Fairhaven Sermon 6-2-2024

Fairhaven Sermon 6-2-2024
Fairhaven Sermon 6 2 2024

Rev. Peg Bowman's sermon from June 2, 2024, explores the theme of being God's person in a world that often encourages otherwise. She uses three scripture readings to illustrate this message: a psalm by King David, a story about Samuel, and a gospel account involving Jesus. Bowman starts with David, highlighting his deep awareness of God's intimate knowledge of him, despite his imperfections. David's confidence in God's love, she explains, is a model for us, showing that we can trust in God's unwavering love and forgiveness, which provides a solid foundation for living faithfully.

Next, Bowman recounts the story of Samuel, who, as a boy, served under the high priest Eli and received a difficult message from God about Eli's corrupt sons. Samuel's faithfulness and honesty, even in challenging circumstances, demonstrate the importance of listening to and trusting God. Finally, she discusses Jesus' actions on the Sabbath, where he prioritizes doing good and helping others over rigid adherence to rules, challenging the religious authorities' interpretation of the Sabbath. Bowman concludes by encouraging the congregation to emulate David's trust, Samuel's faithfulness, and Jesus' compassion, using their God-given gifts to meet the needs of the world around them.


Well, we usually have, as you've noticed, two or three scripture readings every Sunday. We have the psalm and two readings that you've just heard. And as I approach these every week, I tend to think of them as like a bouquet of flowers. You know, I just kind of... these beautiful things, these beautiful words that we can... and what am I going to bring to you today from this bouquet of flowers?

This is the weirdest bouquet of flowers. These are three readings for this week. I was like, Okay, that's an odd mix of shapes and odd mix of colors.

And we have an Old Testament lesson that's often associated with the Advent season. And we have a gospel lesson, which you just heard, which is on the subject of Sabbath keeping, which I have preached on plenty already. And we have a psalm that's written by King David that focuses on God as our creator and designer. So, what do we do with all this? Seems like there's nothing in common between these three.

But after some time, I began to detect a common theme, and that is how to be or how to go about being God's person in a world that encourages us to be anything but. We see, for example, Jesus being confronted by the Pharisees and yet remaining faithful. We see Samuel living in a place where he is surrounded by corruption and he remains faithful. And we see King David wrestling with uncertainties that come from within, but still he praises God.

So, how did these people remain God's people in difficult circumstances, and how can we do the same? I'll start off with the psalm. As he was writing this psalm, King David is, both mentally and emotionally, in a place where he has become very aware of just how totally and completely God knows him. For all of us imperfect human beings to stop and think about how well God knows us can be a bit awkward, unnerving to think that God knows every thought, every daydream, every little thing we do. Because David says, God, you know when I sit down, you know when I get up, you can see my very thoughts, you know every word before I speak it.

And David says, Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. And the word wonderful here doesn't mean how exciting. It means how incomprehensible. It goes beyond understanding how well God knows us.

And David says, How weighty to me are your thoughts, how vast the sum of them. But in the end, after David has tried to take it all in, all the fullness of God's knowledge, he says, with the confidence of a child who knows that his father loves him, he says, I come to the end, and I am still with you. David is so very much God's person. Is David perfect? No.

Far from it. We know. I mean, he messed up big time sometimes, including committing adultery with Bathsheba and then arranging for the death of her husband. But David knows God.

He is confident in God's love because he knows that the content of God's character doesn't depend on what David does. David knows, maybe because he's been forgiven so much, he knows just how much love God has capable of. There is no fear in God's love. Human love is never perfect.

We try, but things go wrong sometimes. Wires can get crossed, but not with God. I think we can relate to David when he says that such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It's too much to grasp.

We can feel David's love for God in this song. It's very personal and very deep. David wrote this song not just as an I love you to God, but also for use in worship. He wrote these words so that we can use them to express our love for God.

This is a good song to make into a prayer on Sunday or any day of the week. David's final words, I come to the end and I am still with you, is the contentment of a child in his father's arms. So how can we be God's person? Like David, we can be confident in God's love. We can receive God's love.

By the way, sometimes it's easier to give love than it is to receive it. Have you ever noticed that? Because it's a position of strength. But receiving is a position of vulnerability and trust. If we have confidence in God and confidence in God's love for us, it leads to confidence in living in spite of the fact we're not perfect.

We have a God who forgives. We have a Lord Jesus who died so that we could be forgiven. And we are God's people when we trust that God loves us. And with this as a solid foundation, we can now turn to our Old Testament reading from Samuel.

And we need a foundation of love like this as we enter into this tragic story about Samuel. In the reading from 1 Samuel, we see the prophet Samuel as a boy, probably 10 to 12 years of age, living in the temple and serving as the assistant to the high priest Eli. Now, Samuel is the son of Hannah, a woman who had been unable to conceive for many years. And she prayed and promised God that if God would just give her a son, that she would dedicate him to the Lord's service.

And she kept that promise. And that's how Samuel ended up serving in the temple at such a young age. One night while everyone was sleeping, God called to Samuel. And Samuel mistook God's voice for Eli's voice.

And he went running to Eli, but it wasn't Eli who called him. And this happened two more times. And then Eli finally figures out that God is calling the boy. And so he tells Samuel to say, Speak, Lord.

Your servant is listening. Which, by the way, is a pretty good prayer for just about any time. So Samuel obeys Eli. And God shares with Samuel some tragic news.

The house of Eli is about to fall because Eli's sons have been blaspheming God over and over. Specifically, they have been verbally abusing the worshippers that come into the temple. They have been stealing the offerings that people were giving to God and claiming them for themselves. And they were forcing the female servants in the temple to have sex with them.

So Eli, their father, didn't take any part of this, but he didn't stop them. And the Bible tells us that in general there are two types of sins. Sins of commission, things we do we shouldn't do, and sins of omission, things that we don't do that we should do. And Eli's sins have been committing both.

And Eli himself hasn't been doing anything about it. And God says to Samuel, I have told Eli that I'm about to punish his house forever for the iniquity that he knew because his sons were blaspheming God and he did not restrain them. You imagine what it was like being in Samuel's shoes the next morning. Samuel loved Eli.

Eli was like a father to him. And the Bible says Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. He lay awake the rest of the night. In the morning, Eli called for Samuel and commanded him to speak.

He says, May God do to you and more also if you hide anything from me from all that he told you. So Samuel told Eli everything. And Eli was honest enough to acknowledge that the message was true and that it had indeed come from the Lord. He said, It is the Lord.

Let him do what seems good to him. It sounds like Eli has completely given up, which was probably the root of the problem. But as a result of this, and the scripture doesn't tell us exactly how this came about, but as a result of this, the people of Israel began to see Samuel as a faithful servant of God. They learned that they could take both their concerns and their offerings to Samuel, and Samuel would not mistreat them.

Scripture says all of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, that is from the north to the south, knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. Samuel's story shows us a young man who is honest and faithful, a man whose life encourages us to stay faithful to God, even in a world, especially in a world, where people are frequently blaspheming God. Blasphemy, by the way, is an old-fashioned word basically meaning insulting or showing contempt for God. Or in the case of Eli's sons, misrepresenting God, putting lies in God's mouth, saying that God said things that God never said.

So how can we be God's people in a world where these things happen every day? Where people misrepresent God and teach things as gospel truth that cannot be found in the gospel? Where people twist or misuse the scriptures and the sacraments? Samuel gives us an example. Listen to God. Be faithful to God. Hear God's word with honesty and compassion.

And God's word spoken honestly contains the power of heaven, and people who hear it will trust it. And then finally, saving the best for last, we have our gospel reading about Jesus. The passage that we heard this morning deals with Sabbath-keeping, what is or is not permissible on the Sabbath. And as I've mentioned before, the Sabbath is meant to be a gift from God for God's people.

But during Jesus' time, there were so many rules and regulations about how to observe or not observe the Sabbath that it had become in many ways a burden rather than a joy. In Mark's gospel, we are given two examples of times when the Pharisees questioned the way Jesus was keeping the Sabbath. The first example about picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath is a little bit outside of our 21st century experience, both from a cultural and religious standpoint, so I'm going to pass on that one, move on to the second. The second example makes a lot of sense to us.

So I'll pick up in Mark 3.1. Jesus is in the synagogue, and a man is there who had a withered hand. Now, this would have been not only painful, but it would have limited his ability to make a living and care for his family.

And the reading says that they, that is the religious authorities, were watching Jesus to see if he would heal on the Sabbath so that they could accuse him. And Jesus does indeed heal on the Sabbath. He calls the man forward in front of the whole congregation, and he asks, Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill? By the way, in Matthew's version of this story, he also says, If your farm animal falls into a hole on the Sabbath, do you not pick it up and get it out? So he adds that in. Nobody dares to answer Jesus.

And Mark says, He looked around at them in anger and was grieved at their hardness of heart. Why would it not be God's will for someone to be healed on the Sabbath? The Sabbath is supposed to be a blessing for God's people. It was never meant to be an excuse for not helping someone in need. So Jesus says to the man, Stretch out your hand.

And the hand was restored. Imagine the joy that this man and his family shared when he got home. But the Pharisees went out and conspired with the Herodians, their political enemies. Can you imagine the Democrats and Republicans getting together on this, right? Opposite parties conspired on how to destroy Jesus.

And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that conspiracy was lawful to do on the Sabbath, or any other time for that matter. So looking at Jesus' example, how does this show us how to be God's person when the world around us doesn't approve? Like Jesus, we can do good for people in need, even if it's not popular, even if we're criticized for doing it. We can provide, as we often do, food, clothing, Bibles, things that God has given us to share. So we've seen today three things that we can do to live as people of God.

First, like David, we can be confident in God's love, knowing that God's love doesn't depend on us. Secondly, like Samuel, we can listen to God, be faithful to God, share God's word with honesty and compassion. And third, like Jesus, we can do good for people in need, even if and when it's not popular. And finally, God has placed within each of us specific gifts to share.

And how and where do the gifts that God has given us connect to the needs of today's world? This is something to pray about. So let's do that. Let's pray. Lord, we have seen this morning how your people responded to your call to be the people of God.

We ask you now that you would call us to be your people. Show us how we can be faithful to you in our own time. Help us to see what you've given us that we can share with our world in your name and for your honor and glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.