Homily preached by the Reverend Cindy Stravers
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 5, 2012
There was a lot of scuttlebutt around here last Sunday and it continued on through the week. I did not hear one happy word about the lesson we read regarding the behavior of King David. Not one happy word.
The people of God had clamored for a king, you will remember, and God said okay – have it your way. Saul was anointed King and while he still held office, Samuel, the prophet of God anointed David as the second king of Israel.
The Lectionary didn’t give us a chance to hear all the stories about David – but we did hear how he was the unlikely choice among his brothers, how he refused to wear protective armor to fight Israel’s number one enemy and instead dealt Goliath a lethal blow with one small stone. We have heard how he led his people in worship, dancing with wild abandon before the Altar of the Covenant, and how God blessed his reign with military victories and his people with prosperity.
And then there was the story from last week. David can’t resist the beauty of his neighbor’s wife and ends up fathering her child and arranging the murder of her husband. As one of your fellow parishioners quipped, “this is serious pulp fiction.”
God was not pleased. Let’s get that straight right off the bat. No, God was not pleased with the man he had chosen, protected, promoted and blessed. And so God sent Nathan to have a few words with him. Nathan was wise in this encounter. Instead of blasting away at David – which would most likely have done little more than raise David’s defenses – Nathan paints a word-picture, a parable of sorts that addresses David’s actions by appealing to his core values while pointing out, albeit from a distance, the utter injustice of his self-serving, greedy, sinful behavior.
David’s behavior was evil and there were going to be consequences – big, ugly, sad consequences – not just for David, but for the members of his family as well.
David’s evil behavior can, in part, be credited to the amount of power he has amassed as King of Israel. His position gave him the opportunity to seek and attain those things that he desired for himself – regardless of what it meant for anyone else.
Power does that – it creates opportunities to make choices and follow desires that harm others. We know this is true – just one glance at the headlines and we see it happening all over the world – around our own country – even our own city – shows us that those who have been given power legitimately or have simply taken power – can cause tremendous amounts of damage and destruction.
The story of David’s sin, while disturbing to say the least, is not the end of David’s story. David is offered forgiveness once he understood what he had done, acknowledged that he had sinned and had repented of it. The consequences of his actions did not vanish with his repentance, however. He still lived with the devastation his actions had caused. But something had changed.
Let’s switch gears for a moment and think together about our Gospel lesson.
Jesus had just finished feeding a whole bunch of hungry people – and they wanted more. They wanted more bread, it seems, but they wanted more than that. Their experience of being fed was enough to pique their interest in Jesus, but not quite enough to convince them that he himself was something – someone – they could follow with true abandon – with confidence that his way was better than any other way they could go.
Jesus had offered the crowds bread – which they needed, but he had offered something else – another kind of bread.
We throw the phrase “Bread of Life” around pretty often – but this week, I’ve wondered what we actually mean by that. My wondering led me to the conclusion that life-bread is nothing more than – and nothing less than – the unconditional love of God that leads to true repentance and a new way to be in the world.
That’s what David experienced from God – an offering of divine, forgiving love that brought David to his knees and then lifted him up to a new way of living – a new awareness of who he really was – broken but worthy, sinful yet forgiven. David was a changed man.
When I first came to St. Paul’s three years ago, I was struck by the way in which people here related to one another. It took me a while to figure out what it was that made this place so different from other groups – even other churches I have been a part of.
It occurred to me as I heard the stories of people’s lives, a lot of us have come to this place because we have been wounded and we have wounded others. Some people call this “baggage.” This baggage, however, allows us, like David, to grapple with the reality of who we are. And when we’ve done that work – and found forgiveness in the unconditional love of God, we are much more likely to offer that kind of love to others.
We come with our brokenness and we meet others who are broken. We come with empty hands – hungry for acceptance, desperate for forgiveness and meet others who are also hungry. And then together, we acknowledge our brokenness and hold out our empty hands. Give us the bread of life, we say. We, too, want the bread coming down from heaven – the bread that heals, the bread that restores, the bread that transforms – the bread of divine, forgiving love. And we are forever filled.
Forgiving, redeeming love. That’s what we are offered today. That’s what we can offer others today. As we gather around the altar, we will receive the bread of heaven. May it be the bread that gives life to the world.