Monday, November 24, 2014

Who Me?

Jeremiah 1: 4-10
There are call stories galore; call stories of how men and women are called to ministry or a particular profession.  Some of the most bizzare are those that I heard at the beginning of my seminary years.  From a vision of the archangel Michael clinging to the windshield during a wintery snow storm to God speaking to someone through their computer screen those folks heard God’s call and heeded it.  Mine was not so splashy, just a persistent metaphorical itch that I couldn’t seem to scratch and satisfy.

Then there are call stories; call stories of the prophets from the Bible. 

Take Abram.  To make a long story short – God comes to Abram and his wife Sarai (later Abraham and Sarah) and tells them, when they were in their golden years, to literally pull up stakes and move on.  I’m sure Abram k’vetched and argued, I certainly would!  You know when you get older you just want to stay put.  But Abram followed God’s command, he moved and wandered and eventually was made the father of many nations.  The rest, they say, is history.

How about Moses?

To make a long story short – Moses doubts that people would believe him as a prophet but God demonstrates to Moses how he’ll be able to do it.  That didn’t work so Moses argues that his speech is not so great.  God argues back, “Who gave you that mouth anyway?”  Then God reassures, “Now go, don’t worry, I’ll be with you.”  The rest, they say, is history!  Moses, of course, leads the people Israel out of Egyptian bondage, through the Red Sea waters toward the land of milk and honey.

And today we have Jeremiah. Let’s hear the call story of Jeremiah, from the first chapter.

The Call of Jeremiah from the Book of Jeremiah
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

To make a long story short – God knew way before Jeremiah was born that he was to be called.  When the opportunity is presented to Jeremiah, he argues with God, ‘I’m way too young.”  God argues back, “Don’t say that, don’t worry, I’ll be with you, I’ll rescue you if needs be.”  The rest, they say, is history!  Jeremiah, reluctantly took up that call and prophesized at a raucous time in the history of Israel and he heralded a new understanding of Yahweh to the people.

What they have in common is that they really are somewhat of a ‘rag-tag’ and ordinary group of individuals who finally, in the end, give in!  Moses was slow of speech, Abram was just a plain old geezer, Jeremiah just a happy go lucky, uneducated kid - all of them had something going against them and yet they were called by God and relied on God. It was once said that, ‘the task does not depend on the leaders ability, but on the leader depending upon God.’[i] 

But that time in which Jeremiah was called was tumultuous, he was called to a particular situation, a precise moment in the history of Israel which was very unsettled and fractious.  It was during the reigns of Josiah, Johiakim, and Zedekiah and there was a major geographical upheaval in the Ancient Near East.  Nations were in conflict with one another and the Assyrian Empire was in major decline.  There were battles between Egypt and Babylon for the Fertile Crescent, which, of course, was crucial to viability of a people.

Poor geographically and politically small Israel had no chance as they were being attacked by the Babylonians and we know that the ensuing demise of Jerusalem and the temple was not long to follow.  People were whisked off into exile but a few remained like Jeremiah in this hotbed of political strife.

His message to the remnant: uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.  That is to bring the prevailing system of injustice to its knees and to replace it with one that will uphold the kingdom of God, one that will present a worldview of justice and equality for each person.  That is, folks, we have work to do.  He had his work cut out for him.

And so do we.  As you know, we, as a nation, are on the precipice of a decision that could potentially spark an even greater racial divide in this country, in St. Louis, and particularly in Ferguson, Missouri.  We wait for the grand jury’s decision on whether the Police Officer who fired on Michael Brown will be indicted on criminal charges.   Whether you will be lamenting the decision or rejoicing in the decision, or just flat out ignoring the whole thing you cannot disregard the fact that racism is just as virulent today as it was back in the 60’s. We think we have come so far but sadly it appears we have not.  

There is so much that most of us take for advantage because of the color of our skin.  I was never more awakened to certain privileges than when a co-trainer of mine from the ADL’s diversity training told me how fearful she was when her two sons went out on a daily basis, to the store, driving along the street, to school.  The color of their skin made them targets of suspicion and potential injustice.

Mine did not, in fact I realized then that I never feared for their lives when my sons left the house.  I didn’t have to worry that they would be pulled over for no apparent reason or that they would be watched like a hawk at Stop ‘n Shop or looked over while they were in line at Dairy Queen. Racial injustice occurs in the slightest of ways that we can’t even imagine.

It’s hard living here in Orange to think what all of this has to do with us, with 94% of the population being white. What could possibly erupt here over this case that is so far away?  It’s hard to think that violence, rioting and looting will happen here because of the decision, that it would touch our pastoral green, be present down at High Plains, or even happen on Route 1, as crazy as that gets at times. 

Then why do we have to think about this?  Well, you could turn a blind eye, or you could see the ways in which God has called you to a specific moment in time to make some sort of difference.  A few of us gathered the other night for the Taize service and included a very special prayer for Ferguson, for all parties involved, for peace and justice.  A couple of us stayed to talk quietly afterwards and while we surmised there really was not much we could do here, what we could do was pray and to make a difference in the way we lead our own lives in fairness and love.

The aftermath of this case will be dicey at best and very bad behavior will occur, but so will upright, peace upholding behavior and we mustn’t loose sight of that.  Good behavior will occur because of those who have heard God’s call and have done something, anything!

Part of our mission as followers of Christ is to expose and dismantle prejudice, racism and the hideous face of injustice.  It is at very special times like these that we are called for a purpose much larger than ourselves.  Like Jeremiah, we are called to uproot the old ways and norms that keep people down and build up that which recognizes the decency and  value of each and every human life.  Every life is precious.  Every human is a child of God and we are connected.  When one child of God hurts, we all hurt and that is what binds us together regardless of our skin color, our gender, our zipcode.
Being called by God doesn’t necessarily mean a life that is easy.  But it does mean awakening others to God’s love and impartiality and fairness by the life you lead. 

I do believe that if we are to call ourselves Christians it means then that all of us are called to exemplify God’s love and forgiveness, Christ’s unquenchable thirst for justice, and the Holy Spirit’s energy in our every day world and each day that we live out.  We are called to be who we are.  And we are called to do what we can for others who cannot.

We have an awful lot to be thankful for. But most of all we give thanks to God for the abundance of love given to us through Jesus Christ and his message of hope for peoples lives; and this is the message we are to tell too. 

Will you, through your actions, tell the Gospel that you have been called to tell?  Because when you hear that call, “Who Me?”, and you will.  God will inevitably say, “Yeah!  YOU!”


[i] Origin of quote unknown.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Economy of a Faith Community

Micah 5:2-4, 6:6-8
Many years back I was the facilitator of a weekly Wednesday Bible Study.  I inherited this Bible Study from the Senior Pastor who inherited it from his Senior Pastor when he was an associate there.  So goes the life of Bible Study sometimes.  The clergy come and go but the people remain strong and faithful. 

Well in this Bible Study there was a woman, Barbara, who was a regular attender as she had been for many moons.  Barbara has since crossed over to the shores of the great beyond, no doubt in a very secure, loving and Godly place.  And I will remember her.  We would study, dialogue and debate the merits of the Apostle Paul, the value of scientific discovery and  creationism, the theology of Calvin and Luther and their buddies, what Jesus said and did, a few recipes every now and then, and then of course our lives.

Inevitably, and without fail somewhere along the way in each and every session Barbara would turn to me and a lull in the discussion and say, “I just don’t know what God wants for me”, “I don’t know what God wants me to do”.  Well you can imagine that after hearing this over and over again like a broken record or a scratched CD I was getting impatient with her (internally!!!) 

I’d try to rationalize, give her some ideas, some thoughts and then finally one day I turned to her out of desperation and with quite an emphatic voice, “Barbara, what does the Lord require of you????  To do justice, love kindness, and to walk with him [sic].  How you do it, that’s entirely up to you”.  She looked at me with her big blue eyes and nodded.  I thought she understood.

The next week of course came and at the end of the Study Barbara said, “Suzanne, I dunno, I just don’t know what the Lord wants from me”.  I looked at her and said, “Barbara, I dunno either”.  We both shook our heads and moved on.  The next week came and so did the next, status quo, nothing changed.

Seemed to me that I gave her a pretty clear picture of what God wanted from her, or for any of us for that matter.  And, like I told her and I truly believe it, how we do justice, love kindness, and walk with God is entirely up to our creative, wild and imaginative minds.  I find that rather exciting personally. 

Today is our yearly Stewardship sermon.  It's the day I talk about money and church and giving from the pulpit.  Many people say the church is always talking about money but really I preach about money only once a year even though 11 out of the 39 parables that Jesus preached were about money, even though 25% of the Gospels is either about  money, stewardship and the resources that God has given us.  I know the limits you place on me even though they are not orally expressed.  

However before we get there I want to lay some historical context for our scripture from where this often quoted passage – do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly - comes from. 

It was the second half of the 8th Century BCE and the people of the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel had turned their backs on God’s law once again.  They were in danger of losing the covenant promises that God had made with them.  They were cheating on God with other deities, they were cheating in general and they were robbing from the poor.

Micah then describes how there was a widespread public show of their ‘religious’ devotion or rather the lip service that they were paying to God without earnest intent.  And, God really didn’t want that. So Micah tells them that there will be a new ruler to help them, that failed leadership is not the end of the story for them.  Also that this new ruler rise up from a small little town outside of Jerusalem, someone of humble means, lowly status. 

 From Eugene Peterson's The Message

Yes, that often quoted verse comes from the Book of Micah in the Hebrew Bible.  He tells the people that this new relationship with God will not be dependent upon scorekeeping, what can we do, what can we sacrifice (ram, turtledove, goat) to get God off our backs rather he tells them that God doesn’t want any of that, what God wants from them is to treat one another with respect and kindness, to make right what is wrong and to love, simply love.  That’s it!

Today I will talk about faith, action, and money or, the economy of our faith community. 
Economy, for all intents and purposes and for our consideration today is the production, consumption and expenditures of goods and services of a community.  It's the way in which a community or organization organizes itself to do business or to achieve a collaborative goal with whatever resources it has.  It's a matter of getting money, spending money, and saving money for a particular purpose and we are no different when it comes to that. 

But of course we are very different than our friends and businesses down on the Post Road.  We are guided and called together for a different purpose, a Godly purpose.  We are called together to worship and love God, to study the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and to live and walk in his ways.  How we do that is entirely up to our creative, wild and imaginative minds. 

Now I know that there are creative, wild and imaginative minds out there!  Don’t think I don’t know you.  There are some great and wonderful ideas out there of how and who Orange Congregational can be and that’s all good.  The spirit is definitely alive here.  But folks, much of what you envision takes money. Nickels, dimes, quarters, dollars, your pledge.

So how do we begin?  First and foremost we pray.  We pray that the Holy Spirit of God is with us and beside us in all of the decisions that we make.  We are in the God and Jesus Christ business first.  If we lose that vision, if we fail to base all of our actions and decisions upon the rock of our salvation then we will eventually fail.  So we pray that God direct our actions and grant us wisdom in our decision-making. We pray that our actions follow the work and ministry of Jesus Christ, which, in effect is to do justice, love kindness and walk with God.  We pray that God help us to be good stewards, both individually and collectively of this place that many of your ancestors worked so hard to build.

What we do next is to carefully plan out the ways in which we make real the mission of this Church. Through collaborative efforts, and I place very high emphasis on collaborative, we craft together a budget that will support our plans to further the mission of Jesus.  Each board and committee has submitted a small budget (made up of dollars and cents) that they think will enable them to do their work.  Council is reviewing it and by January will present another healthy, balanced budget for 2015.  Second year in a row!  The budget is based on what we need to do ministry and your pledges that are received.

Adequate money to meet the budget will not come from loose plate change, a dollar here and $10 bill there.  It can only be achieved through your prayerful pledge.  Each pledge counts.  Each pledge is valuable whether it’s $10 a month or $1,000 a month.  Each pledge says that you believe in Jesus Christ and are willing to further his mission. Each pledge says that you believe in the vision of Orange Congregational, not in the nitty grittiness of meetings but that you are willing to stick by OCC for the long run because you value the worship and the community that it provides for you.  Each pledge is an outgrowth of your faith.

I pledge to OCC because I believe the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ.  I believe that I am saved and redeemed each day by the love of God and I am grateful.  And one of the most visible ways in which I want to express that and acknowledge the abundance that God has given to me is through my pledge to OCC.  I believe in THIS church and the work that we do and that we can make a difference in this community and that we can help to transform lives. 

To pledge is important.  Next week we will collect and dedicate your pledge cards.  I pray that the Spirit of God will guide your heart in this endeavor. 

Now back to Barbara.  Although you didn’t know her, she was a living witness to Jesus Christ.  Much of what she did with her time was doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.  May her memory be for a blessing and may we uphold Gods name on our lips and the living Christ in our hearts.


Monday, November 3, 2014

For Whom the Healing Bell Tolls

2 Kings 5:1-14
Naaman, in our scripture today was the ‘five-star’ general of the king of Aram, what is today Syria.  MacArthur, Eisenhower, Naaman commander and chief, was the top guy, the ultimate strategist in all things war. He was strong, mighty and he was respected.  But Naaman had one problem; it was reported that he was a leper.  Let’s hear the scripture and the story that unfolds. 

Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army. The LORD had helped him and his troops defeat their enemies, so the king of Syria respected Naaman very much. Naaman was a brave soldier, but he had leprosy. One day while the Syrian troops were raiding Israel, they captured a girl, and she became a servant of Naaman's wife. Some time later the girl said, "If your husband Naaman would go to the prophet in Samaria, he would be cured of his leprosy."
There are lots of players in this story, as you will see.  Naaman, of course, and two kings one from Syria, one from Israel.  They are the powerful headliners.  Then you have the ‘extras’, a young Israelite slave girl who was booty from a previous raid, Naaman’s wife (although she did have some power and persuasion here), and servants, lots of them.  And then there is Elisha, the newly appointed prophet if you remember the story of Elijah passing the mantle on to him.  We continue…
When Naaman told the king what the girl had said, the king replied, "Go ahead! I will give you a letter to take to the king of Israel."  Naaman left and took along seven hundred fifty pounds of silver, one hundred fifty pounds of gold, and ten new outfits. He also carried the letter to the king of Israel. It said, "I am sending my servant Naaman to you. Would you cure him of his leprosy?"

Amazingly and to his credit, Naaman listened to what his wife had to say about the slave girl’s ‘referral’ to Elisha.  Clearly Elisha was ‘out of network’ but that didn’t matter for Naaman, he was a man of means.  He also had the backing of the Syrian king who sent with him a letter for the king of Israel, some gold and silver and some new outfits!  In other words, he had very adequate coffers to pay for his healthcare.  However, we know healing can come from the most unlikely sources and people.  Here we begin to see that power doesn’t always have the answer, sometimes the weak win out.   

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in fear and shouted, "That Syrian king believes I can cure this man of leprosy! Does he think I'm God with power over life and death? He must be trying to pick a fight with me." As soon as Elisha the prophet  heard what had happened, he sent the Israelite king this message: "Why are you so afraid? Send the man to me, so that he will know there is a prophet in Israel." Naaman left with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. Elisha sent someone outside to say to him, "Go wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then you'll be completely cured." But Naaman stormed off, grumbling, "Why couldn't he come out and talk to me? I thought for sure he would stand in front of me and pray to the LORD his God, then wave his hand over my skin and cure me. What about the Abana River or the Pharpar River? Those rivers in Damascus are just as good as any river in Israel. I could have washed in them and been cured."

Foreign policy aside, this could have been an international incident of epic proportions.  Egos were flying!  Elisha steps in, and a crisis was prevented.  So the procession of horses, chariots and Naaman go to Elisha’s house and stop at the door.  The nerve!  Elisha didn’t even come out which incensed Naaman to no end.  He, in all of his greatness and verbose explosions, wanted Elisha to make a big deal.  He want abracadabra!

Praying to God, waving his hands over Naaman’s diseased skin and sores, Naaman wanted the spotlight.  Naaman, at the very least, expected Elisha to come out and meet him in person, that's akin to going to the dr's office, sitting in the waiting room and getting a diagnosis and meds without even going into the actual dr's office and seeing her.  No wonder he was peeved. 

And then the cure, to go wash in the puny, muddy Jordan River.  Honestly, the Jordan River is not as impressive as we think it is and it is muddy.  Why not the great rivers of Damascus?  Elisha must be crazy.

His servants went over to him and said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it. So why don't you do what he said? Go wash and be cured." Naaman walked down to the Jordan; he waded out into the water and stooped down in it seven times, just as Elisha had told him. Right away, he was cured, and his skin became as smooth as a child's.  Here ends today’s reading.

Hmmm, looks like Naaman got healed and received a nice big slice of humble pie in the end.  What we didn’t hear in our scripture was that he goes back to Elisha and exults the name of the God of Israel.  For all intents and purposes, he becomes a believer!  His body was healed of leprosy and his heart was sealed with humility and he had a ‘come to God’ moment.  There would have been no healing here without his humility here.  I think that Naaman was healed in more ways than one; you see healing comes in many forms and through different means as evidenced in this story.

Cancer.  Heart Disease.  Diabetes.  AIDS.  And now Ebola. 

Sickness of any sort, can take any of us out at any time.  If you live, you will get sick, it’s a fact.  As perfect as God made our bodies and as loved as we are by God, our bodies are still vulnerable to bacterial and viral pathogens. Illness doesn’t discriminate between the powerful or the weak, the rich or the poor or the color of one’s skin.  Illness doesn’t come to us because of our actions or how we live our lives.  God does not visit upon us illness to teach, admonish, or test us.  Ever! 
We live and then we die.  It’s what we do between birth and death that bookend our lives that matter.

In ‘Devotions upon Emergent Occasions’, John Donne said poetically, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main….Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..."  When someone died Renaissance England the village bells would toll announcing death.  So Donne asks, who is the bell tolling for next? 

As we remembered the names of the souls, our friends and loved ones who departed this beloved world this year, we are reminded that we are interconnected deeply in the human condition, mortal wants and needs of the soul. When one person passes, it is an acute reminder that we are mortal, our time will come so we live with this tension knowing that we too someday will die.

Pauline Blaney, in this last year when I would see her would always say, ‘today is a bonus day, I thank the Lord for this bonus day’.  What will you do with your bonus day?  The bell tolled for Pauline and all of the others but it hasn’t tolled for us yet.

This tension can be our greatest advantage because God calls us to be in relationship with one another.  Humans just get sick and we need to help one another in our healing. And the good news is you do not have to be a skilled surgeon in order to do so.  Compassion is available to all.  Caring can be had by opening your heart.   

When we live in relationship with one another, and we do, it is incumbent upon us to help one another heal in whatever ways we can.  Whether it is a physical, emotional, or spiritual healing that is needed we can be God’s instruments of healing here on this earth.

When we care for another person during their illness, in their physical ailment and dis-ease, we offer God’s incredible compassion.  A card, a call, a lift to the doctor we become God’s restorative hand that can bring comfort and ease the pain. 

When we love another we aid in emotional healing. If we can have a well-balanced mind, trusting and focused on God and can offer that to someone else, then the long road to emotional recovery is possible.  Be grounded and you will ground others. 

What can we do for one another spiritually?  We can pray on behalf of another soul.  We can intercede for another person when spiritual vulnerability and emptiness has overtaken them and they are rendered speechless.  We can sit beside them as a silent and steady witness to the power of God’s love.   We can listen without judgment, not offering solutions or platitudinous answers but genuine compassion.  We can offer each other the good news of Jesus Christ that reconciliation is always within reach, that spiritual healing is possible.

For whom does the healing bell toll?  It tolls for all of us to love now like there is no tomorrow.


Called and Called Out

2 Samuel 12:1-9, Psalm 51:1-9
It was the spring of the year, when poppies and anemones dot the landscape and when antsy kings go to war.  So David sent out his warriors under the command of Joab, but David stayed at back at the Palace.  Kings don’t usually get their hands dirty.  He went out on the balcony and saw a lovely woman whose name was Bathsheba.  And lust being what it is, he sent for her and he slept with her.

Now David was a mighty king!  He was a military hero who united the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah, he was a musician and a poet penning beautiful psalms of praise to God and goodness and mercy, of power and justice.  But I’m sorry to say that the mighty King David had some flaws. 

Some deep flaws, you see Bathsheba was not his to take, she was the wife of Uriah who had joined the Israelite community after the land of the Hittites had been conquered.  He was one of David’s warriors.  So when Bathsheba disclosed that she was pregnant to this mighty King David, he conspired to have Uriah murdered in battle.

And when Bathsheba heard that her husband had been killed in war she mourned appropriately for him seven days then David sent for her and brought her to the palace and she bore a son.  Some say that all’s fair in love in love and war.  I think not.

Let us pick up our scripture and continue this story from the second Book of Samuel, the 12th chapter.

The Lord was angry at what David had done, and he sent Nathan the prophet to tell this story to David:

A rich man and a poor man lived in the same town.  The rich man owned a lot of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had only one little lamb that he had bought and raised. The lamb became a pet for him and his children. He even let it eat from his plate and drink from his cup and sleep on his lap. The lamb was like one of his own children.

One day someone came to visit the rich man, but the rich man didn’t want to kill any of his own sheep or cattle and serve it to the visitor. So he stole the poor man’s little lamb and served it instead.

David was furious with the rich man and said to Nathan, “I swear by the living Lord that the man who did this deserves to die!  And because he didn’t have any pity on the poor man, he will have to pay four times what the lamb was worth.”

Then Nathan told David:

You are that rich man! Now listen to what the Lord God of Israel says to you: “I chose you to be the king of Israel. I kept you safe from Saul  and even gave you his house and his wives. I let you rule Israel and Judah, and if that had not been enough, I would have given you much more.  Why did you disobey me and do such a horrible thing?

You murdered Uriah the Hittite by having the Ammonites kill him, so you could take his wife…..David said, “I have disobeyed the Lord.”  “Yes, you have!” Nathan answered. 

So the Bible isn’t always love, love, love and often the people and stories are questionable.  We are continuing the Biblical narrative from the Hebrew Bible that we don’t always have the opportunity to reflect upon. You have to admit, they’ve been quite thought provoking. We heard last week of Joshua who, upon taking one of his final breaths, charged the people and their households to make the choice to follow God, the one true God, the God of Abraham and Sarah. 

The people do so, or try to at least.  Many years, a couple of hundred as a matter of fact, pass.  They continue to settle land but it was tough without a leader.  They had deliverers and judges to help them, but over and over again they fail and they cry out loudly to the Lord.  Eventually a king is raised up for Israel, Saul and then his son, David.  David is one of the greatest Kings of Israel.  It’s just that there were a few indiscretions along the way and we see that that royal path was not paved entirely of gold for him.

David was really pretty clueless in recognizing himself in the parable but Nathan was bold and spoke in God’s stead. It was Nathan the prophet who ‘spoke the truth in love’ (Eph 4:15) to the mighty and powerful King David.   He held up the parable like a mirror through which David could view himself and how others saw him, and ultimately how God perceived him. 

King David, called by God to rule a nation was now called out on his sins.  He couldn’t deny the truth any longer and has to bear the consequences of his actions.  Guilt, shame, humiliation, you name it, I’m sure he felt all of the emotions that humans do when they realize the gravity of what they’ve done, when they finally look into the mirror and admit their wrongdoings and see themselves for who they are and how they’ve hurt others.  David, the mighty, David the fallen.  Seems to happen more often than not to people with power.

Before we come down really hard on David let’s admit that we just don’t get it right either. While maybe we have never fallen as far or hit the bottom of the moral barrel that David did, our living doesn’t always reflect good and healthy behavior.  We try but, you know how it goes, God puts us on the train to fruitful living and we get off at the faux pax and indiscretion station.  It happens and that’s the bad news.

But there is grace and that’s the good news. Nathan accepted the command of God. Nathan was the bearer of God’s grace to David by telling him the parable which, in essence, held up a mirror before David’s beautiful face.  It was a loving rebuke from someone who knew his friend well and so he could confront David with great wisdom. 

He could have defended his friend, after all David was king.  He could have made some sort of a justification for the adultery and death of an innocent man.  He could have just ignored it, but he didn’t.  He helped to turn David back to God, back to the path of right living, to repent and come clean. Now that’s the kind of friend I want!

Wouldn’t it be so nice if we each had a Nathan in our lives?  A friend who can and will tell you when you are going off of the beaten path and close to endangering yourself or others, or one who can say to you, ‘you know, that was not your finest moment, or those weren’t the best words you could have used.’  A friend and mentor put things in perspective for you, not to put you down but to build you up.  It is a friend who will call you out because of love and compassion.  And we, if we care about being a child of God, a lover of the Gospel, need to be open to this correction, when done with the purest intent.

This story of Nathan and David moves us toward a model of genuine repentance.  Being challenged by a friend to see and acknowledge your faults and then doing something about it is a step towards living with a clean heart and a right spirit within us.  It is a step toward restoring the joy of salvation that can be so present in our hearts and lives to that a free spirit can reside in us and sustain us.  This is what God wants for us.  I am convinced.

This is why Christ was sent for us too, so that as we falter in life, like David, we have the assurance of forgiveness.  All we have to do is look into that proverbial mirror that our Nathans hold for us, and be free.