Sermon: Proper 10
12 July 2009
North Shore Baptist Church – Creation Sunday
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Let me continue reading the lesson a little further (2 Sam. 6:20-22):
David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, ‘How the king of Israel honoured himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!’ 21David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord. 22I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honour.’
Let me give a little context to what is going on in the passage we just heard. In 2 Samuel 5, David has been anointed the king of all Israel. And in a move that is mocked by her inhabitants, David decides to make Jerusalem the capital. It is said that David is too weak to make this happen, but alas, he was successful. He also has defended the land against a Philistine attack. This is where today’s reading picks up.
David has gathered the chosen men of Israel to come with him to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant. This is a move to let the people know that even though there is a new leader and a new government and a new capital Israel will still honor the old traditions. They receive the Ark from Abin-a-dab and it begins it trip to Jerusalem. It is a grand procession with singing and dancing and music. An ecstatic journey. Until (and this is what is left out of today’s reading) Uzzah tries to balance an unsteady ark and is struck dead. One of the commentators I read mentions that this is not divine punishment, but because Uzzah was not ritually prepared to deal with the situation. Whatever the reason (another sermon of another day) this incident literally puts the fear of God into David, and David is mad. Afraid and angry David leaves the ark in the care of O-bed-e-dom for three months. When David hears that O-bed-e-dom has been greatly blessed during this interim time, he decides to go get the Ark and restart the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Taking care to make sure Uzzah’s death was not in vain David offers sacrifice after moving the ark six paces. Some think this is every six paces. They journey of ecstasy resumes. Shouting and dancing and singing and music and all of Israel are rejoicing praising the LORD. David is only girded in a linen ephod. This is a garment worn by the priests, but as the text mentions he is only girding himself. It is believed that David is naked except for the wearing the ephod a belt. This is supported by the fact that Micahl, David’s wife and Saul’s daughter, looks upon this display and despises David for it.
At long last the ark is brought to its place and David continues to offer sacrifice and blesses Israel and his own house. Michal, though, chastises him saying, “How the King of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eye of his servants’ maids as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!” David respnds, “It was before the LORD, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD, that I have danced before the LORD.” I want us to look at this today. How can we dance naked, stripped of everything that keeps us from the LORD?
Let us pray: May it be, O Lord, that the words of my mouth and meditations of our hearts be acceptable to your purposes of grace. Amen.
Have you ever been walking down the street and been hit with such joy that it is a total surprise and you can do nothing but say, “Thank you God!”?
I had that happen to me recently. Every Tuesday I go to the farmers’ market located in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art just off Michigan Ave. I was walking back to the office with an arm full of freshly baked bread, asparagus, home made peanut butter and jelly. I was walking along watching the people, listening to the urban symphony (the percussion of the jackhammers, the staccato rhythm of a giddy child, soaring flute of the birds filling the trees while waiting for someone to drop a piece of lunch, the low cello countermelody of wind blowing through my ears), watching the pigeons going after the remains of a lunch at one of the outdoor seating areas of a local shop, smelling the humidity in the air, touching the trunk of a tree as I passed by and WHAM I can do nothing by smile with tears in my eyes and thank God for this moment. I had what John Prine calls the Illegal Smile on my face for the next several blocks. I worshiped God in that moment. I lived in to the mystery that is grace. I was so overwhelmed by the gifts around me that I lost myself.
It was a moment where I was totally open to and responding to the Holy Spirit. I was stripped of all the garbage that had been going on. The pressures of work, the thoughts of moving, the cloud of things outside of my control: they were all gone. I was there. Stripped of everything. Dancing naked before the LORD. In the glory of Eden.
It was a moment and it passed, but it will come again and I will be ready.
These moments, though, happen quite rarely…at least for me. There are many, many times when my life is not focused like it should be. I am focused on work. I am focused on making sure our bank account is ok. I am focused on pleasing everyone around me instead of focusing on the one who gave me all these things. I am wearing the cloak of the pressures of the world. Life gets in the way. Life shrouds us with the things that prevent us from giving God the worship and praise our Creator deserves. We are human. It happens to all of us, but do not fret. Our reality is one of brokenness. But it is also a reality of grace. A reality of constant reminders that even when we are broken there is the promise of a new day. We just need to go to God as we are.
Look at the Psalms for proof that this disconnect happened to folks we look up to and admire from the Bible. Psalm 51, one of my favorites, is a confession of brokenness and sin. The psalmist is laying all their troubles before the LORD. Going to God warts and all. Psalm 39 is plea from a confused leader for wisdom and forgiveness. A plea for God to “hear my prayer.” Psalm 140 is a cry from a person being overwhelmed by their enemies. A prayer for deliverance from those enemies. In these examples, and many many more, the psalmists are just like us. People living living, working, grieving, searching for the light at the end of the tunnel. People buried under the strain of work. People whose children are going away to camp for the first time. People who have recently lost their jobs. People who are dealing with the passing of a loved one. The Psalms are for us and about us.
The thing about the Psalmists though is that they, even in their darkest hour, go to God. They go to God with tears rolling down their cheeks. They go to God. The act of going to God frees them to begin the process of unburdening themselves. It allows them to begin to transform.
I look at the psalms and say to myself, yeah, but… I am too busy to sit down to pray. Too much to do…I can not give God the worship deserved. I try. I go in spurts. I will be good for a while of setting aside time in the morning to pray, but then the snooze alarm looks better and better. I try to set aside time at lunch hour to go to the chapel at the hospital across the street from the office and pray, but then I have an important project due and then I have a lunch meeting and soon I am back eating lunch at my desk. I try to make time at night, but I need to fix supper or I am too tired from the day at work to focus on anything by CSI reruns. I do not think I am the only one here today that is going trough this. How can I make the time to go to God? Again the Psalms help with this.
Hear today’s Psalm. Psalm 24 (read):
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
2for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.
3Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
5They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
6Such is the company of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.*
7Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
8Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
9Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
10Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory.
“The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it.” Look around you. These trees are the LORD’s. The grass is the LORD’s. The squirrels chasing each other through your lawn are the LORD’s. Psalm 148 talks about the very earth praising God. This is where I find the time and the ability to respond to God’s works in my life. I watch the birds going for worms in the morning. I look at the trees raising their leaves in praise on sunny days and bowing in reverence on raining one.
I love trees. I love the stories they tell. Have you ever stopped and looked at a tree and tried to hear its story? One of my favorite trees is just over on Magnoila, directly across from where we are now. It is on the west side of the street. It is a tree that tells me a story of a very rough life. This tree is a short squatty one. The trunk is twisted, badly. It has fought to get to where it is today. But there is a split in the trunk and there is part of this tree that is clean and straight. It is a limb that says “I am going to make it.” It is a limb that literally shows new life in this old tree. This tree is praising God. This tree is a witness to me that in all things God creates new life. God is present. Looking at this tree I am able to let my guard down and go to God. Nature is God’s way of reminding me that I am not alone. I can always go to God anywhere, anytime. I just need the reminder.
One of my favorite contemporary blues singers is a guy named Keb Mo. I first saw him at a special event at Chicago Shakespeare. He and Barbara Gaines, the artistic director, went though and looked at the musicality of the Bard’s works. Through that event I became a fan. On his album “Just Like You” there is a song that I look at as a modern day psalm. It is called “Hand is Over.” Here is a sample of the lyrics:
If your problems
won’t go away
and you’re worried
both night and day
hand it over
get on your knees and pray…
Ain’t no mountain
you can’t climb
ain’t no answer
you can’t find
All you need is a hand to hold
It’ll heal you body
and feed your soul…
Hand it over
Hand it over
Give it up, Give it over
Hand it over
Get on your knees and pray
This song frequently pops into my head when I am overwhelmed. I use it as a reminder, like watching the trees, that no matter how busy or how tired, God is there. All I need do is hand it over.
Something begins to happen when we are able to hand our burdens over to God. We begin to open ourselves up to the transformative power that is Grace.
Worship is not for us, but for God. However; that does not mean we do not get anything out of it. When we go to the LORD and begin to hand over our problems; they are accepted and turned into seeds that help us to grow. As we allow ourselves to transform and be transformed, our worship of God fertilizes us and our roots grow deeper and our leaves turn greener and we begin to loose ourselves to our Creator.
As we loose ourselves to our Creator others begin to see the Creator in us.
As other see the Creator in us we can help them to begin to unburden themselves.
We give God our troubles.
We listen to the music of creation.
We open ourselves up for transformation.
We strip ourselves of the burdens and worries and stress that keeps us from God.
We hear the music of creation.
We begin to dance in praise of our God.
We dance unashamed because the Grace of God is what sustains us and protects us from all that will try to bury us.
We dance. We dance. We dance.