Sunday, July 19, 2015

My sermon: plans and acknowledgement 2 samuel 7: 1-14

Moss as it caught my eye. Jesuit Center, Wernersville PA. 2015. Wayne Stratz

as it was on paper when I entered Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Lansdale:


Plans, we make them all the time. I don’t necessarily like planning. I make lesson plans for my supervisor. I don’t go into great detail because I doubt I will be teaching what my plans say I will be teaching 7 days in the future.

As John Lennon said…“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”

I am better at seeing the values in plans; and my wife, who likes planning, has helped. You know, why eat an OK meal while on the road when you could plan it out and find a good restaurant in advance. Plans can give our journey the bit of guidance it needs.

And then there is the concept of God’s plan for us. David did not plan to become king. David would have not been taken seriously if he had left his flock of sheep and announced he was making plans to be king, the youngest does not get the power. Why make plans when the future is beyond our control?

A few weeks ago, I arrived at the Jesuit Center for a silent retreat and even though I knew the suggested verse, “Be still and know that I am God,” I looked it up in my Bible. In silence, it is key to seek stillness. Quiet your whole self, not just your mouth. I expected a night focused on becoming still. It was my plan, but my Bible did not say what I expected, instead of “know that I am God,” it translated the Hebrew, “acknowledge that I am God.” My retreat would be altered as I thought to myself, acknowledge is not the same as know.

Much had happened since a prophet told David that he was the anointed one and now David had a plan for God. God will get a new home. A God, who brought the people of Israel into a permanent homeland and into a time of endless peace, deserved something better than a tent. So David told the local prophet to tell God what he planned to do. Have you ever told God what was what? Were you willing to listen to what God said back to you? As the UCC church loves to tell us, God is still speaking.

God first makes it clear he digs his tent which is free to move. He is a God who roamed above the waters of the Earth creating new days and new creatures. She is a God, who is not searching for a permanent home. God tells David, “I will let you know when I am ready to have a new home.”

We often focus more on our plan for God than God’s plan for us. How will we worship God? How will we pray? What music will be used to praise God? What color scheme meets the season? What Bible is the best translation?

I woke up in the silence of birds greeting a new summer day. Dawn had emerged. After breakfast, I had a plan to photograph an amazing gate. Funny thing was that when I walked to the bottom of the hill, I discovered the gate was gone. I hadn't noticed this huge gate was missing when I had driven into the Jesuit Center the previous day. But flowers, moss, lichens, trees, rust, and birds caught my eye on the journey to the gate. I spent the rest of the retreat fascinated by moss and I have to admit I began to imagine a new plan for my future; to become a professional moss photographer, clearly a profession with a need for more members.

David was thrown into the job of warrior king. And in that role he did well. One could easily see or assume that God was with him. When God turns down the offer of a nice house, God spins the story and says, “No, No, David, let me build you a house. A Dynasty of leaders that begins with your son.” The reading ends with God saying,I shall be a father to him and he a son to me”

But God continues speaking:  if he does wrong, I shall punish him with a rod such as men use, with blows such as mankind gives.
15. But my faithful love will never be withdrawn from him as I withdrew it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.
16. Your dynasty and your sovereignty will ever stand firm before me and your throne be forever secure."
17. Nathan related all these words and this whole revelation to David.

In other words, God may get annoyed, but all will be forgiven and the Dynasty will endure.

On Sundays here at Holy Trinity I walk back to my chair after sharing in the Eucharist; and pray seven desires: To fill my house with love, my studio with awe, my garden with beauty, my church with jazz, my classroom with joy, my friendships with grace, and in everything hope.

Be still and acknowledge I am God.

In the stillness of the retreat, I slow this prayer and I acknowledge I am asking for God’s blessing. God is with me in my hopes and desires. I acknowledge God and give thanks.

David acknowledges God, but soon he will sin testing God’s promise of never ending love. It begins when David sees a beautiful woman and filled with lust David arranges for her husband’s death. When I first read this, David became unlikeable. For me, all other David stories are tainted by this act.

Be still and acknowledge I am God. 

In silence I enter a parlor to talk. I share with my spiritual director what is easy and what is difficult for me to acknowledge. Jesus heals. OK. Jesus teaches. OK. Jesus gives me eternal life. Hmmm. I acknowledge my doubts and my realization that it is time I have a conversation with Jesus. It has been a journey to get my science-educated brain to create room for the mystical.

A friend says something negative about another friend. Seeds of doubt about the second friend grow. David was not perfect. I am not perfect. My friends are not perfect. We are called to love. Dawn used to have great meaning before electricity lit up darkness. Dawn was defined as the moment when light allowed you to recognize a person as your friend. Jesus asks us to acknowledge him as our savior, to stand at dawn in the emerging light with our neighbor, to see them in a new light, and to love even the Davids who have done something awful.

Can we make plans that take us deeper into our faith? As I said, I don’t like planning, but I found a quote that might just be my style of planning.
Gloria Steinem said, “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
I have not given up my day job, but I do not think I will pass up any commissions to photograph moss. Planning to get somewhere because we feel called to take a journey does not mean ignoring the possibilities and beauty we pass along the way. By the time we get to where we felt called to journey, the gate might be missing or a bit less pearly than described. But the journey will fuel us and we will stand in the midst of an imperfect world and leap with our imagination.

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”


The text:

2 Samuel, 7

1. Once the king had settled into his palace and Yahweh had granted him rest from all the enemies surrounding him,

2. the king said to the prophet Nathan, 'Look, I am living in a cedar-wood palace, while the ark of God is under awnings.'

3. Nathan said to the king, 'Go and do whatever you have in mind, for Yahweh is with you.'

4. But that very night, the word of Yahweh came to Nathan:

5. 'Go and tell my servant David, "Yahweh says this: Are you to build me a temple for me to live in?

6. I have never lived in a house from the day when I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today, but have kept travelling with a tent for shelter.

7. In all my travels with all the Israelites, did I say to any of the judges of Israel, whom I had commanded to shepherd my people Israel: Why do you not build me a cedar-wood temple?"

8. This is what you must say to my servant David, "Yahweh Sabaoth says this: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader of my people Israel;

9. I have been with you wherever you went; I have got rid of all your enemies for you. I am going to make your fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth.

10. I am going to provide a place for my people Israel; I shall plant them there, and there they will live and never be disturbed again; nor will they be oppressed by the wicked any more, as they were in former times

11. ever since the time when I instituted judges to govern my people Israel; and I shall grant you rest from all your enemies. Yahweh furthermore tells you that he will make you a dynasty.

12. And when your days are over and you fall asleep with your ancestors, I shall appoint your heir, your own son to succeed you (and I shall make his sovereignty secure.

13. He will build a temple for my name) and I shall make his royal throne secure for ever.

14. I shall be a father to him and he a son to me;

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