Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Good Idea that isn't

2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Acts 7:44-53
Luke 12:1-7

“Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good.  Let Your good Spirit lead me on a level path” (Psalm 143:10 NRSV).

We would like to believe every idea we think is good will be blessed by The Lord; that if our desire is so strong and we can see any benefit, whether personal or social, The Lord will surely give us the green light since our intentions are, if not noble, at least pure.  That is, we don’t mean to do harm even if we only benefit personally.  Many seem to believe if it is foremost on our minds, it must be a sign of the Spirit stirring within us.

I wonder, though, how many such “signs” did not quite pan out.  And if such is the case, was the failure because we misunderstood the “sign” – OR – is it because we just decided we didn’t want to do it anymore, whatever “it” was?  Maybe it became too much of a hassle or too much of a personal commitment for so little personal satisfaction. 

King David’s heart was in the right place in his desire to build a Temple for The Lord.  Given his military and political successes leading to this period of “rest” in a unified kingdom, it would be understandable that David would want to express his gratitude to The Lord in such a magnanimous way.  He even had The Lord’s prophet on his side, but Nathan’s proclamation that “The Lord is with you” (2 Sam 7:3) was apparently spoken out of turn.

I sometimes wonder about the depth of Nathan’s involvement in that moment with such a casual observation.  That The Lord was “with” David and with a united and faithful Israel in covenantal terms is without question.  That The Lord was with David in that moment, however, and in that particular idea was clearly off the mark since The Lord came to Nathan later and put a stop to David’s well-intentioned but clearly misguided or ill-timed idea.

Given that today there is only a remnant of this once-mighty Temple still standing (the Western Wall), having been destroyed by the Romans in 70AD, we might suspect that the “building of a house for The Lord” was perhaps misunderstood from the beginning.  Considering that The Lord intended to “make David a house” (2 Sam 7:11), meaning the enduring Covenant fulfilled in Christ Jesus rather than a physical structure, it is hard to read this text as a commission to David’s son, specifically Solomon, to build this massive Temple even though the wording is suggestive in that “your offspring” (vs 12) … shall build a house for My Name” (vs 13).  Moses even spoke of a designated “place” at which offerings and sacrifices would be made once Israel got settled (Deuteronomy 12:8-14).  We get from all this a geographic “spot”, a specific location for worship, a physical “house” worthy of the Almighty’s Presence.

But the point to be made is not whether the Scripture or our traditional interpretation has been accurate.  Rather the point to be made is that we have to be mindful that not all our ideas can be or should be construed as “signs” of Divine origin generated from our own personal or corporate (church) desires nor should we always expect Divine blessing.  Our challenge is in coming to know, understand, appreciate, and prayerfully discern the difference between what we want for ourselves (or what we think others should be doing) - and what we are willing to invest in for the well-being and the mission of the Church for the sake of the Gospel of The Lord. 

I’ll grant you it is not always easy to tell the difference; and if all we use in our discernment is our own minds and a “pro/con” list, it is impossible to tell the difference.  This does not mean we cannot exercise good judgment or have good ideas apart from The Lord.  Even atheists have good ideas – not for the Church, of course, but the human mind is an incredibly powerful tool and mysterious mechanism that, coupled with the desires of one’s own heart, can achieve remarkable things even for the benefit of humanity. 

However, we are in the business of religion and faith in mission, specifically being Christ in the world today; and our task, according to our baptismal and membership vows, is the building up of the Church, the community of the faithful – not to make grander buildings but to make the community stronger in faith and in love.  Yet we must recognize that The Lord has His own ideas of what He needs from a particular church in a particular region.  That is what we must first desire, and then we must learn to seek it diligently, faithfully, and above all else, prayerfully. 

And we know why we must be so diligent, though we may not always admit it or readily agree to it.  Though things may seem fine in our own backyards or in our own private worlds or in our private pews in a half-empty church, things clearly are not fine.  Things are not fine in a half-empty church.  Things are not fine in a divided community.  Things are not fine in a dangerously divided nation at war within itself. 

Our country is in dire spiritual straits, and no politician is going to concern himself or herself with the spiritual well-being of the nation.  Not one.  Probably especially not those who carelessly and casually toss the Holy Name about.  Legislation cannot fix all what is wrong with this country and for this reason alone: legislation comes from human ideas reached by compromise with opposing ideas.  Our God does not compromise for the well-being of His people nor will He be restricted in His glory by people or laws or courts that defy His Word.

If we really believe our God will not be stifled by human action or indifference, we are forced to ask ourselves this question: whom will we go along with?  Who has the better idea?  Will we play along with the secular culture so we may protect our property, our jobs, or our standing in the community?  Will we remain silent in our indifference while human ideas have created and seek to expand this despicable act of infanticide known as abortion? 

Will we remain silent as we now suspect a leading agent of that horrific idea is not only selling the parts of discarded little bodies brutally and painfully murdered - but is doing it with our financial support through state and federal grants?  Will we be silenced and stilled by a culture that now seems to dare us to speak aloud AND act boldly yet compassionately in the Holy Name?  

St. Stephen (Acts 7:51-53) refused to be silenced, especially when directly confronted; and by his boldness he changed lives.  Yet when the council challenging Stephen got their drawers in a knot when confronted with the Truth, rather than to find their place in The Story which Stephen recited faithfully from the beginning, they had decided to hold fast to a story they had already created for themselves.  They had their own ideas, and they were willing to believe their own lies in order to protect themselves - even at the expense of a man’s life.

Jesus declares that if this is so, if we have truly been fearfully silenced and stilled and have become indifferent accomplices of death by proxy (by whatever means of death, whether spiritual or physical), then we are afraid of the wrong things and our immortal souls are in danger because we are more afraid of being unpopular than we are of being unfaithful.

“Beware the yeast of the Pharisees”, our Lord warns.  For us today, we might take caution to beware the yeast of the popular culture.  For everything we try to hide, such as our fidelity to The Lord, it will one day be exposed – and we will be forced to choose sides.  And yet even as Jesus tells us to “fear Him who … has authority to cast into hell”, our Lord still tells us to “be unafraidfor you are of more value than the sparrows” The Lord equally provides for.    

We are not always going to get it right, whatever “it” may be, because we cannot escape our humanness.  Even in our prayers we can be easily led away by our random thoughts.  This is why prayer must be a disciplined corporate and private practice; it does not come easily or naturally.  Yet it is by diligent prayer coupled with Scripture study in which we find out what is truly on our Lord’s mind.  It is in our due diligence – rather than our own well-intended ideas – by which we find the courage to stand once and for all time with Him, for Him, and in Him.  And we will be, by The Lord’s mercy alone, “unafraid” to face a hostile world.  For the Church there can be no better idea.  Amen.

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