministry of this place?

There are many people who are willing to be Araunah and let others off the responsibility hook.  May we like David say, “I will not offer sacrifices to God which costs nothing.”  We’re not talking about taking up responsibility and being a missionary or preacher.  We’re speaking of average persons who are willing to hold a hand, swing a hammer, tutor a child, or start a class or ministry that fills a niche or meets a need.  These are just some of the ways of saying “I will not offer a sacrifice that costs me nothing.”  No one should have to be responsible for another person’s responsibility.

There is always the tension between grace and responsibility.  There are people who have been standing on the bridge for a long time, holding the rope.  Hear the word of grace that God’s acceptance of you isn’t the result of taking on greater responsibility.  We thank God the grace of God has spurred you into faithful responsibility.  There are others who are dangling on the end of the rope that need to hear God’s word of grace that motivates.  Grace makes no sense unless it encourages and breeds responsibility.  The way to activate grace in our lives is to take our share of the responsibility; knowing we have offered to God that which costs us something.  The joy of sailing on the Mother Ship comes in giving life away graciously by doing our part; holding on to the anchor of responsibility.

Published in: on August 26, 2012 at 9:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Anchoring the Ship: Love 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

People are not born lovers; nor do they luck into love; for love is beyond our natural ability.  Love is something we learn to experience and express.  The risk of loving is our heart can be broken, and certainly it will be wrung.  If we want to keep our heart intact, we must not give it to anyone, not even an animal.  The safest way to keep our heart from being broken is to wrap it with hobbies and luxuries; locked it up in a coffin of self preservation.  None of us can be the GPS for others; directing them to love, each of us must learn the lessons of vulnerable love through encounters in loving others. The reason we board the mother ship is to learn the lessons of love.

As a pastor, I am humbled to walk with people, practicing the art of love in some very profound ways.  The privilege also allows me to see love go wrong in ways that makes me wish love wasn’t so vulnerable.  Yet, it’s rewarding to see persons pass through the crucible of loving another person, as I see them grasp new understandings about themselves and fresh insights about the nature of God’s love.  I try to remain unanxious, so I can be a good guide; for I know the costs can be severe and tragic if they do not learn well the lessons that only the tests of love can teach.

This story of David and Absalom is a love story of a father and son.  The tale allows us to see some of the consequences that occur when love lays us bare; mirroring some of the common pitfalls of loving.  It provide us an opportunity to learn how we might be more vulnerable in loving others.

We don’t know much about the relationship between father and son till we get to this story.  I’m sure, when Absalom was born; David was like every parent-the world should sing and smile because the world has taken a turn for the better because of the birth of his child.  At that point, no one could imagine the events that would set off the trouble.  The love a parent has toward a child is beautifully naïve, till they experience the vulnerability of love.

David has many wives and children, who jockeyed for the affections of their husband and father.  David was a better soldier and poet than a spouse and dad.  He loved his children, but didn’t connect by blessing them, so they could grow into their own.  That is not to say that children were not responsible too, for they make mistakes in expressing their love, as well.

We didn’t read the part of the story that tells how David’s son, Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar.  David is furious, but he doesn’t punish his son because of his love for him.  Both father and son rationalize their actions because of love.  We ask, “What does love got to do with it?

David’s irresponsible love understandably feels like an injustice to Tamar, when her father doesn’t to come to her aid.  The result of David’s refusal to discipline Amnon and demonstrate true love causes contempt from Absalom, who is Tamar’s full brother.  Trouble blows on the family ship when no one is holding the rudder.  Absalom takes it upon himself to avenge his sister’s honor.  If David would not act like a father, his son feels responsible to act in his stead; exposing one way loving or (not loving) makes us vulnerable.

Disciplining is responsible love.  Parents shape their children by discipline.  This doesn’t mean we spank them whether they need it or not.  Parents are to be the primary ones disciplining a child; for no one else will be so cautious to look out for their welfare.  Often times, parents say they don’t discipline their children because they love them too much.  This irresponsible rationale strips away the power of love.  Discipline doesn’t make love conditional; it makes love possible.  A refusal to discipline deprives a person of love.

David is caught in the snare of loving irresponsibly.  Amnon’s death at the hand of Absalom’s servants sends David into a rage.  He has lost a son, but he focuses his sense of loss on Absalom, instead of himself.  Absalom must escape his father, so he stays away for three years.  David finally lets him come home; but won’t see him for another two years.  During this time the contempt Absalom feels for his father builds; driving them further apart.

Absalom turns on his father, deciding to usurp his authority; thus demonstrating his own version of irresponsible love by pursuing his father.  Children can expect things from parents they have no right to expect; thus punishing everyone with unreasonable expectations that no love can meet.  Love is too vulnerable, and cannot carry the weight of unfair expectations.

David shows us how crazy love can be; as Absalom jabs dagger after dagger in his father’s heart.  Despite his son’s behavior, David cannot do anything, but love his son.  Maybe, David realizes he brought this on himself because of his own irresponsible love, so he instructs his troops to deal gently with the boy for his sake.

When David’s soldiers catch the rebel son hanging in the tree by his hair they forget their instructions.   Joab runs spears through his heart.  In doing so, he might as well have sent the spear through the heart of David.  When David heard of Absalom’s death he cried, “Absalom, Absalom, my son, my son! Would I had died instead of you!  O Absalom, my son!

We can keep the story at arm’s length; focusing on others not loving rightly; making it the other person’s problem; thus hindering an opportunity to learn to love.  To spend time blaming David for Absalom’s behavior, or excusing Absalom’s irresponsible love would be a grave error that misses the point of this account.  We learn to love by making ourselves vulnerable, taking up the adventure of love on this mother ship as we make love one of our anchors by loving freely; trusting the ones we love will join us now or later.

So we don’t misunderstand, the anchor of love cannot protect or guarantee happiness.  Simply because we cast the anchor of love we should not expect it to compel others to love us in return.  People make choices and some choices can reduce us to tears.  We don’t have to hold onto the anchor of love very long before we realize it’s tenuous and fragile nature.

We discover how vulnerable love is when we realize a person’s love is not as perfect as we thought.  We discover how vulnerable love is when we realize love cannot soothe every hurt and right every wrong.  We discover how vulnerable love is when we realize that though we love another, it is still possible to know pain at very deep levels.  Love is tested when the chain holding the anchor of love is under great tension.

Love is tested greatly when we experience loss, such as in this story.  The thought of losing a child makes us feel like a spear piercing our heart.  That haunting cry of David, gives us the feeling he wanted to tell his regrets and express his love.  But, because of the incident with Amnon, he couldn’t bring himself to share his feelings until it was too late!  Love unspoken is unknown and no good to the one loved.  This is an irresponsible love.

Love in the Present Tense

It is never to late say I love you

It doesn’t ever have to be too late.  The need to express love is always in the present tense.  The way we love at FUMC, Irving is to take the risk by loving vulnerably, even though it leaves us vulnerable.  We are a people of faith who trust in the grace of God that goes ahead of us when we freely offer our love.  We believe we’re making known the endless and consistent love of God by offering self in vulnerable love.  We can navigate the trials of displaying vulnerable love, if we are able to affirm God is able to redeem in any offering of our love.  Love shows the way FUMC, it greater than any other force.

When we experience the vulnerabilities of love, consider the great love God has expressed toward all of God’s children through the Son.  For God’s was vulnerable to the whims of human love.  That example models for us how to throw ourselves into the sea, despite the turbulence.  In those seas, we hold to the anchor of love, trusting in the God who makes sure the anchor holds firm and who will replenish our souls with the same love we give away.  Congregation, let’s throw out the anchor of love; making ourselves vulnerable; give love away liberally and lavishly.  AMEN!

Let Love Show the Way

The thought of losing a child feels as if a spear pierces our hearts.  That haunting cry of David, in 2 Samuel 18 gives us the feeling he wanted to tell his regrets and express his love.  Absalom, Absalom, my son, my son! Would I had died instead of you!  O Absalom, my son! ”  But, because of the incident with Amnon, he couldn’t bring himself to share his feelings until it was too late!  Love unspoken is unknown and no good to the one loved.  This is an irresponsible love.

It doesn’t ever have to be too late.  The need to express love is always in the present tense.  The way we will love at FUMC, Irving is to take the risk and love vulnerably, even though it leaves us vulnerable.  We are a people of faith who trust in the grace of God that goes ahead of us when we freely offer our love.  We are making known the endless and consistent love of God by offering ourselves in vulnerable love.  Affirming that is what happens when we love, helps we navigate the trials of displaying vulnerable love.  Let love show us the way FUMC, it greater than any other force.

Published in: on August 18, 2012 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Strength for the Moment, Isaiah 40: 27-31

Mike Sennott Service,

August 15, 2012

Laura, Rachel, Michael, Jason and Brad, this gospel word of hope is meant for you.  You gathered in this public house of worship because you wanted others to not only be here with you today, but to walk with you beyond this day.  Thus, these words are for all of us, so we may walk better together in our days of grief, whether we be the one grieving or consoling.  This grief came suddenly and much too soon.  Laura has said, “I never walked this road before.”  So, my words of hope are meant for any pilgrim who will walk this unfamiliar road of an unexpected death at one time or another.

We anticipate what future holds through our imaginations or by what others have told.  Often, when we arrive at the future moment, we find reality to be something entirely different.  The actual can clash with our expectations; for rarely is what we anticipate identical to what happens.  Expectations can disappoint; causing disillusionment, which is the product of illusion.

I stand to offer ways we can realistically expect God to provide in a time of loss.  I speak honestly how God has been present with me at these times from my own experience.  I thank John Claypool, my preaching mentor, in helping me make these distinctions in the way God helps.  From my seat, Isaiah 40 provides realistic expectations regarding our hope in God who is able to help any of us in days of grief.  Isaiah said, “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  These are promises that do not overpromise.

Verse 31 begins with a specific promise: “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”  This is talking about people who open their lives to God with a dependence on a source greater than their own resources.  The promise is they will experience a supplement of heavenly power.  On the heels of this promise, the writer describes three different ways which divine strength comes.  These distinctions are crucial; they safeguards us from expecting one thing and experiencing something different.

First, there are times when we experience the help of God that comes through a moment of ecstasy.  This is what Isaiah meant when he spoke of “mounting up like wings of eagles”.  This is the experience of exuberance, abandon, and celebration.  These have always been a part of life.  From the very beginning this is part of the nature of God.  Genesis depicts God looking over all that had been created and finding it “very good“.  In fact, God proceeds to take a day off to celebrate the wonder of “isness.”  We experience this kind of ecstasy when we are caught up in joy over some reality.  This is the place where creativity is born and where we let the child within us out to play and celebrate.  This is one way to experience God.

Both family and friends of Mike know his life is a witness to moments of celestial ecstasy.  Mike’s childhood was filled with moments of divine discovery.  His adolescent and young adult experiences took him places he would speak of with a chuckle that came from deep within his soul.  His life as a husband, father and friend, is marked by stories of heavenly ecstasy that only some of you can tell well.  Whether it was Mike’s deep laugh or his mantra that life is good, he believed God was present in his exuberance and often sought ways to celebrate God’s goodness.

This isn’t the only way God gives strength; and woe to us if we absolutize this form of God’s help and say, “If there is no ecstasy, God is not with us.”  This is a formula for disillusionment.  There are certain moments in life where that is not only impossible; but it is totally inappropriate.

There are other times in our lives when we experience the power and provision of God as energy for activism.  This is what Isaiah meant when he said “we will run and not grow weary”.  The inspiration to rise to a challenge and to tackle tasks is an authentic experience of God.  We are aware of the thyroid of the human spirit that motivates women and men to heroic, problem-solving activity.  If we will look into the history of our own country, we will see almost all the schools, hospitals and other serving institutions were born of and individuals with an active impulse.

When I came to visit Laura and the kids this week, they took me back to another room they described as Mike’s room, a man cave, don’t you know.  They spoke words of apology, for the room was a work in progress, this was the project Mike was working on when diagnosed with cancer.  They asked me to sit in a very comfortable chair.  I knew I was sitting in Mike’s chair.  Then, I spoke my first words to the family with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, “You mean Mike was working on a project”.

Projects were the energy for his activism.  It was obviously a finely tuned gift God gave Mike.  Whether it was his home and yard, the needs of another, or a scouting or family event, Mike possessed a divine energy of getting it done.  One way Mike was sure God was working in his life was the vigor he had for productiveness.

The energy for activism is just one of the ways we experience the dynamism of heaven; it is not the totality of divine experience.  There are times when activism cannot change a situation.  If this is our understanding, it is an illusion that will lead to disillusionment.

There is another way we experience the power and provision of God.  This is the way God comes to us mostly when we are troubled.  At times like these, God gives us the gift of endurance.  This what Isaiah meant when it was written “we will walk and not faint”.  This may look like the least of these forms of divine strength, but when we have to keep on keeping on while surrounded by immensities we cannot change, the gift of endurance is God’s greatest gift.  When there is no occasion for ecstasy or activism, endurance becomes infinitely significant and appropriate.

Laura, I am confident you will overcome any temptation to make presumptive decisions or to despair on days when you miss Mike the most.  You gut will tell you to wait upon God’s promise of endurance for each day.  On days when it seems nothing is possible, you will find the strength to persist.  Brad, Jason, Michael, and Rachel on days you realize he will not be there for you, God will give your enduring grace to meet challenges you face without him.  For the rest of us, may we affirm when it is our time to sit in this family’s seat, and we feel hemmed in, God’s help will come in the most appropriate way; giving us the strength for the moment to keep on.

Life is not about God giving one ecstatic experience after another, or is about God providing problem solving energy.  Life is about learning God gives us the gift of endurance to walk down whatever road we travel.  Cherish the gift of endurance, which helps us keep on keeping on.  Give thanks to God who gives us strength for the moment in whatever circumstances we face.  This may seem like a little thing, but when we are up against it, and we have no room to run or walk, the gift of staying on our feet and not giving up is a mighty thing.  There are times when endurance is not only enough; it is everything.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.  Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anchoring the Ship: Repentance 2 Samuel 11, 26-12-13

We have been watching “From out of Nowhere” stories these last 14 days on our televisions at the London Olympics.  Aly Raisman two gold medals, the Mexican soccer team defeating Brazil, and David Boudia winning gold in the 10-meter platform Saturday by beating the favorite, reigning world champ Qiu Bo, who had to settle for the silver, and Britain’s Tom Daley, the local hero who was thrilled to win the bronze.

David meteoric rise was marked by slaying Goliath, making friends with Jonathan, winning battles, playing a successful game of hide and seek of with Saul.  A fast rise can sometimes lead to a fast fall and the writer in 2 Samuel 11 foreshadows this plotline with in the first line.  How you start a story makes all the difference.  Dickens in The Tale of Two Cities wrote: “It was the best of the times; it was the worst of times.”  The opening sentence in this text sets the story up:  “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.”  We are reading of the beginning of the downfall.

The difference in the two books of Samuel is like reading David’s press release in the first, and reading a transcript of David being exposed on 60 Minutes in the second.  In the 2nd book David is king and Saul and Jonathan are now dead and there is nothing else for David to do or accomplish except for some royal sending.  So, David sends everyone off to war and doesn’t go himself  He is like partners who send junior partners to handle grunt work; figuring they have earned the right.  King David’s propensity to send others, puts him out of touch with the thrill of facing Goliaths; for the power to send can be intoxicating.

David reaches the point where there is no longer anyone else to send; so he fills his well-earned time off by creating a scenario that gives him the rush of sending.  After sending everyone off to war, he sends for Bathsheba because he is looking for action, regardless of her feelings.  She comes; they lay together for a short afternoon.  It is over.  He sends her home.  She’s gone.  End of story.

That is till Bathsheba does some sending herself.  Verse five says, “The woman conceived; and sent and told David, I am pregnant’”.  Ordinarily you don’t tell a king anything and you should not expect a reply.  Kings do the sending and telling.  In one foolish afternoon, during a fevered fit of passion David’s world is changed and would never be the same.

David doesn’t see his demise coming; after all, he is the king.  So, David does more sending.  He sends word to Bathsheba’s husband, a general in his army that he wants him to come home.  He wants it to appear Uriah is the father of the child.  (The bible reads like a soap opera when you become pious enough to read it.)  Uriah will not come home while his comrades are risking their lives.  Uriah’s refusal causes David to send again.  This time he sends his five-star general Joab instructions to put Uriah in the front lines, so he might catch a stray arrow.  David hopes to make Uriah a casualty of war to end this mess of his own creating.  David’s plan works and Uriah is dead.  End of story?  I don’t think so.

Forever, humans have thought the only reality is the one we make and the only things that matter are the things we get caught doing.  Like many, David refuses to own up to his sin, and then he compounds his adultery with murder.  He reasons if he can’t be proven responsible, he is home free.  We’re not captains of own destiny who do not have to answer to anyone but ourselves.  We are created to relate to others and we are ruled by a higher law.  Our futile attempts to distance ourselves from others or to think we are above the law is as senseless as taking the day off breathing.

Anyone from any walk in life can get caught in the trap of trying to live up to the expectation of being better than others.  Instead of telling the truth we are no better than anyone else regardless who we are or how we’re behaving, we spend energy covering up inadequacies; till we grow weary being something we’re not.  Eventually, the fatigue causes us to sabotage ourselves to be free from the stress of the cover up.  Or, if we don’t self destruct, others find us out.  There’s no such thing as a good cover-up.

David’s story is our story. Some are hiding behind a secret and are exhausted.  Others have been found and are wondering if we will ever have life again.  This timeless story reminds us how devastating being found out can be.  Let’s see how David managed this dilemma common to all.

David is convinced his tracks are covered.  He sends for Bathsheba to become his wife.  She bears a son and all seems well.  No one lives their whole life on the rise.  David, “a man after God’s own heart,” is about to face the anguish of his failure and with waning energy.  David is about to be given the opportunity to take hold of the anchor of repentance.

Into David’s tightly controlled world, God sends the prophet, Nathan.  Nathan tells David a parable; suckering him into being a righteous judge in a case of a rich rancher and poor shepherd.  David knows what is right and he gives proper judgment.  It is easy to be sure what other people ought to do when they are wrong.  It is more difficult to see clearly when it is us who has stumbled.  David judges rightly who is wrong and how the wrong should be righted.  Then Nathan drops the other foot and says you are the man and you have been trying to live above the law-the jig is up.

This isn’t a story about what happens if we don’t do right.  It’s a story about an anchor in life that is unfamiliar in the 21st century, where calling a press conference and saying I am sorry gets our name out of the news cycle in a couple of days.  It’s easier to be the victim; deny we have done no wrong and blame someone else for our actions.  Taking hold of the necessary anchor of repentance means to be honest about who you are, humble enough to know you cannot do right without the help of God and others, and gracious enough to all others, knowing you are no better than they.

David repents upon learning he was found out.  It took a while, but he owns up.  He does what is hard for presidents, parents, pastors; he throws out the anchor of repentance, so he might hold onto life.  Repentance isn’t only hard to spell (Does it end with an ‘a’ or ‘e’?  It is harder to practice.)  When my family asked what I was preaching on this morning and I told them repentance they wondered if I was joking.  They are like everyone else who thinks repentance belongs in jail cells, revival tents and rehab centers.

Repentance belongs in all our lives if we are to be firmly anchored during the tests of life so we might be ready to turn from wrong to right or evil to good and still not lose hold of life.  We hold onto this anchor when old dreams are dashed, so new hopes not yet known can be realized.  We hold onto this anchor when we turn from our life of sending and controlling to a life of receiving and letting go, so we might be more dependent on others and a higher law rather than ourselves and our own rules.  The anchor of repentance liberates us to balance between freedom and accountability.

God is a pushover for repentance; David’s repentance triggers God’s repentance.  God isn’t a judge passing out prescribed sentences for a crime.  God’s heart is always willing to enter in the anguish of our pain that sin stirred and more ready than anyone to offer forgiveness.  God delights when we turn from our destructive ways, to new life in God and with others, though some effects of forgiven sin remain.  When we cast the anchor of repentance old ways die days by day, and life and laughter return moment by moment as we live before others and God in an attitude of repentance.

A church full of people who have anchored their lives to repentance, model God’s willingness to offer to forgiveness.  The more we treat each other as God has treated us, the better our mother ship is anchored.  So, may repentance be an anchor in our lives and in our church as we walk with each other; sailing into our future.  People of FUMC, Irving, it is an essential anchor as we sail together in these 21st century uncharted waters.

Published in: on August 12, 2012 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Anchoring the Ship: Friendship 2 Samuel 1: 1, 17-27

Some people feel they are allergic to friendship.  They are like the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby who was “among all of the lonely people”.  Some of us are fortunate to have deep friendships, we can affirm the words James Taylor sings: “Winter, spring, summer or fall/ all you’ve got to do is call, and I’ll be there—Yes, I will/ ‘cause you’ve got a friend.”  Real friends like that are few and far between.  In fact, we may have only one true friend in a lifetime.

My experiences with friendship are a mixed.  Most of the time, I am an extrovert; receiving my energy from being with people; making people think I have many friends.  I do like to be alone, which may be surprising since I get up and do this kind of thing.  Friendship has nothing to do with being an introvert or an extrovert; both extroverts and introverts make good friends.

Friends that anchor our lives are soul-mates.  The Roman poet Cicero said, “Whoever is in possession of a true friend sees the exact counter part of their own soul.”  Real friends can scarcely be considered to be separate individuals because wherever the one appears the other is virtually present.  Though a person may have their own thoughts and lives; no one knows those or them better than a friend.  The test of a friendship’s depth is when one is wounded, in those times if a friend is hurt the other is hurt too.

The grieving scene from this morning’s text tells us about the depth of a friendship between Jonathan and David.  A messenger comes to David with the news: King Saul and his son Jonathan died in battle together.  He thinks he is bringing David good news because the threat to David’s life is past, and the way is open for him to become King.  David tears his clothes and weeps for there is no joy in his coronation.  What we read is the shepherd poet’s lament of grief for Saul and for his best friend Jonathan.  With is heart breaking he cries: “My brother, Jonathan, how I loved you, my friend.  Your love to me was more wonderful than a love of a woman.”  David’s expresses his raw pain so intensely it makes us hurt.  But his grief gives an instructive picture of a dear friendship that anchored David’s life.

David and Jonathan were fast friends; enjoyed much life together.  The record of their first encounter follows the story of David and Goliath.  Saul went out to meet David after the battle and Jonathan was there; and from that moment it says “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”  Knitting implies friendship requires action.  This is a key to the anchor of friendship holding.

Friends attend to the necessities of being a friend.  People who pay as much attention to being a friend as they do to having friends are anchored in friendship.  Friends can get caught up in a herd mentality; causing people to get lost in acquaintances so to be known by many people.  This can cause people to prove their friendship by adapting to the behavior of the herd.  Sometimes they will go to great lengths; making another person an enemy.  The virtue of friendship is not anchored by having a multitude of friends, but by making worthy choices in being a friend.

The model for the anchor of friendship is God’s friendship with the world.  The essence of the biblical story is God’s desire to become friends with creation.  Jesus speaks of God’s heart in his last words, “I know longer call you servants, but my friends.”  Jesus giving his life for the sake of being a friend with all humanity shows us how to anchor our lives to a friend.  We are to pattern our friendships in the way Christ sought to be our friend.  Let me say two things anchoring our friendships in Christ-like ways

We must be willing to be truly known to anchor our lives to a friend.  We are often reluctant to be known because we fear a person may take advantage of what they know about our life.  This 21st century tendency has caused a growing number of people to substitute philandering for friendship.  Instead of meeting their need for authentic friendships by simply being a friend; they turn to short-term promiscuous relationships that always under-deliver.  The willingness to be known allows soul sharing that anchors our lives and beats the shallow shoals of most relationships, where no anchor can hold.

We must be willing to freely offer ourselves to anchor our lives to a friend.  Jonathan begins his friendship with David by giving him his robe, armor, sword, bow and belt.  In doing so, he gave him his future; he was in line to be king, the first-born son of Saul.  Jonathan gives up his right to throne for the sake his friendship with David.  Lovers look at each other; friends look in the same direction, bound to offering what is needed for the sake of a friend.  David and Jonathan would give all they had gained for the sake of what is good for the other.  A virtuous life yields virtuous friendships.

Damon and Pythias were childhood friends.  Pythias spoke in the forum; hailing the king was a tyrant; ruling without the people’s consent.  When Dionysius, ruler of the city-state of Syracuse, heard Pythias’ message, he insists he recants.  Pythias refuses and is sentenced to death for treason.  Pythias requested to return home and put the affairs of his household in order.  Dionysius laughed, but Damon his friend steps up as his pledge.

Damon was thrown into prison; knowing if Pythias did not return he would be put to death.  Time neared and Pythias hadn’t returned.  Dionysius taunts Damon for relying on his friends promise.  Damon believed his friend; knowing he was delayed for a reason.  Damon responds to Dionysius, “I am as confident of his virtue as I am of my own existence.

The fateful day arrived, Pythias still had not returned.  Dionysius led Damon to his execution.  Damon’s stayed true; trusting he would return.  Moments before the execution, Pythias rushes in, pale and bruised; apologizing for his delay because his ship was wrecked.  He is ready to receive his sentence of death.  Dionysius was so stunned, he pardoned him on one condition; Pythias teach him how to be worthy of such friendship.

Being a friend means we find pleasure in being together-this is not all-we can tire of a friends ways.  Being a friend means having the advantage two persons possess-yet if this is all friendship requires, we are prone to be fickle when another friend provides greater benefits.  Being a friend that anchors both persons is sincerely committed through the passing of time.

Vic is my friend that anchors my life.  We started our friendship twenty years ago as pastor, layperson, and neighbor.  When I was assigned to Frisco, Vic said I known friends who moved north of LBJ that I never saw again.  As soon as he spoke those words, we made a solemn vow we wouldn’t let that happen.  We enjoyed each other’s company yesterday, and we are always there when the other needs a hand.  But, our lives are firmly anchored by our friendship because we have not let the anchor of our friendship slip as time passed by for these last twenty years.

We may say I want a friend and I want it now.  Friendships take time to build.  Someone once said, “You can’t be good friends until you have eaten enough food together.”  Friendship occurs after we walked enough roads together and stood shoulder to shoulder through the passing of time.

Sooner or later, all of us experience the loss of friendship by death.  Our friend’s death may end their suffering, and be a gateway to eternal life; but it still robs us of a precious friend.  After a good friend dies it can feel like a thief entered our lives.  This story shows God can handle how we feel about the loss of friend.  This is the hard place where faith journeys.

This is also the place where the mother ship of FUMC acts as a community of faithful friends; anchored firmly to the virtue of being friends as God is friend to us; willing to be known and willing to offer ourselves freely.  The anchor of friendship in our lives allows us to hold on while God works on us from the inside out.  The necessary recreating work of God that takes place in our lives when we are wounded and hurt is aided greatly by the anchor of friendship.  Our mother ship can offer to others a place to anchor their friendships; knowing this is a place where God can reshape us and them into the children of God needs for tomorrow, even not knowing what tomorrow will bring.  This is the work of being a friend.  There is no greater privilege than being a friend who cooperates with God in being a friend.

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Imagine this guy laying it down?

Or what about this young lady playing the tunes?

Published in: on August 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm  Leave a Comment