January 20, 2019

2 Epiphany

Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11; John 2:1-11

The Rev. James M.L. Grace


In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

            Today we hear part of Psalm 36, a Psalm scholars believe was written by David.  If you know even the basics of the Hebrew Bible, you probably know a thing or two about David.  David started out as a shepherd, the youngest of several brothers, who was chosen to be the next king of Israel by the prophet Samuel.

            David did so many things right.  For a long time he allowed his faith in God to lead him.  Through his faith in God, David triumphed over the Philistine giant Goliath.  David’s faith in God protected him from the jealous and violent rampage of his predecessor, King Saul.  David enjoyed military victories over the Philistines and the Amalekites.  He brought the ark of the covenant into the city of Jerusalem. 

            Everything was going so well for David, and that was the problem.  Because of his success, David became entitled.  As he earned more prestige, as the kingdom of Israel grew, David allowed himself to slip into behavior that was contrary to his calling as God’s servant.  One of the most obvious ways in which David’s arrogance and entitlement corrupted him was in his lust toward Bathsheba.  Bathsheba was a beautiful, married woman whom David seduced, and Bathsheba became pregnant.    

Bathseba’s pregnany was problematic for David primarily because Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, served in David’s army.  Uriah had no idea Bathsheba was pregnant, and David wanted to keep it that way, so he ordered Uriah to the front lines of battle, to where the fighting was hardest.  Uriah died in battle, presumably never aware of his wife’s pregnancy, or of David’s cowardice.  Months later Bathsheba gave birth to the baby boy and named him Solomon, who would go on to become king of Israel, and repeat the mistakes of his father David.    

David: a soldier, a king, an adulterer, a coward, fool, and murderer.  When it comes to the kings of Israel, David was considered among the best of the kings of Israel, which should tell you something about how problematic Israel’s monarchy was. 

David desired after God’s own heart, but he was a broken man.   Yet before any of us write David off for all his mistakes, before we ignore the words of the beautiful psalm he wrote, we should look at ourselves, honestly and rigorously.  An honest inventory of our life’s behavior will show that we are like David: we are both faithful and fearful, we are both honest and hypocritical, we are both loving and prejudiced. 

That’s why the Bible is so accessible: the people whose story the Bible tells are broken people who make mistakes, who are wayward in their faithfulness toward God, and yet God steadfastly loves anyway.  That should give all of us hope.  It doesn’t matter how far away we wander from God – God is always ready to receive us back.

David writes in the psalm today “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.  Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains.”  That image of God’s righteousness as a mountain is a powerful one for me, because personally I am spiritually drawn to the mountains.  Have been all my life.

Last summer, I was in Colorado hiking Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The last mile and a half of that climb is all rock and boulders, so there is basically no trail, except for these targets that are spray painted onto the boulders you are climbing on. 

When I was climbing down the mountain from the summit, I realized after awhile that I was lost.  The familiar spray-painted targets on the boulders were nowhere to be found.  I had somehow wandered off the path.  For a moment I was scared, but then I prayed and began to retrace my steps and eventually got back onto the trail.

It struck me then, and now, that getting lost is an imperative on the spiritual journey.  Sometimes, it is only when we are lost, sometimes it is only when we are defeated, that we are able to clearly see God.   I believe that was true for David.  I know that it is true for me.  The victory of spiritual defeat is knowledge of God.

God’s righteousness is like the mighty mountains, God’s steadfast love extends to the heavens.  If you feel you are lost, like you’ve wandered off the trail, and you want to find your way back - one of the best ways to find God is by helping another person.  Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  MLK day is a national day of service and there are many opportunities to serve in our community tomorrow.  A simple google search of “MLK service day Houston” will give you ample opportunities to find God through helping your neighbor.  The opportunities are there for you to get outside yourself and find your way back to God.

No matter how far you wander, you can never wander beyond the righteousness and steadfast love of God.  AMEN.