Prophets and Parables – a sermon on 2 Samuel 12:1-9
We’re taking a mighty big jump in our story from where we last left the Israelites on Sinai receiving the law. They have settled in the promised land, having fought off a number of different groups that were occupying the land.
And once they were in the land the Israelites wanted a king. God objected, but eventually gave into the wishes of the people, so Saul was named king. But that didn’t go so well, so Samuel went looking for a new king, and the unlikeliest of people emerged.
David. David who slung one stone and the giant Goliath was slayed. And then David became a hero throughout the land. But things weren’t always so great for David.
His own son Absolom was leading an uprising. There was revolt in the land. And it might have been to try to clear his mind that David wandered out of the roof of the palace. And from the roof he saw a sight that he could not believe. Bathsheeba, bathing just a couple rooftops over.
And to the palace he summoned her while her husband Uriah was out fighting in the war. And in the palace a child was conceived. And the cover up began. But it didn’t work as planned, so Uriah got sent back out to the front line of the war where he was killed so David could take his wife Bathsheeba for his own.
Then Nathan gets involved, and we hear this great parable. And David’s eyes are open to his own sin and wrongdoing. Because parables have a way of opening the hearts of their hearers so that we are convicted by what we hear and where we find our own place inside the story.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Nathan telling of the rich man taking sheep from the poor man, or Jesus looking up having asked the crowd who should throw the first stone. Even when we think we know what is going to happen, we find our worlds spinning because things aren’t the same as they were before we figured out this story is about us too.
While this parable is in reference to David’s sexual sin, it doesn’t have to be. Because we are all David – having something deep within us that causes us shame. Something deep that we try to hide from others because it makes us feel less than we want to.
Joan Chittister says, “The problem, is that we fail. We know ourselves to be weak. We stumble along, being less than we can be, never living up to our own standards, let alone anyone else’s. We eat too much between meals, we work too little to get ahead, we drink more than we should at the office party. We’re all addicted to something. Those addictions not only cripple us, they convince us that we are worthless and incapable of being worthwhile. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy of the worst order because it traps us inside our own sense of inadequacy, of futility, of failure.”
Because we are weak…
Because we need help to pull ourselves out of our own self-made pits of despair…
We call out to God. We seek God’s help to put back together the parts of our life that may have fallen apart.
In response to a good storyteller, a good friend, or a good parable, we can call out to God for help, just as David called out to God in the psalms.
Psalm 51 is the psalm where David calls out to God for help, asking for forgiveness and a clean heart. It can be our own cry, or sometimes the words just never find voice in our quaking throat.
[Psalm 51 video]
How do we respond when we have a mirror held up in front of us? When we find ourselves hearing that we are the person we don’t necessarily want to be.
Some stories of sin are far too familiar and in the news way too often for our liking, and hit a little too close to home – the pastor caught in the affair.
But sometimes, sin looks different. It can look like self-deprecation, abuse of power, not speaking truth to power,
But no matter what sin we find ourselves committing, the opportunity for repentance is always there. And God who is more loving and gracious than we ever could imagine already knows what we need to repent of before we say a word.
Repentance is looking at ourselves in the mirror and telling the truth about what we see even when it isn’t the easiest thing in the world.
In a different reflection Chittister says, “Making mistakes is part of the growth process. We must learn to be much gentler about this with other people. We must also learn to be gentler with ourselves. Otherwise, what we expect of ourselves, we will expect of everybody else. And that can be tragic. For all of us… Our inabilities are the only thing we have that gives us the right to support the rest of the human race. The gift of know what we lack is the gift we have to give to the abilities of others. As the Irish proverb says, ‘It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.’”
So may we be gentle with ourselves and with others as we provide shelter and space for each other to join our voices with the psalmist as we practice repenting together.
You will find the litany of repentance on an insert in your bulletin. Let us stand together in body and spirit to join with David and all those other saints of God who have named those things they are sorry for.
[Litany of Repentance]