Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Male Delivery Failure" .... Zion Lenten Worship Series

Pastor Tim has designed this theme of “God Tech” for our Lenten worship. Last Sunday, March 7th, I was luck enough to preach one of these messages! This is the message I shared ... hopefully you can understand my thoughts - I wrote this as I would speak it!

So far, we’ve looked at Moses and the burning bush a.k.a. “THE GREAT IM” and then Moses and the 10 commandments a.k.a. - “HOLY MOSES YOU’VE GOT MAIL”.
And tonight we're moving through history and the judges, prophets and Kings. For our purposes, we'll focus mainly on the kings – and really just the first two kings a.k.a. - “Male (M-A-L-E) Delivery Failure”.

So kings - we know from Biblical history that Israel had many kings. And then Israel and Judah split and they both had kings. You may or may not know lots of those kings, but I am positive you’ve probably know a little about the first 2 (because they were the most “famous”) Saul and David. Saul – not so good; in fact, just plain terrible as a king. (But that might not have been totally his fault. He was sort of set up from the start for “male failure.”) And David – probably the best king ever (Scripture calls him a man after God’s own heart, though we know David was not perfect … does the name Bathsheba ring a bell?).

But before the kings, who ruled Israel? How did we get from Moses to King Saul? I’m glad you asked! You likely know this, but let me sort of re-cap this for us. Scholars think that near 1400 BC, Joshua lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. And you’ve got the 12 tribes that are sort of the governing system of the Israelites. And from about 1410 to 1020 BC, we have the period of the “Judges.” The judges were sort of the primary military leader of a particular tribe, and a lot of them, really, came to serve as legal administrators of the tribes. There are more, but you’ll recognize some of the judges: Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Samson, and Samuel.

Ahhh, Samuel. What an amazing Biblical character. Samuel is considered by most as the last judge. But he is also considered to be the first prophet since Moses. Or a sharer of God’s messages to the people and most importantly a prophet would come to be (because of Samuel) the king’s conscience … So Samuel was living in this period of transition (though he probably didn’t recognize it at the time). You see, Samuel judged the people of Israel all of his life (Scripture tells us) and he even appointed two of his sons to be judges after him. But his sons were corrupt and perverted the law and the Israelites did not like them. That’s where we pick up our Scripture today … Click below to watch a video of it or read 1 Sam 8:4-22:

So, we learn from 1 Samuel 8 that Israel having a king was not God’s idea. In fact, through Samuel, God tried to get the people to stop asking for one and to see God as their King. Through Samuel, God warned the elders that if they called a king, certain "not so okay" things were going to happen and that the Israelites would be unhappy and even that they would then cry to God but God would not hear their cries. But the Israelites, the men, they didn’t listen, they wanted a king. Now this is an important thing to consider – the elders they were men – because in those days women had no place or responsibility other than to produce more male children. Hence, Pastor Tim’s sermon title “Male M-A-L-E delivery failure.” It’s not a sexist thing or to leave out the women kind of thing – the elders (who happened to be men) failed to listen to God.

The plan up to this point had been pretty simple for the Israelites: Obey God, stay away from the false gods of your neighbors and God would keep them free and prosperous. But Israel was never really good at this and now they’re getting greedy! They see their neighbors and the kingdoms and the kings they have and they think that if they get some “towering figure” in our physical presence that this “king” will prevent them from doing wrong and will lead them to great things and will protect and prosper them. They wanted what the surrounding peoples had; they thought the grass was greener on the other side! It wasn’t about progress and growth or meeting culture where it was. It was simply a "we want what they have and we don’t care about the consequences" type of thing.

Isn’t that just like us? In our personal lives and as the body of Christ, the church - as Christians. We don’t always listen to God. But, why don’t we listen? Here’s what I think part of the problem is … (I originally read this in a blog by St. Paul's Presbyterian church). Today in our society we are saturated by words. Words fill the air on radio, on television, at meetings, all around us all the time; we are hardly ever silent. And when there is silence, it’s uncomfortable.

I just read this report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Their research showed that in a typical day, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using media (TV, computer, cell phones, etc.). That’s more than 53 hours a week! And if you include all of the hours in the day where the media is just “on” then it’s over ten hours a day that our kids are exposed to media content.

In our culture, we are saturated with words: 1. words that often mean nothing (I’m deliberately not mentioning politicians here); 2. words that attempt to attract our attention (I won’t tell you about the commercials on Nickelodeon … Blaine’s already got his Christmas 2010 list done) 3. And where would we be without the commentators who tell us what all the words mean and what we should understand, as if we weren’t capable of understanding and forming our own view. (I won’t mention the Olympics at all. Did you watch the Olympics … I got to the point where I just wanted to hear the cow bells and the sweep of the skates on the ice. But, that doesn’t happen). And I think eventually we sort of become numb and we just stop listening; we just block words out. We all do it; I mean you kind of have to, to function.

Have you ever been on an airplane? I really dislike flying. Really, I am a nervous wreck and I fly as little as possible. But there are people who fly all the time, like my uncle … he flies weekly and I don’t know how he does it. But I’ve noticed something about those people who are on airplane’s all the time and it makes me mad! You know at the beginning when the stewardess is doing the safety talk and they flip on the video and you’re supposed to pull the safety card out of the back of the seat in front of you. Of course I’m scouring it, trying to get it all in my head, wanting to move if I’m in an emergency exit seat. But the people who fly all the time, if you watch them, they’ve got their headphones on, or they’re talking to the person next to them, or reading a magazine, or doing work, they are totally ignoring/blocking out the safety instructions. They’ve flown so many times that they’re numb and they just stop listening.

Or here’s another example, I don’t know about you but I get so much email in my junk email box that I can’t even keep it cleaned out. And, God forbid, that an important email actually make its way into that junk box because finding it is nearly impossible. So, I just ignore that junk box; I never look at it.

And sadly, for some of us, this trend blocking things out or whatever you want to call it - I think that trend rolls over into our relationship with each other and certainly into our relationship with God (whether we mean for it to or not). But, listening is important, words are important! That flight that landed in the Hudson River – do you think there were regular travelers on that flight? They’d probably taken hundreds of flights and never crashed. I wonder if when they realized they were crashing if they thought, now what did that stewardess say to do … words are important! I want you to remember that, we’ll come back to it at the end. Words are important.

So we know from the writer of 1 Samuel that the male Israelites were not listening to God in those days. And Samuel, bless his heart, he tried to warn them. He flat out tells the men they will regret this decision and lays out the negative consequences of having a king. But the men, they don’t care. And sadly, there were negative consequences for Israel because of this decision. We know that the nation of Israel would eventually have 41 kings. Only 11 kings followed God at all and seven of those forgot God at the end of their reign. This “spiritual rebellion” later caused the fall of Judah and then Israel and captivity by foreign nations and the Israelite people and this monarchy – failed.

So this is how the monarchy came about for Israel in the first place. And then Samuel appoints and annoints Saul as the first king. And Saul really fit right in to the whole “not listening” to God thing. When it came time for Samuel to present Saul to the people as their king, Saul was hiding. If you read 1 Sam 10:22, you see Saul hiding in the baggage. So, Saul was hiding behind/in some baggage, scared to death. Do you ever do that? I do. I hide amongst my baggage all the time. God wants to use us and we hide in our baggage, afraid to be used. And, eventually this fear and self doubt would cause Saul’s reign as king to unravel. Now, of course, they pull him out of the baggage he’s hiding in and Samuel lays out the duties of a king, and off Saul goes to be king. And things go okay for a while and then there’s a problem with the Philistines where the Goliath comes to attack them.

So, enter David. We know that David’s brother’s had gone off to be in Saul’s army to battle against the Philistines and Jesse (their dad) sends David to check on his older brothers. But with David, Jesse sends some baggage. He sends grain and loaves of bread and cheese and who knows what else. So off David goes with these bags and he gets to where the army and his brother’s are and something interesting happens. Read 1Sam 17:22! Saul hid in his baggage, but David has baggage from his dad and he gave it to the keeper of the baggage and then runs to the battle line. Because he was able to leave his baggage with the baggage keeper, he was able to go and be victorious in battle and defeat Goliath. And, then of course, David after much turmoil with Saul eventually becomes king. And, he’s a good king.

David, the “apple of God’s eye” started out strong – he was a servant king, not forgetting widows and orphans (thinking of others) . But eventually we know that David looses his focus on his relationship with God, he blocks God out (doesn’t listen), abuses his power as a king and stumbles into an adulterous affair with Bathsheba. We also know that, of course, Bathsheba becomes pregnant. David tries to cover up the sin and they bring home Urriah, her husband, but he won’t sleep with his wife because it wouldn’t be fair the other soldiers. So then David concocts this plan to send Urriah to front lines where he’ll be killed and then David can take Bathsheba as his wife. I mean, it’s just crazy - David becomes not only an adulterer, but also, a murderer and clearly is in no relationship with God.

So that’s where we pick up for our second piece of Scripture for tonight. The prophet Nathan comes in and tells David a parable. Watch this:

There’s a brilliant contemporary Hebrew scholar named Walter Brueggeman, he just died in 2008. And he had some things to say about this piece of Scripture. He wrote: “This story is more than we want to know about David, and more than we can bear to understand about ourselves.”

I can identify with that. I am so much like David, quick to judge / slow to listen but then my words come back to bite me and I’m the man (woman). Eventually this child that David and Bathsheba have together, he dies … they say as punishment for these sins. And it’s hard to understand but this is what it seems to take to get David back to being open to listening to God, back to putting down the baggage of self-righteousness. He goes to Bathsheba and consoles her after their child’s death. So we get the sense that he is beginning to understand his relationship with God by caring for others once again. So here we are with these two pieces of Scripture and Saul and David.

This why I think (well, I know because he told me) Pastor Tim picked these readings for us: The 1st reading reminds us what happens when we don’t listen to God, and the second reminds us how great start’s can quickly deteriorate when we loose sight of God. But I want to go back to this baggage image for just a minute. Saul, you know, he would not let go of the baggage of self-doubt and he hid in it and imploded upon himself. David started good, dropped his baggage with the baggage keeper and had success. But then later he goes back and he picked up the baggage of self righteousness, and stumbled under the weight of his own ego.

We all have baggage, but both of these men of the O.T. teach us what happens when we are not willing to turn our baggage over to God, the baggage keeper. So my question to us tonight - what are we doing with our baggage as we’re on our Lenten journey?

It’s a funny thing about baggage (I heard about this from The Skit Guys)! We begin collecting it when we are just little kids. Do you remember how I kept saying words are important? Well, they are. And, do you remember the funny little children’s saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s a LIE! I’m here to tell you (and I’m sure you know) - words cut deeper than any stick or stone ever could. And it’s a really sad thing, because as children as teenagers, even sometimes as adults, we are not prepared to deal with the mean things people say and so we collect the baggage. And, we carry lots of bags other than the things people say to us – guilt, anger, shame, self-righteousness, greed. And we just go through life collecting these “bags.” But they’re heavy and we know with just one little mishap, we will fumble all the bags. So, as we get older, we begin to find ways to deal with the baggage.

And I see it this way – we can one of two things with these bags: 1. Give them to the baggage keeper (God) 2. Dump it on somebody else which is something we do frequently. Dr. Phil has this great saying that is so true: “Hurt people, hurt people.” Balancing and lugging around this luggage is not the abundant life Christ calls us to. Didn’t Jesus say - “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” In other words, come here, let me carry your bags. And let’s not forget Philippians 3:12 – “Forget the past and look forward to what is ahead.” In other words, it’s over, you don’t have to carry the bags.

Christ is the keeper of the baggage – we are invited to leave it with Him! Oh and by the way, don’t pick it back up on the way out …. I don’t in this Lenten journey what bags you might be lugging around or if you are even carrying any, but I just want to invite you to consider them and invite you to drop them right now!

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