A few weeks ago Andrew talked about superheroes and the person I want to talk about today would be considered a super hero of the faith.
He is someone about whom people like to preach. Preachers can take his life and apply it to almost anything they like but I have always had a bit of a problem with this guy – or maybe what preachers don’t say about him.
He always gets two pages in toddler bibles. He was a shoe-in for the flannel-graph at Sunday school. He looked after sheep, had big brothers who didn’t pay him any attention. He was a king, eventually and made mistakes but the most common sermon preached about this man is his heart for worship. Someone should have guessed who the subject of our time together is this morning especially Mr Jourdain.
But I don’t want to talk about the commonly preached topics around David’s life. The Musa’s can talk about his love of worship and I’m certainly not going to focus on his moral failure – far too dangerous for the first sermon you get to preach at a church.
When it comes to superheroes I am not a fan. The goodies are always too good so to speak. They are virtuous, kind and 6ft 3 with blond hair – much like myself.
I have always been attracted to the villain, the bad guy – not because of some unmet need or desire to rebel but because they are often the most interesting character in a movie. Their lives are complex, broken and in desperate need for a chance at redemption.
Hollywood for years have made millions/billions of dollars playing out this dualistic story of good vs evil. For so long the evil characters had to be super-evil and the good characters super good to make sure the audience knew who to support. In later more recent times, those lines have begun to blur as heroes have become more flawed and I would like to suggest more real.
Like everyone they struggle along in life, wrestling with thoughts of both good and evil.
You see the thing about David is he too struggled. We tend to skip over his affair with Bathsheba, his organised killing of her husband and the numerous lies and deceit he engaged in, moving on as quickly as we can or turning it into a talk about his great and honest friendship with Jonathan who pulled him up on it.
We talk about his great military victories, his dancing before the Lord as a model for our worship – though I would counsel you not to follow his example too closely but I think we can learn much from his relationship with God as a model of how we can approach God ourselves.
It is necessary for us to do a quick trip through his life to understand much of how David relates to God so bear with me on the next few slides.
POWERPOINT x 3 David anointed king
POWERPOINT x 4 David and Goliath
POWERPOINT x 2 David chased by Saul
POWERPOINT x 1 David becomes King
POWERPOINT x 3 David and Bathsheba
POWERPOINT x 1 Solomon King
POWERPOINT (David’s Story)
We could read about David’s story in 1 and 2 Samuel, and a couple of chapters in 1 kings and 1 chronicles but where we really get to know David is in the psalms. David wrote over half of the psalms – well most scholars think so though it has become popular of late to suggest that all he did was compile them from other writers
–Nevertheless the Psalms show us his heart, his inner thoughts, his turmoil and most of all they show us an authentic, real relationship with a God who accepts us how we are. They show us what he was thinking as the events of his life unfolded.
The Psalms tend to be our default devotions don’t they? If we are honest with ourselves when we sit down to read our bible reading for the day and we find it is in Leviticus we are tempted to skip to the psalms. There is something about the psalms that make them more accessible, easy just to dive in and identify with. Plus aside from Psalm 119 they are shorter.
I want to suggest that our attraction to the Psalms is because they are real , David doesn’t mince words, he comes before God in his anger, in his disappointment, in his sorrow as well as his joy and love.
He says what we are sometimes thinking but hesitant to put words or indeed prayer to. Ursula called them David prayers – such an apt name.
Quite a few years ago there was a spectacularly stupid movie called what woman want starring George Clooney – who had the ability to be able to read women’s minds and know what they were thinking. Now don’t get me wrong that would be handy sometimes wouldn’t it.
But imagine if that was actually a possibility – I don’t know about you but I don’t think it would be pretty – especially when our line of thinking turned nasty or inappropriate but wait God has that ‘superpower’ – he is omniscient – the flash word for all –knowing. So we may as well tell him how we are feeling instead of stewing inside.
There is something refreshing about hearing David’s heart.
I really struggle with fake – it has the potential to annoy me almost more than anything else. I hate game-players, I’d rather that people were straight with me. But that doesn’t give you permission to come and tell me my preaching was terrible after the service!
Kidding – you can if you want.
Last year we spent a short time in the Netherlands and Germany among other places. And one of the things I appreciated was the candour of the people – they just say it how it is. Now obviously there is a line between just plain rude and real but I think in New Zealand we are a long way from being real let alone being rude.
We are the masters of the euphemism. Most of us do it everyday – most of us have probably done it as we walked into church this morning. If I wasn’t preaching about it I would have done it too.
How are you doing?
What does that mean? For most of us it means – I’m not telling you how I really am.
And to some extent that is fine – we shouldn’t really be going around spilling everything to everybody but what about people you have relationship with?
What about God?
What can’t you tell him this morning?
POWERPOINT (Some Questions)
At the church we were in before Elim or LBE – Life Before Elim – there was one person who you wouldn’t answer that question with good – because he would respond with really?
It’s a bit harder to lie twice to someone’s face
The difference is that I knew he actually wanted to know.
There might be many who don’t want to know what is going on in your life right now but there is at least one who wants to hear your heart – and that is God
Can I share with you a pet hate? Of course I can I have the microphone – ah ah ha.
Shop assistants – especially checkout operators – sorry Holly – I know this is related to your area of work but really if you ask me how I am at least pretend that you are listening.
Now maybe Wanganui isn’t as bad as Hamilton where we used to live – and actually to be honest so far people seem much more inclined to engage here.
It is said that when you move towns there is a period of time where you can walk in to shops and no one recognises you but there comes a point where facial recognition occurs and you will be met with a knowing smile. I suspect that it happened fairly quickly for us and I put that all down to this.
But before she came along I managed to pick up first-hand experience of the not engage phenomena.
For me the pinnacle of this came when Harrison was born. Long time to hold on to bitterness 7 and a half years!
On March 25th 2008 I drove home from the hospital at about 9.30pm at night and stopped in at the supermarket having not really eaten for who knows how long.
Making my way through the checkout – usual routine. In my somewhat comatose state I made the mistake of responding to the ‘how was your day?’ question honestly.
“Our first child was born today – I’ve just come from the hospital.”
“that’s nice – that will be $12 thanks.”
I have spent some time framing this in a negative sense this morning but let’s flip it on its head for a moment.
How are you?
I’m really good – I’ve had a great week. God has been doing such and such in my life. Oh did that feel awkward? It does to most of us because as hard as it is to say I’m not good it is sometimes just as hard to say something positive.
You see the other side of David is the number of times God came through for him and we have that testimony in the Psalms as well. Can I encourage you to share the good as well as the bad. One of the things that we have come to appreciate here at Elim is family time where as simple as it may be people can share about something they have achieved. It is about celebrating the good . And all Good is from God. I’m just saving up all my certificates so when I come up I can have the whole basket.
I guess I’d better get to the Bible
Let’s turn to Psalm 140
POWERPOINT (Psalm 140 spread over two slides) I’ll read it out
1-5 God, get me out of here, away from this evil;
protect me from these vicious people.
All they do is think up new ways to be bad;
they spend their days plotting war games.
They practice the sharp rhetoric of hate and hurt,
speak venomous words that maim and kill.
God, keep me out of the clutch of these wicked ones,
protect me from these vicious people;
Stuffed with self-importance, they plot ways to trip me up,
determined to bring me down.
These crooks invent traps to catch me
and do their best to incriminate me.
6-8 I prayed, “God, you’re my God!
Listen, God! Mercy!
God, my Lord, Strong Savior,
protect me when the fighting breaks out!
Don’t let the wicked have their way, God,
don’t give them an inch!”
9-11 These troublemakers all around me—
let them drown in their own verbal poison.
Let God pile hellfire on them,
let him bury them alive in crevasses!
don’t let them be taken seriously;
let the Devil hunt them down!
12-13 I know that you, God, are on the side of victims,
that you care for the rights of the poor.
And I know that the righteous personally thank you,
that good people are secure in your presence.
Commentators believe that David wrote this Psalm during the time that King Saul was pursuing him. So it gives us some context for David’s complaints. David was chased by Saul for four years. That’s a long time to be without a permanent home, always looking over your shoulder to see if a mad king is tailing you. It is understandable that after this time you’d be a bit ticked off. Remember that David had been anointed as King seven years previous.
Often we know that we have been called to something be that full-time ministry in a church or indeed another profession but it takes an awful long time for the promise to come to fruition. In fact what often happens is that things actually turn against us and the dream seems even further away than it did when we first got it. We can feel like God has forgotten us, left us and put us out to pasture.
POWERPOINT (Some Questions #2)
Don’t give up on it, like Joseph and David sometimes the opposition is preparation for what God has in store for us. It’s really easy to become a bit confused and depressed about our situation. What David does is tell God all about his feelings, he doesn’t internalise his anger, he expresses it.
Sometimes the church have convinced people that you aren’t allowed to be angry with God, so they become more and more disillusioned with God and unfortunately end up walking away.
I had this situation in just the last few weeks with a friend who was on staff with me at Gateway.
She has been through some disappointments in her life, she has stopped attending church and told me she isn’t sure she even trusts God’s character anymore. That is a tragic comment to make but her next comment was what saddened me most.
“There’s not a heck of a lot of people who can sympathise with my position it seems. And Christians are loathe to offer their opinion because they know it won’t help”
We need to be real with people as well as God. Ursula spoke so insightfully about this a few weeks back when she spoke about understanding people who have been through the same things as you, so I won’t stay here except to say that sometimes our so-called wisdom is just mere platitude and people who are hurting see right through it.
What I like about David is that there’s no sugar coating here, no tip toeing around God lest he offends him. Some of what he says is the equivalent of Christian swearing. Telling God he wants people to go to the hot place so to speak.
It might just be me but I can’t see this Psalm ever making it to song from like so many other psalms do. It would be really interesting to hear the worship team singing
don’t let them be taken seriously;
let the Devil hunt them down!
Maybe Zoe could write an arrangement for us.
The other thing about this psalm is there are No thus sayeth the Lord’s. – though that could be down to the fact that we read from the message version!
I want to say something about language here and now I am going to plead ignorance here – so if I offend someone with what I say next I am just going to use the ‘I didn’t know ‘ card after all I haven’t heard how most of you pray yet. Growing up I went to a church where occasionally we had a time of open prayer where anyone could pray.
One guy had a particular way of praying that just felt terribly unnatural and to be honest with you terribly distracting. He was a serial user of God’s name.
Father we come to you Father and Father this morning Father we ask you Father to bless us Father.
Now this was made worse by my mother who would sit counting the number of fathers that were uttered but the point is, do we talk like this normally??
It just reminds me of salespeople who cold call and having found out what your name is, proceed to insert it as often as they can.
Shannon, I’m calling to day to offer you a special price Shannon on our superb range of pens Shannon. Would you be interested in that Shannon. At which point I hang up but you get what I mean.
Now I must say if this is how you normally talk then your expression of relationship with God is just as valid as anyone else but if this morning it is something that we feel we need to put on to be accepted I want to give you permission to come before God without the trappings of religiosity.
God truly does accept us as we are – we don’t need special words or clothes.
POWERPOINT (Angry Psalms The Start)
We won’t go through these this morning and in fact I’m nearly done but if you are interested in having a look at some examples – they are on the screen for you to furiously scribble down . Not all of these are David but they follow the same pattern. Blatant raw honesty.
I do want us to note one thing here though is how each Psalm finishes.
POWERPOINT (Angry Psalms The End)
Each Psalm apart from Psalm 44 ends making some statement about God’s nature. It’s my guess that the writer probably didn’t really feel the truth of those words right there and then but nevertheless the words are true. There is a danger in drowning in our own anger and frustration and like my friend I mentioned earlier my counsel is to make sure you are talking to someone about it. Sometimes we do need to remove ourselves from the situation but not for too long. The longer we avoid the easier it is to never come back. And likewise sometimes we don’t come back because we don’t trust in the truth about God’s nature, fearing that somehow he might not forgive us or be happy with us. We read the end of the psalm but struggle to accept that it could possibly apply to our situation.
POWERPOINT (David inspires us to…)
It is then that we need to go back to the grand narrative of our faith. When Jesus died for us on the cross the curtain was ripped, granting us authority to step in to the holy of holies. The Old Testament way of sacrifice was done away with. He desires us to come to him as little children.
Have you wondered what that means – it means without pretence, without the sophistication that we as adults adopt. We are really good at complicating things, making excuses why we can’t come to him.
The story of David lets us in on the good news that we can never be good enough or indeed bad enough for God.