“Life’s Regrets: Isolation By Sin”
2 Samuel 11: 1-15 & Ephesians 3: 14-21
Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ July 29, 2018
I don’t come from a particularly ‘rich’ home. Well, not rich in terms of financial measures. We always had enough and we had lots of things, not necessarily the nicest things, but lots of things nevertheless. As a young boy, I used to make the occasional mistake and, well…being a young boy, I used to break the odd thing. Hey! I was just a normal kid! I remember breaking this coffee mug. I don’t recall if it was broken during a WWE wrestling match with a friend or while we were re-enacting a Game 7 NHL Stanley Cup game, but I remember how it ‘felt’ when the coffee mug broke. I remember how my heart sunk; thinking ‘my parents are gonna KILL me!’ Being a young boy, I (of course) had all the answers. So, I didn’t seek help. I went about things on my own. I promptly got a tube of air plane glue and proceeded to glue this aging coffee cup, so that it was masked back to its original condition.
Earlier I mentioned that we didn’t have too many expensive things in our home. Well… we did have one beautiful thing in the home that my parents treasured: it was our dining room table ~ a wedding gift from my paternal grandparents ~ a gathering place for many a Sunday dinner. This dining room provided a perfect place to hide away while I was gluing the broken cup and the beautiful oak dining table provided the perfect place to perform reconstructive surgery. Now…you are a smart group of people, so you can likely guess what happened when the gluing job was done over top of the dining room table…I made a mess! The glue spilled and I quickly discovered that airplane glue is not easily removed! I learned a few things: water spreads glue around and Mom’s nail polish remover makes an even worse mess. And as I looked at my mess before me, I had a broken coffee mug and a table top missing a whole lot of varnish. What a mess!
Have you ever noticed how things often have a spiraling effect when we make one bad decision and they proceed to go from bad to worse? Honey…if you hadn’t baked that chocolate cheesecake last week, then I wouldn’t be on this horrible diet eating dry toast and drinking grapefruit juice. If that driver in front of me didn’t stop so suddenly, then I wouldn’t be assessing the damage at the ICBC claims. Many of our holy scriptures shared among the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths mirror how human mistakes spiral out of control. If Abel had not been such a great sheep herder, and such a ‘goody goody’, then Cain would not have had to take him out to the back forty and commit the first murder. If Eve had not listened to that shifty snake and if she had not given that fruit to Adam, then the fate of the entire human race would have been different. (And we all thought the Bible was filled with perfect people). In the end, we are quite quick to say “the devil MADE me do it” and leave it at that. When we evaluate our mistakes, our regrets in life, I would like for us to consider these instances where we thought we were alone and had forgotten God’s enduring presence. Life’s regrets are so often those times when we chose to go it alone.
So, what is really new in the text this week? Well…not much, at least on the surface. Not much that can’t be seen on any afternoon soap opera…or read in a Harlequin romance novel…A wealthy powerful man spies a beautiful, enticing woman from afar. The woman’s husband is out of town working. And one afternoon, the charming man gets a room at the Coast Hotel with the woman and she becomes pregnant following this affair. The man needs to save face. He summons the woman’s husband to return home and tries to trick him into sleeping with his wife so that the husband will assume that the child is his. After this fails, the man tries again. This time getting the husband drunk, hoping that he will sleep with his wife. As much as the husband loves his wife, his troops are in battle and a soldier does not engage in pleasure while the fight is raging. In the end, the moral integrity of the husband cannot be broken, so the man has the husband killed. So, what is new here? Sin, brokenness, poor decisions…Yet wait… there is something new for us this morning, isn’t there? What is new, is that we are reminded that this story is a deep part of our faith heritage. This one who made these choices would later be remembered as one of the great Kings of Israel. And even more than that: this King David is the one whose lineage Matthew would record Jesus as falling within as he opens his gospel ~ Jesus would be birthed under his star. And for us, 2 millenia later, I would suggest that this text helps us gain a deeper awareness of God’s presence in ALL of our lives ~ not just the perfect people.
We are going to be exploring this story of David and Bathsheba over the next two Sundays and it firstly reminds us that no man (or woman) is an island. It reminds us how our human weakness; how our human vulnerability; how our human frailty as individuals is exposed when we go it alone. In the end, we see how truly weak we are when we go it alone without God’s guidance and strength.
For David, we learn in these two weeks that this story will become a profound regret that he will have to deal with. This will be commence a long series of horrible events. A bad decision where his life will begin to slowly spiral out of control. For David, this story is a time when he went about things completely on his own; venturing without God as his rock and his refuge; guided solely by his human desires. It was a time when he abandoned his moral compass, his sense of right and wrong, and went completely out on his own. This will be among David’s greatest learnings of his life and career. And how about for us? Doesn’t this ring true as well? When we think of life’s regrets, isn’t this always the case? Who among us thinks we can handle it all on our own. Only to get in way over our head. We hide away the truth. We are tempted and we begin to slide in a direction that we could never have imagined heading. And before we know it, things have occurred that we never knew we were capable of. And we find ourselves standing over the mess we have made ~ a destroyed dining room table and a broken coffee mug; alienated lives from those we love; a fractured marriage; a career at the crossroads. We stand there and we are completely alone ~ because we have wandered off … alone. We have pushed away from God and become an island…alone. And we cry out wondering how to find our way toward healing and restoration and a future.
I love the Epistle reading that the lectionary pairs together with this text. It is one of Paul’s beautiful prayers for the church in Ephesus: “now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine”. Paul reminds the Ephesians that they are not alone and that indeed they cannot go it alone. But if they realize the power of God at work in their lives and in their community they indeed can accomplish “abundantly more than they can ask or imagine”. Theologians talk of God’s enduring action throughout history as one of constantly pursuing humanity as a lover pursues their beloved. God constantly acts to remind humanity that they were not alone. We think of God calling the tribes to faithfulness through signs and then the times when the prophets spoke God’s Words. For Christians, the life of Jesus was God’s strongest example of God reminding us that we are not alone. God sent God’s representative to ‘be’ with us. Like in the early days when the head of the family business ~ the father would send his representative ahead, we understand God sending Jesus as “God’s Son” ~ a living breathing re-presentation of God, so that God would walk among us reminding us that we are not alone. That indeed God pursues us and yearns to be part of our life and part of our joy.
Consider with me for a moment…consider the times when you have felt alone and without God. And then consider the times when you knew God’s presence was there. What is the difference between those two times, in terms of how you lived your life? In terms of how you felt? God’s act of sending Jesus in the world puts the exclamation mark on the statement that we are not alone! That we do not need to go it alone! In fact, that we cannot go it alone! One of Jesus’ prophesied names from the prophet Isaiah, of course, was Emmanuel ~ which means “God with us”. It is the first song in our hymn book “Voices United” as we begin the Advent journey preparing for the coming of Christ in Christmas: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel”. And, indeed Emmanuel ~ God with us ~ God’s coming in Jesus reminds us that we do not need to go it alone.
As we come towards the end of our reflection time, I have some good news and some bad news. Today is July 29th, and this means that we are just a little more than half way until Christmas. In fact, there are 148 days until Christmas when we will sing “Joy to the World, the Lord has come”. The challenge with this time is that we are right in the half-way mark. We are so very far distant from this celebration of Jesus’ coming in Christmas later this year ~ and we are half way since our memory of last Christmas’ celebration. I would suggest, that this is the time when we are most susceptible and vulnerable, a time when we feel most alone from God’s presence, God’s guidance and God’s grace, a time when we need to be careful and invite God’s presence.
A crazy pastor friend of mine serves a church in Ontario. And around July 25th every year, they all get together and go caroling through her city. Amidst the heat and humidity of a July 25th Ontario summer day, they go out singing to remind everyone that in their challenges and in their uncertainties that they are not alone, that God has come and is there for them every moment of their life. They just need to open their eyes in awareness to the one who has come, who is guiding, who is loving them on the journey.
May we too remember that we are not alone:
in those moments of testing ~ we are not alone;
in those moments of temptation ~ we are not alone;
in those moments of absolute confusion and uncertainty ~ we are not alone.
Thanks be to the One who we name “Emmanuel” ~ God with us.
For, we are NOT alone.