Wholehearted

Wholehearted – a sermon on Mark 6 and 2 Samuel 6  (Year B, Proper 10 / Ordinary 15).

Scripture

In Mark 6 and 2 Samuel 6, we have images of people joyfully worshipping God.

  • In 2 Samuel 6, King David has the Ark, the earthly symbol of God, brought to Jerusalem.
    • David has no problem letting God take centre stage in his capital.
    • He dances and celebrates with gusto – abandoning his dignity!
    • Michal despises David, perhaps seeing her loss rather than her people’s gain.
  • In Mark 6 (the almost King) Herod does not want Jesus, the earthly symbol of God, brought to Jerusalem – it was bad enough having him in the country!
    • Herod is a puppet King, put there by the Romans, not God.  He is insecure.
    • He is also a guilty man.  Despite himself, he liked listening to John.
    • Herod put his own comfort and dignity before justice, before God.

Meaning at the Time

Of course, there are two ‘times’ here – OT and NT.

  • When Samuel was written probably already referring to a bygone age:
    • A united powerful kingdom, ‘the good old days’.
    • Yet not a whitewash of History – David’s evil deeds show through too!
    • Lessons from the past, guidance for today and hope for tomorrow.
  • Mark’s Gospel was written down much closer to the actual events.
    • The early church was still working out what it was, where it was.
    • It was growing strongly – not in decline/destroyed like Israel (OT & NT).
    • People are shown that Jesus repeats the OT pattern, perfect/completing it.

Meaning for Today

What do these stories tell us about ourselves, our Nation, today?

  • What is the context – personal, corporate, national?
    • Our church in the UK is in decline, like the UK itself, affecting how we see scripture.
    • Worship/Witness/Work: I’m not good at being wholehearted in worship/witness – I like to be in control; work is OK, I can drive myself to do that.
    • Tony Blair (former UK Prime Minister) criticised by Anne Widdecombe (former UK politician) for not accepting the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching; he replied ‘I am a modern man’: i.e. ‘my reason alone will decide what I believe’.
    • Is our rich western society, that has so much to lose if it were to give up control, afraid of surrendering to God?
  • Our church reminds me of working in the declining Ministry of Defence (declining public sector in general?).
    • We seemed to have no confidence in ourselves, our judgement.  Bewildered!
    • Decisions made for jobs, money, etc, not what really needed for defence.
    • Our leaders had no belief in us!  They were open to outside influence.
    • Can you blame them?  We were not making decisions on what was needed for our mission, but for temporary, narrow, factional advantage.
    • We lost sight of what we should do rather what was expedient to do.

Conclusion

The message from 1,000 years of scripture: let God in! let God rule!

  • We, as individuals and an organisation, can surrender to God with complete confidence.  Let society turn away if it wants to.
  • What difficult things do we need to do to succeed in worship, witness and work?
  • Let us wholeheartedly celebrate putting God first, and thus instructed, guided and inspired, wholeheartedly focus on our mission.

God’s Leadership versus Human Leadership

Samuel has appointed his sons as judges, but their leadership is corrupt…a sermon on 1 Samuel 8:4-20 (Year B, Proper 7)

The People/Elders

A conspiracy!  They have planned this, rather than listening to God, waiting on his word.  The Elders don’t want to keep going with the current system – they want something new, better!

  • Why won’t they try and make the current system work? …
  • … you don’t make a name for yourself by keeping things the same!

The focus of the elders is ‘keeping up with the neighbours’ other nations.  Nevertheless, in vv19-20 the people want:

  • A tangible, visible leader;
  • To be the same as others – they desire to conform;
  • Someone to make the difficult decisions for them; and
  • They desire for security.

God and His Prophet

Samuel is horrified, (Moses held it together, but now it’s all going wrong on his watch) so he goes to God in prayer immediately.  God is the real authority here, Samuel is only his servant, his prophet; Christian leaders take note!  We see an incredible insight into God’s relationship with his people:

  1. God knows that His people are consistently unfaithful;
  2. Nevertheless, He commands His leader to listen to their demands;
  3. He ensures that they are warned of the consequences; but
  4. He does not force His will on them.

The Prophecy

Samuel warns the people that a king will compete with next-door nations for power and glory, which will lead to war.  Then the people and the economy will be devoted to war, which is costly.  That hierarchy between king and people will be costly – all those layers of self-important people will eat up what once belonged to the people and the 10% tithe to God.  They think that they would get a king to serve them, but they will serve him!

Application

Someone asked the question: ‘how do you explain war to children?’  Here is an answer.  When we humans are not busy loving God, listening to him and giving him the glory, we get busy looking after themselves and our possessions.  Then we begin comparing themselves to others and start looking at our neighbours with suspicion!  So, conflict begins…

Our church leaders may be weak and fallible, and we have those like Samuel’s sons among us, but our hope is not in them.  Our God is pure and can hold power and authority without being corrupted.  We have the Spirit – the mind of Christ – in us, the loving example of Jesus and God Himself.