St. John's, Centreville
July 29, 2018
Proper 12 B
God of new beginnings, meet us where we are in our journey, imperfect as we are, and use us in ways we cannot imagine to make a difference in the world for you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our readings this morning contain some very powerful stories. In the Old Testament lesson, we hear the story of David and Bathsheba, and in the gospel lesson, the story of Jesus feeing the 5000 and walking on water. What could these two stories possibly have to say to us today and what do they have in common?
Power. The use and abuse of power. In the story of David, he, up to this point, has been the untarnished hero, the shepherd boy who killed Goliath with a sling shot, his elevation to king of Israel, who ministered "justice and equity to all people", and enjoyed the favor of God.
But in today's reading, David uses his power for his own personal gain. He is on the roof of his house when he sees beautiful Bathsheba taking a bath. He sends his messengers to bring her to him, and because he is the king, she cannot refuse. David abuses the power he has as king to get what he wants. But he doesn't stop there. When his affair with Bathsheba ends up in a pregnancy, he orders her husband, Uriah the Hititte, sent home from the battlefield. David tries to get Uriah to go home and see his wife, hoping that, when Bathsheba's child is born, Uriah will think it is his. But Uriah refuses to go to his house and enjoy the comforts of home when his fellow soldiers are on the battlefield.
Somehow, he must cover up his affair with Bathsheba. So he sends a note to Joab, the general of the army, that he sends with Uriah when he returns to battle, to tell Joab to put Uriah in the front lines of the battle and pull back the other troops, thus assuring Uriah's death. Joab follows David's command and Uriah is killed in battle. So David is not only guilty of adultery but of murder as well. He abuses his power for his own purposes, covering up one crime with another.
In our gospel lesson, we have the very familiar story of the feeding of the 5000. This is the only story that is in all four of the gospels. Jesus has been teaching and healing the sick, and even though he has tried to find a quiet place for him and the disciples to get some rest, large crowds continued to follow him. Because of Jesus' compassion, he can not just send them away to find food. So he asks Philip, "Where are we to find bread for these people to eat?" Philip replies, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." Andrew tells Jesus that he has found a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish. But what is that when there are so many people.
Jesus knows what he is going to do. He blesses the bread and the fish and distributes it to all in the crowd. Everyone eats and there are 12 baskets of food left over. The people witnessing this miracle are amazed. They think he is a prophet and they want to make him king.
But Jesus knows that he is not here to become an earthly king. He is here to show people who God is, to show God's love and compassion. Jesus uses the power that has been given to him by God to feed the hungry, heal the sick, bring justice to the oppressed, and faith to the faithless. He could easily have used his power to overthrow the Romans, which many people wanted him to do, and anyone else that stood in his way. But he uses his power to help those in need and to spread the gospel message of love and redemption.
At the end of the day, when Jesus realizes that the people might try to take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdraws to the mountain by himself. The disciples get in a boat and start across the sea to Capernaum. They had gone several miles. It was now dark and the sea is becoming more rough and a strong wind is blowing. Then they see Jesus coming to them, walking on the water, and they are terrified, perhaps not realizing at first that it is Jesus. He tells them not to be afraid and he gets into the boat. And immediately the boat reaches Capernaum.
Jesus uses his power to save the disciples from the storm at sea. By walking on the water, he shows them that he is Lord over all nature, that God created and has power over all creation.
David and Jesus. Abusing power and using power for good. We all have choices about how we use our power. Is it for personal gain? Is it for the good of others? We have all seen the abuse of power in government officials, in those who are sworn to uphold the law and protect us, in the church, and in all parts of our society. It's in the headlines of the news every day. And many people go to jail for abusing the power and trust that has been given to them.
So how do we use the power we have? Some might say, "I have no power." But we all do, in one way or another. Adults have power over children. We've all seen pictures of a fly ball in a baseball game go into the stands, and an adult snatches it out of the hands of a child who is ready to catch it. Abuse of power merely by being bigger and stronger.
Some of you have been or are in positions of power at work. Do you use that power for personal gain or for the good of those you serve? How do we treat those who work for us? How do we treat those who are poor, who have no power?
We have power simply by having money and choosing how to spend it. Do we buy products made in this country, or perhaps in other countries where the products may have been made by children in a sweatshop? We have many choices to make on how we use our power, by how we use our money.
We have power because we live in a democratic society and we have the power to vote. If we don't feel our government representatives and officials are doing what we want them to do, we can vote for someone else in the next election. We have a choice to vote for those who might be able to make us richer or more powerful, or we can vote for those who want the best for all people.
Do we try to save our planet by recycling, or buying things that are biodegradable, or things that will last us longer and not end up in the trash heap? We have power. We need to recognize it and decide how we will use it.
David made some very bad choices by using his power for his own selfish gain. Jesus used his power to proclaim the kingdom of God in word and deed, by the example of how he lived his life, by having compassion and love for all people.
How will we use the power we have, as voters, as consumers, as parents? May we pray that God will help us make the best choices we can to use the power we have. Amen.