Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Promises, promises - Sunday 28th August 2016

I wonder how many promises I have made which I have never fulfilled, and long forgotten. Plenty, I’m sure.
Some time after David became king of Israel, he remembered a promise he had made years earlier. The promise had been made in private to someone who had long since died. He could easily have set the memory aside. But he didn’t. Also, to keep this promise was likely to cost David a vast amount and could significantly benefit his political enemies. Nonetheless, he went out of his way to fulfil the obligation he had made.
The promise had been made to Jonathan, son of the then king of Israel. David had become locked in a deadly rivalry with Jonathan’s father as it became clear that David, not Jonathan, would be the next king of Israel. Facing the prospect of his own death in that process, Jonathan asked David to care for his family. David promised that he would.
However, when Jonathan and his father, Saul, died in battle, David’s political supporters were quick to assassinate all King Saul’s immediate heirs. The family was wiped out and the new king, David, took over all their land and property.
Some 15 years later, David remembered his promise to Jonathan. He could easily have dismissed the memory. Instead he searched for any remaining relative of Saul and Jonathan to whom he could show kindness for Jonathan’s sake. He discovered a crippled grandson of the former king, who had been rescued from the slaughter by his nurse, though permanently injured in the process.
David met the disabled young man and restored to him all the land and property that had belonged to King Saul. David kept his promise, not to an acceptable minimum, but to the maximum. That is the kind of man David was.
St Paul described David as a man after God’s heart. David was honourable, generous and forgiving. That’s what God is like.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Passionate People - Sunday 21st August 2016

Some of us are practical, some are spiritual, some intellectual, and some of us are passionate. King David was a passionate man. His passions got him into trouble at times (more of that in two weeks time) but his passions were also a great asset. Among David’s great passions, he was passionate about God.
When David finally brought the symbol of Israel’s God (the Arc of the Covenant) into his new capital, Jerusalem, he danced with all his might and all the people danced with him. We don’t often see our national leaders behaving like that!
Not long after, David looked up the hill from his new palace to the old and shabby tent which housed the Arc of God, and his heart stirred again. He wanted to build God a fantastic new home, at least as magnificent as his own.
And here’s the significant bit: God declined David’s offer. He didn’t want a magnificent Temple and was content with the tent. However, David was not criticised for making an inappropriate suggestions. His passion for God was acknowledged, appreciated, and gently redirected.
We need passionate people. We need people to be passionate. But passion requires freedom, and freedom requires a generous supply of forgiveness. David could be passionate because he knew that God was forgiving.
If we - as society - are not able to be forgiving, passion will be stifled, caution take over, and life will lose its dynamic edge.
We need passionate people, and we need to be quick to forgive them.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Fear & Hope - Sunday 31st July 2016

Fear is a powerful thing. Many of us are constrained or defined by our fears in one way or another. In the story of David and Goliath, the giant Philistine’s most potent weapon was neither his sword nor his hefty spear, but the intense fear that he stirred up in his enemies. Every day Goliath taunted the Israelites, demanding that they send someone to meet him in single combat. The Israelites were lured into Goliath’s trap. They looked at the 8 foot tall warrior and believed what he wanted them to believe: that he would cut them to pieces before their short sword-arms could get anywhere near him.
Goliath’s fear offensive was winning the war effortlessly, until the teenage shepherd, David, turned up. David had two weapons of his own. The first, an even stronger weapon than fear, was hope. David believed that God had a bright future for himself and the Israelite people, and therefore they would not be defeated. Alongside this hope, David had a highly potent long range weapon with which he was highly skilled - a sling-shot. He knew he could floor Goliath long before he came within the range of the Philistine’s sword or spear.
The sling-shot was a common military weapon at the time. The Israelite army would have had a whole battalion of sling shooters, and any of them could have defeated Goliath if only they hadn’t been paralysed by their fear of the huge warrior.
Fear is a powerful thing. Many of us are constrained or defined by our fears in one way or another. We don’t need a sling-shot to defeat our own personal Goliaths; we need hope. We need to remember that God wants the best for us and for our world. We need to remember that love and forgiveness are much stronger than selfishness and revenge. We need to remember that though fear may afflict us, it will not overcome us - unless we let it.
(This blog will be taking a break for a couple of weeks. Bye for now.)