>Sermon notes 08/02/2009

>(2 Sam. 11.26-12.13 – Ps 51 – Eph 4.1-16 – Jn 6.24-35)

So my beloved and long-suffering wife said she had a lot to do today so she said I had to keep this short…so it will be short!

But…there are a few things we need to talk about today’s readings which I think will be profitable to us all.

First let’s see – David and Bathsheba. Wow didn’t that whole story sound like something you would watch on late night cable?

More importantly to what I want to talk about today is the end of the story – how the prophet Samuel brings David to repentance and a change of ways.

David, the great King David, root of the lineage which will eventually bring in the Messiah, Jesus – does not so well in this episode. It is a pivotal episode in the reign of David, and when you read the rest of David’s story it is worth keeping this event in mind. David deliberately breaks several of the 10 Commandments in this episode. He had plenty of opportunities to stop! I guess glimpsing Bathsheba skinny-dipping was not really his fault. But certainly coming down and finding out who she was, and then summoning her, and then sleeping with her, and then ordering the murder of her husband – are you telling me who could not stop at any one of these points?

Eventually through the prophet Samuel he is brought face-to-face with the error of his actions and their terrible consequences. David’s heart breaks. There is only one thing more terrible than finding out you are sinner, and that is finding out just how much of a sinner you are! So Psalm 51 records how David goes about asking for and trusting in God’s mercy through his confession, petition for mercy, a vow to praise God on being absolved and finally a prayer for prosperity – not just prosperity of wealth, but more importantly moral prosperity – because the righteous and true worship he describes at the end of the psalm can only happen from someone who is deeply moral.

And this brings me to the meat of our conversation here today. There is a theological concept called the ordo salutis, the order of salvation. This concept outlines for us the process of salvation from beginning to end. It goes like this:

1. Election – by God’s sovereign choice
2. Gospel/calling – hearing the Good News proclaimed or feeling called by God
3. Regeneration – that is being “born again”
4. Conversion – which means belief in Jesus Christ as your Savior coupled with repentance from your previous life
5. Justification – where we are made right in God’s eyes through the merits of Jesus
6. Adoption – at which point we become counted as Christ’s own forever
7. Sanctification – which basically mean right living
8. Perseverance – which means remaining a Christian through the rest of your life
9. Death – going to rest in the Lord
10. Glorification – which is when we receive perfected bodies upon Jesus’ Second Coming

The first step is clearly all God’s doing – election. But the next steps through adoption are what we would call “becoming a Christian” Somewhere in there is the stage of baptism or confirmation (depending on age). The two steps of sanctification and perseverance are what we would call “Christian living” – which is what we all should be doing now.

Ok so hold on to this process and ideas as we go through the rest of the readings.

Let me touch briefly on the Gospel. I want to highlight only a couple of things which are pertinent to what I am trying to talk with you today. Did you notice how the Jews wanted to know from Jesus what works of sanctification, what things, what formulas, what sacrifices, they needed to do to be saved?

Jesus corrects them by pointing out to them that the process of sanctification, of right living, begins at a much deeper and earlier stage. The deeper levels of the ordo salutis need to be completed before you can move on the the next one. First you have to be chosen by God. This is totally out of your control. God will choose you when it pleases God to choose you. No options. Then regeneration through faith which leads to conversion, justification and adoption.

Only then can a meaningful conversation begin about sanctification.

If you notice, the Jews had a “seeing is believing” approach. Show me signs. Show me something. The work of God is to belief without sight! ‘Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”‘ (v. 29)

So now let’s see what this means in practice. In Ephesians Paul deals with issues of belief. First he lists 3 foundations for true belief.

1) Humility: in Greek culture humility was something expected of slaves. Humility was seen as a vice for leaders and masters. But for Paul, who is concerned about unity of the Church, pride is very dangerous because it promotes disunity.

2) Gentleness/meekness: what Paul means by gentleness is really about having your emotions under control. It is the dynamic balance between being angry all the time and never being angry, for example. The godly person, the one who is a slave of God, or in Paul’s phrasing “a prisoner of the Lord”, such a person is angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.

3) Patience: in this case it means having a spirit that never quits but endures to the end, even in adversity. It is also the capacity to hold back (or hold off) from retaliation.

Assuming we master these foundational skills of being a disciple, then we will be able to reap the rewards of a healthy community. Paul lists 7 elements which are centered on the Trinity:

1. One body of believers
2. One spirit – the Holy Spirit which energizes the one body
3. One hope in Heaven
4. One Lord, Jesus Christ
5. One faith – not the Creeds, but more the inner faith, the faith of the heart and mind. Instead of one faith we could say “one mind” – we Christians are of one mind.
6. One baptism
7. One God and Father of all believers

The Church, this body of believers, us, is energized by one Holy Spirit, so that we all have one and the same hope. We are then united to our one Lord Christ through each individual’s act of faith. This is symbolized by the one baptism which we together with Christians from the time of Christ to when He returns, undergo.

All of this is under one God, the Father who is Supreme Ruler over all believers, who acts through all believers when they are humble, gentle and patient, and who lives in all of us. So the Church is one and it is united.

Within this unity, each believer, each of us, is given a talent, a gift. So while the church is one it is also plural, diverse.

The way to understand this is that we are gifted believers – we are a gift to the church!

So your particular talents, music, or teaching, or organizing, or (the one I find most important) the gift of showing up ready to help, you are all gifts from God to the church.

We are gifted believers, gifted by God to the Church, just as the Church is one Body gifted by God to the world.

So here it is my friends – take this Psalm 51. Memorize it. Use it. The frequent recollection of a psalm, especially this one, will help bring you back to patience, humility and gentleness. Take this prayer by David, who had fallen from lofty heights, and use it to remind yourselves of the work of sanctification and perseverance which you have to do – toil at it until the time when God calls you home to rest and wait with him the glorification in the last days.

But do not be like those who came to Jesus asking for signs, asking for things to see before they believed. Understand that you need to be born again, be converted from your old ways (which may be only as old as one minute ago). In the wisdom of the monastic tradition, humility is seen as the best and most efficient way to clear out the way for God to shine through you. Over and over there is an emphasis on humility as superior to any and every form of asceticism, of works, of service even. A humble and contrite heart is very pleasing to the Lord. So what is humility?

An old man was asked, “What is humility?” and he said in reply, “Humility is a great work, and a work of God. The way of humility is to undertake bodily labour and believe yourself a sinner and make yourself subject to all.” Then a brother said, “What does it mean, to be subject to all?” The old man answered, “To be subject to all is not to give your attention to the sins of others but always to give your attention to your own sins and to pray without ceasing to God.”

Abba Macarius was returning to his cell from the marsh carrying palm-leaves, the devil met him with a sharp sickle and would have struck him but he could not. He cried out, “Great is the violence I suffer from you, Macarius, for when I want to hurt you, I cannot. But whatever you do, I do and more also. You fast now and then, but I am never refreshed by any food; you often keep vigil, but I never fall asleep. Only in one thing are you better than I am and I acknowledge that.” Macarius said to him, “What is that?” and he replied, “It is because of your humility alone that I cannot overcome you.”

You pray about that. Amen!


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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