Following is the message from Sunday, July 26, 2015. The scriptures used were II Samuel 11:1-15 and John 6:1-21. The title was “Unexpected Actions/Unexpected Responses”
This past week, I met a woman at the food disbursement in Herreid, who said her mother always said you should treat people they way you want to be treated. Think about that for a minute. If everyone in the whole world treated people the way they want to be treated themselves, we would have far fewer problems, and likely no wars. I think it sure would be nice to live conflict free.
I have sort of a thing about no conflicts. As a teacher and more so as a coach, I used to just hate those dreaded confrontations, those times when some parent wasn’t happy with the way things were going for their child academically, or more often on the court. And even worse was when I had to be the one to make the call to find out what could be done about a student’s behavior or lack of effort or any number of things. Usually I would get a stomach ache five hours before I even started look for a phone number. I hated those confrontations and I still dislike conflicts. [In fact, it is getting to the point that we often agree not to post things to social media when we gather as a family so that no one can get upset about where we were without them.]
Ironically as an English language arts teacher I fell into that category of teachers that professors expected would want to become novelists. In fact in a couple of the summer classes that I took, the professor questioned us about how many in the room wanted to write, The Great American Novel. I can honestly say that after I realized that all good works of fiction/all novels have to have a conflict, I was not too excited about doing anything like that. My stories would be too boring, too dull. I enjoy reading, and now more watching cheesy mystery stories, but I sure wouldn’t want to have to write them. I am thinking that just existing in life and getting through the everyday stuff is enough for me at the time.
Our Old Testament story today is one with a conflict that I am pretty sure none of us would ever want to live through no matter which angle it was from. In fact the conflict in this story is so out there that it makes the plots of some of the current soaps look mild. This story was picked up by Hollywood in 1951. I looked it up to see who was in it, and the stars were Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. I am thinking I might have to pull it up on Netflix or some other internet movie streaming application one of these days. I did find it on Utube, but I was thinking that I would see just a little blurb, and soon realize with the way the music and the credits were rolling that I could have watched the entire 2 hours right there. I turned it off because I didn’t have time or popcorn ready, but it looks to be an interesting version. But why not, what a story this is.
Here we have King David, great king, who has everything he wants. He owns a palace, rules a country, sure there is a war going on, but he has soldiers who take care of everything, he doesn’t even have to go to battle, although some commentaries, as I mentioned last week, suggest maybe he should have gone to the battle grounds to keep himself busy. This might be why it is said that idle hands do the devil’s biding. King David has many wives; his life is stable, secure, established. And then he sees a woman, a married woman from his roof top, and he decides that he must have her. She does not refuse him. I wonder why? Is it because he is the king? This might be the sort of thing we, well maybe not expect, but might not be surprised by it if it were one of our modern-day celebrities, but this sort of action is hardly what we would anticipate in terms of actions from a King of God’s chosen people.
And if those actions aren’t enough, you heard the reading of how David called the husband back from the fighting to cover up what he had done and when the husband didn’t spend time with his wife during his leave, the King had him killed and in so doing others died on the battle field with him. Can you imagine what today’s society would do with a story like that? If the criminal justice system didn’t convict King David, the press and social media would have a hey-day with it. Unexpected Actions.
But the story doesn’t end with this conflict. There is much more, but most of it is in the Old Testament lesson for next week. Let us suffice to say it involves repentance and forgiveness that goes far beyond human imagination. What we would consider justice/ what we would consider to be fair and right isn’t exactly what happens, God forgives David, and that kind of forgiveness is hard for us as humans to understand, Unexpected Responses. Sometimes that is what we see when we study God’s word. Not something we think we could do, but God shows us how.
Our gospel lesson today seems to be way on the other end of the spectrum of actions. This is John’s version of the feeding of the 5,000. It is another version of a great miracle that Jesus performed in that he took 5 loaves of barley and 2 fish and feed a multitude of people. Yet we all know that this is so much more than that. It is a story of compassion and caring in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine. Scholars try to explain away the miracle part of this story by saying that each of the people there pooled what they had and shared their food, and they were happy just to get a little something to eat. Some say the loaves and the fishes were just an example of what was available.
Others try to come up with any number of ways that this could be explained, but the Unexpected Action is that Jesus took the bread and the fish and as he blessed them, they multiplied. In fact John writes that when all had been satisfied (not fed) there were 12 baskets of left-overs. It wasn’t like when we go out to eat at any number of restaurants and the plates are too big for the table and when you are stuffed beyond breathing, you ask for a container and take the rest home, and in a day or two throw it out to the dogs or the cats because we were taught not to waste food. Jesus disciples recognized at the beginning of this passage that the crowd was overwhelmingly large (6 months wages—Philip). Nothing is impossible for God, not forgiving David, not feeding 5,000 who would sit on the hill during the season of Passover to listen to Jesus.
Again, the story doesn’t end there. The final verses have the disciples in a boat heading for another shore. This almost sounds like we should hear a guitar in the background, “heading for another shore.” Jesus isn’t with them. He had escaped to the mountain alone so the people weren’t able to force him to become a human king. No the disciples were in a boat alone and the wind started blowing, just about the time they are getting nervous about the weather, Jesus is beside the boat. This time instead of getting in the boat and telling the winds to calm; he touches the boat, and they are at the shore. Unexpected Actions, the disciples never quite know what will happen next when they are with Jesus.
As amazing as it might have been to live in the days when Jesus walked the earth, to see him to know him in the flesh, we have so much more because we have the whole story. We have the story of the words and the deeds. We don’t have to wonder what the conflicts were or what they mean; we have the word to study. We can look at the Unexpected Actions and the Responses from the comfort of the ages. We have had the experiences of the early church and later scholars, and yet, we know that there are still new things we learn about the word each time we pick it up and read it, and think about what it means to us today.
What if we treated everyone we meet the way we would like to be treated? I could have used a little of that yesterday. I realized as I went to bed, that maybe it is time to start following my own words a little closer. We were together on a family outing, and without telling too many tales, let’s just say it was a women gang up on the men sort of treatment day. Perhaps it is time for me to have some Unexpected Actions in a positive way. Perhaps I can start with the little things, like giving others my attention when they should have it. I know that I need to be more aware of those little things. Perhaps the saying shouldn’t be that the devil is in the details, but that God is aware of our details. Let’s be about the little things this week, and let’s be about treating others as we would like to be treated. Amen!!