July 29, 2012
July 29, 2012
The Rev. Leslie E. Chadwick
2 Samuel 11:1-15
John 6: 1-21
“Everyone has proved faithless; all alike have turned bad; there is none who does good; no, not one.” The despair of the psalmist sounds strangely modern. You may feel this way sometimes after reading the news. It seems as if things are getting out of hand. Sin multiplies, anxiety increases. A high-powered bank rigs an interest rate; it cares only about getting more money, not that it might throw the world economy further into chaos; (Jia Lynn Yang and Danielle Douglas, “N.Y. Fed quiet on Barclay’s admission of rigging Libor,” July 24, 2012, The Washington Post online). A swim coach is accused of seducing a 13-years-old decades ago and paying her family to keep quiet (Amy Shipley, “Curl-Burke founder Rick Curl faces hearing on former swimmer’s account of underage sexual relationship in 1980s”, July 25, 2012, The Washington Post online). He cared only about fleeting pleasure, not about throwing her world into chaos. A failed graduate student enters a movie theater, shoots12 people dead, and injures 58. Violence in our country is 3X that in Canada, 4X that in Australia, 5X that in China or Britain, and 12 X that in Japan (Joel Achenbach, “Colorado Shootings add chapter to long, unpredictable story of U.S. mass murder,” July 24, 2012, The Washington Post online).
Sin multiplies, anxiety increases. Our story about King David from the Old Testament fits right in with this week’s headlines. A leader, lounging in luxury and power, is not on the front lines inspiring his troops. He’s lying around on his couch and walking out on his roof, looking at other men’s wives. David has at least seven wives, not counting concubines. He sees a woman bathing. She is very beautiful. He asks, “Who is she?” A servant finds out, “The wife of Uriah the Hittite;” Uriah is a soldier in David’s army. David cares only about what he wants, not who might get hurt; he orders his messengers, “Go get her.” No one stops David or criticizes him. He has the power. People let him do what he wants. David sleeps with Bathsheba. She gets pregnant. So he sends for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. David tells him, “Go home! Take it easy! Sleep with your wife.” In contrast to the King of Israel, Uriah, a foreigner, is so faithful to Israel that he refuses to sleep with Bathsheba: “My fellow soldiers are camping in the open field and facing battle. Am I to go home eat, drink, and lie with my wife? I will not do such a thing.” David tries to get him drunk, but Uriah again refuses to go home. So David sends a message with Uriah to his general Joab: “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” Joab shrugs and does just that. Uriah dies. He’s collateral damage. David marries Bathsheba.
Cut! Fast-forward to next week’s reading. “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s paying attention and he intervenes. He doesn’t swoop in and create a happy ending. He makes a strategic strike at David’s heart and injects a dose of tough love. He wakes David up as if from a bad dream and reframes the story. Through a brave prophet, God calls David to take a hard look at what he has done. David repents. God allows the consequences of David’s sin to unfold, but does not withdraw his love from David or his family. God multiplies his love until David comes to trust again that God’s love is more powerful than any good or bad that David can do. David’s family and political life unravel, but David does not. Even as things get out of hand, God’s love does not fail. God keeps his promise to stay with David and love him and his people to the end.
Today’s gospel is a continuation of the story of God’s love spreading and multiplying inside and beyond us. Jesus Christ, descendent of the very same King David, is the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people. Jesus embodies God’s never-failing love. He shows us what this love can do in our lives right in the midst of sin and chaos. As the crowd begins to rumble in hunger, the disciples’ anxiety increases. Jesus sees their anxiety in the face of multiplying need and asks, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip despairs, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Andrew points out that a boy has 5 loaves and 2 fish, “but what are they among so many?” Jesus reframes the story. He doesn’t just fix the problem in the moment. He works with the disciples so that they will come to trust that his love is more powerful than the things that threaten to overwhelm them. He orders the disciples, “Make the people sit down.” Anxiety subsides. Jesus feeds the 5,000 people. He has the disciples gather up the fragments so that they can see for themselves what happens when love multiplies. Like David, the disciples will forget again who has the power. They will get anxious when things get out of hand, when Jesus seems far away. The next day the sea becomes rough. A strong wind blows. But Jesus walks toward them on choppy waters and brings them safely back to shore. Evil and sin will not go away. Jesus is nailed to a cross and dies. But God’s love does not die. God raises Christ from the dead and overcomes evil with love. Transformed, the disciples go out to multiply his love and feed the world.
The Bible does not dress up human nature to make it look any better than it is. It confronts the good, the bad, and the ugly head on. But the news that we come together to hear in Scripture each week is different from the news we read in the daily paper. Our story as God’s people does not leave us in despair. When we hit rock bottom in our own lives, we hear, “Cut.” God intervenes and helps us reframe our story. Ours is a living story of how God is present in the midst of our chaos and multiplies his love in spite of the odds. I felt the strength of that living story 10 days ago right here in this space. As the sun set on the Friday of the Colorado shootings, a group of 70 young people and their leaders from all over this region came together in this sanctuary to pray. We lit candles on the altar. We prayed for the 70 victims of the shooting and their families. We broke bread together. We commissioned our young people for their work in Dungannon, Virginia. I was reminded that God is with us all right in the middle of our lives. In gathering with this community to pray, I knew that God would be with the people in Colorado as they heal and grieve, come to terms with violence and forgiveness, anger and love; I knew that he would be with these young people throughout their week. He’d help them use their hands, hearts, and bodies to spread and receive God’s love among those whose homes are literally falling apart.
Jesus walks toward us all on the choppy waters of our lives. He wakes us up from our nightmares and says, “Cut!” He doesn’t take away all of the uncertainty, evil, and sin that surround us. He works with us right in the midst of it so that we come to trust that his love is more powerful than our sin or the things that threaten to overwhelm us. He helps us reframe our story so that we are not victims caught up in the chaos, but agents of God’s love in a broken and hungry world. The message is clear, when God’s love multiplies, our anxiety subsides. We need not be anxious or afraid. Our God overcomes evil with love and multiplies our scarce resources to feed the world.