It was Socrates who said the unexamined life is not worth living. Mac Davis examined his life and came up with this song...and since Rhonda isn't here I'm gonna sing a bit of it. “Oh Lord it's hard to be humble When you're perfect in every way I can't wait to look in the mirror Cause I get better looking each day To know me is to love me I must be a heck of a man Oh Lord It's hard to be humble, But I'm doing the best that I can.”
We read more today of the story of David and Bathsheba. David could have sung this song. He was apparently overwhelmed with pride in his position as a King, a king with almost universal support; he was even known as a man after God's own heart. He was handsome, popular, powerful... but not very humble.
We pick up the story in today's reading which suggests that what followed was almost business as usual, “When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she grieved for her husband. When the time of mourning was over, David sent someone to bring her to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son.” There is no record of David's guilt or Bathsheba's remorse. But David was living a life of luxury and privilege, an unexamined life. Professor Ted Smith reminds us that this is an unexpected sin, “Remember who David is: the singer of psalms, the anointed king, the favored one of God, the hope of Israel, and, in Christian accounts, the defining ancestor of Jesus. Acknowledging the sin of David threatens a whole worldview. It shatters a vision in which saints and sinners can be neatly divided.”
Our story goes and and we read this, “God was not at all pleased with what David had done.” A bit of an understatement I would say. God needed to find a way for David to see for himself the great unconfessed sin in which he was living. So he sent the prophet Nathan; David's long-time friend and confidant.
Nathan told his story about the rich man taking advantage of the poor man, taking what the man loved—a beloved lamb. We know David was a shepherd and he was moved by this story of sin against the poor man. “As surely as God lives, the man who did this ought to be lynched! He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!” Without accusing the King directly of his sin, Nathan's story prepared David to understand. Then David's heart was ready to hear the charge, “You are the man!” He examined his own prideful sins because his heart was now filled with mercy and grace for the offended man in the story. He had been able to convince himself that what he'd done was okay as long as he kept his heart hardened. But mercy for the offended man helped him realize his own great sin.
Psalm 51 was a part of our call to worship this morning as well as our confession of sin and it was Julie's Old Testament reading. Psalm 51 is understood to have been written by David as he struggled with the guilt of this 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.” Now we might question that last sentence, “Against you alone have I sinned.” David sinned against plenty of people. But in the final analysis, all sins are sins against God. I like to remind us of the two great commandments Jesus gave us, love God and love our neighbor. When we fail in either of these, it is failing God. And so every Sunday we share a common confession of sin. We, like David, acknowledge that when we sin against others we sin against God.
In the psalm, David appeals to God to cleanse him from his sin, “according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy.” That is the nature of God as revealed in Jesus Christ; mercy, love, grace, forgiveness. And God did. But did that mean there are no consequences to David's sin? David suffered the loss of prestige, the loss of his dream to build a temple, and even the death of his son. But beyond these, God did redeem David's sin and he went on to be the great king he was meant to be. In his personal life, he and Bathsheba had another son, Solomon who was a great and successful king. And God is also able to redeem our sin; we are never lost in sin as long as we can find our way to hear God's call to repentance. The call of Nathan for David to examine his own sin reminds us of our need to examine how we may be self-deceived and so living in sin.
Nathan's story is also a call for me as your pastor to examine my service. Our son Richard is quite active on social media and I admit I skip most of his posts on religion or politics. But he posted one earlier this week that struck a chord. He shared a Jordan Wilson post about church leaders. It reminded me of David's story. But all of us in the church, especially us leaders need to be mindful of the temptations we may face. He writes, “Sadly we have to ask ourselves, is it really that rare to see an elder of a church with a pride problem that ends in weird, manipulative, and destructive behavior? What is at the root of all of this? With this kind of culture, the Pastor begins to see himself as indispensable to the Kingdom. This is how a complex develops. He can’t fail. He convinces his elder team that he can’t fail. The Kingdom is on the line. He begins to justify all manor of moral compromises with the misguided notion that 'it’s for the kingdom' which he sees as the same thing as “the church”. He begins to excuse behavior in himself that he calls out ruthlessly in others.” A person could write the exact same thing about David. And we all have a bit of that sin of pride; of justifying our actions; of excusing in our lives what we wouldn't in others'. It is hard to be humble, hard to look at our sin honestly. It is not necessarily a fun exercise, but it is important. And as we gather for communion, we examine our preparedness to enter into that special connection. Consider for a moment how we have fallen short both of God's expectations and our own. We'll take a few moments of silent prayer to examine how we may fall short of God's call.
This is not an exercise in guilt but an exercise to help us realize the wonderful gift of redemption is ours in Jesus. For as children of God, we are not left wallowing in our failures. Rather, God's abundant love and mercy can redeem our sin. We are always welcome into God's presence and we are forgiven in and through the grace of Jesus. We are not gathered here this morning because we are a group of perfect people. We are sinners in need of forgiveness and God gives us forgiveness freely and abundantly. Julie watches the old TV show Touched by an Angel most mornings. Friday Monica said this which I think fits right here: “no mistake you ever made is bigger than God's power to fix it.” Offer your mistakes to God, come to Jesus just as you are. Let God's grace heal you and the Spirit make you a new creation in Christ Jesus. Come to God and be forgiven. Amen.
Hymn: Just As I Am 370 PH