Bible Stories that Make us Blush (Dr. Ross Lockhart)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am July 25, 2021
Message by the Rev. Dr. Ross Lockhart    Worship leader: Nick Nation
Music director: Binu Kapadia              Vocalist: Lynn Vaughan
Elder: Ransford Kusi-Menkah               Children’s Time: Courtney Vaughan

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

Greeting
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you
P: and also with you

Lighting of the Christ candle

Welcome and announcements

Silent preparation for worship

Opening words
L: I lift up my eyes to the hills –   from where will my help come?
P: My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
L: Lift up your hearts!
P: We lift them up to the Lord! 

Opening praise: This is amazing grace
Who breaks the power of sin and darkness
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder
Who leaves us breathless in awe and wonder
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross You lay down Your life
That I would be set free Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King of Glory

Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Music: Josh Farror, Phil Wickham, Jeremy Riddle
Words © WB Music Corp, FBR Music, Josh’s Music.
Reprinted with permission under CCLI, License #3095377​. All rights reserved. Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from CCLI

Call to worship: (Psalm 145)
L: All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your faithful shall bless you
P: They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
L: to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
P: Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.

Prayers of approach and confession

Heavenly father we approach you this morning in adoration. How blessed we are to be surrounded by the beauty of your creation. We stand in awe as we see the stars of heaven, and the beauty of the sunset. We are amazed by the seas and waterways and all that are in them. We are enchanted by the flowers and trees all of which are clothed by you. We are awed by all the animals of your creation. For the beauty of the earth, the mountains and valleys, the sun and the moon – we give you praise.   Despite its incredible variety, our world is only a tiny speck within your universe.  Yet on this speck, you have given us life and abundance and elevated us to be your stewards.  Who are we that you should acknowledge us in this way?  Yet we are told that even the life of a single sparrow is known and of importance to you. What a mystery.  What a wonder.

Father, all is not well.  We acknowledge that we fall far short of your hopes for us and the trust you have placed in us both individually and corporately.  We are often conflicted within ourselves.  Our relations with others become broken, and our societies become dysfunctional.  We have strayed far from our calling. Yet you have not given up on us. You have given us yourself in the form of Jesus the Christ to take all the sins of ourselves and our societies upon you.

Lord, we are completely unworthy.  We have no understanding of how your grace works, or what you plan is, yet we claim this gift from you and cling to the foot of the cross as if we were drowning.  Forgive us and bathe us in your grace.  We pray this in the name of Jesus, our Saviour. Amen.

Response: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God

Assurance of God’s forgiving love

My friends, look closely at the life of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  In all his dealings he never turned anyone away, no matter who they were, what their origin was, or what their station in life might have been.  All who came to him in faith and trust, no matter how unworthy, were accepted.  The gift of his grace was available to all who asked for it.  So we, if we have honest and contrite hearts, we have nothing to fear.  All we need to do is ask, and the gift is given freely to us.  Take heart then, and amid all of the confusion, sin and loss of this world, claim this precious gift of pardon from God and be assured that it will be given.

Response: Be still and know

Prayers for God’s help and guidance

Lord, you have forgiven us, but that is not enough.  We cannot be your people without your continual help.  In fact, we dare not try to move forward without you.  Be with us each  individually as we try to live out your plan in each of our lives.  Be with your church in whatever situation she may find herself so that your love is passed through her into a hurting but indifferent world.  Where she is persecuted, give her courage and endurance.  Enable her to be the body of your Son in this world so that His work may progress and the silent and mysterious construction of your kingdom might continue unabated.

Help us now to be still and listen to your word as it is given in the readings from the bible, in the words of our children’s story and the sermon, and in the singing and music so that we are renewed and able to better understand and serve you when we leave this time of worship.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Jesus loves me 373

Story

Who knows how to play Follow the Leader?

I’m sure that you’ve ALL played it, at some point in your lives. So, let’s give it a try.

I’ll be the leader …… Follow me.

Stand up — Sit down — Wiggle your bum — Raise your hands in the air & shout ‘Amen!’

Good job!

I think that I was a good leader, and I’m assuming you were all good followers out there in Zoomland!?!

Follow the Leader is a good game … as long as you have a good leader.

How about if I yelled HELLO, really loudly, to someone across the sanctuary while the minister was preaching? Would you follow me?

What if I ran over and stood up on top of the piano and did a little tap dance? Would you follow me?

What if Nick, Binu, and Lynn followed me as we skipped around this communion table? Would you follow us, too????

Follow the Leader is a great game and in our daily lives, we play follow the leader, too. In school, in Church, in sports, in any activity we are in, there are always leaders. Every day, we are faced with making a choice of which leader we will follow. We must be sure to choose a leader that will take us in the right direction.

We must look closely at what they are doing and what they are saying … and make a decision for ourselves about whether or not we want to follow them. Whether or not we should follow them.

The Bible gives us some very clear directions about who we should follow, as Christians, and what kind of actions we should strive to copy.

In our scripture reading today, we will hear about a time when King David did not make a good choice in the actions he was doing and lost sight of who HE should be following. As the King, the people often looked to him to be their example, BUT … he was human and sometimes made mistakes. Just like we do.

Jesus said to his disciples: “follow me”. In fact, I counted at least 20 times in the bible that Jesus said: “Follow ME.” So, in deciding who we should follow, there is no better example of a Christian leader than Jesus. If we study HIS actions and do what HE does, we will never go wrong.

Let’s all try to do that each day and follow the best leader of all – JESUS!

Let us pray:

Dear Jesus, you are the perfect leader and have called us to follow you.

Please give us the strength and the wisdom to make the right decisions in our lives and take us on the path that will lead us in the right direction … and closer to You.

And now, we pray the prayer that you taught us:

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Song: Be thou my vision      vs 1,2,5      461

1.Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art Thou my best Thought, by day or by night Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

 2. Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one

 5.High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all

 Words: anonymous, translation Mary Byrne, paraphrase Eleanor Hull © Chatto and Windus Ltd ; Music: Irish traditional, Music harmony copyright© 1975 and descant©1983 by Hope Publishing Co. Reprinted with permission under ONE LICENSE, License #A735555​. All rights reserved Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE

Scripture readings
Psalm 14                              OT(NRSV)
2 Samuel 11:1-15                 OT(NRSV)

Response: Jesus, remember me            

Message

Scripture:  2 Samuel 11: 1-15

Well, it’s not every week that the lectionary bible readings make us blush, but this is a pretty good one.  I can still recall as a child watching the last-minute substitute Sunday School teacher squirm as he quickly came up to speed on what the assigned lesson was for the day.

I sat in a crowded church basement in Winnipeg, dividers up between classrooms, a 1970s laughing Jesus picture on the wall beside last week’s memory verse.  Our regular Sunday School teacher was a good and godly lady who maintained discipline with an iron fist.  Sword drill exercises sharpened our knowledge of where things were in the Bible, memory verses for stickers helped teach us a love of God’s Word, questions were encouraged, and ideas explored but silliness was not tolerated.

That Sunday our regular Sunday School teacher had called in sick and now – one of the dads had been pressed into service just moments before the children’s time. What to do with a Bible story that would make some blush – it has everything in the story that Hollywood requires for a good movie – sex, betrayal, wild parties, war/action, good guys and bad guys, as well as heroic death.  Just imagine the Sunday School crafts you could make with this story – Bathsheba sunbathing on the rooftop using popsicle sticks, connect the dot drawings of David and Uriah having a wild party, a beaded necklace representing Joab’s army only to have one bead fall off by itself representing Uriah’s betrayal.  The options are endless.  Instead, the substitute Sunday School teacher looked nervous, maybe even defeated before he started – “Well kids,” he said searching for the right words, “looks like we have a Bible story today about bad choices.”

Of course, what we have in this story is much more than that.  In an era of #metoo – we do not read this story as it was explained to me years ago as an “affair” – no, a powerful man demanding sex from a woman whose husband was off at war and she was dependant on the King’s provision doesn’t fit that category.  In an era such as ours awash with stories of faith leaders abusing others – especially in light of the ongoing, painful revelations regarding residential schools in Canada we struggle to place this Bible story in a frame of reference.  Of course, it is not just abuse of power in faith-based institutions but in politics, business, non-profit and the military.

So we read this story today mindful of the enduring nature and consequences of our fallen human nature.  Indeed, Chapter 11 of 2 Samuel marks a turning point in the narrative.  Up until this point in 2 Samuel David has been leading an exemplary life as a Warrior King.  He has expanded Israel’s territory winning great victories at the head of the Army over the Philistines, Moabites and others.  Just two chapters earlier David is even seen going out of his way to show kindness to Saul’s family by restoring Saul’s land and elevating Jonathan’s son of ill health Mephibosheth to the King’s table.

And now, in Chapter 11 things start to fall apart.  Note the caution in the first part of the reading – the army is once again out in the field in battle but where is David their King – the one who has won so many battles in the previous chapters.  Hmm, the Bible says, “But David remained in Jerusalem.”  How odd.  Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann said that in Chapter 11 we sink into a “strange web of foolishness, fear and fidelity that comprises the human map.  This narrative is more than we want to know about David and more than we can bear to understand about ourselves.”  Some have even linked Chapter 11 back to the Fall story in Genesis with the abrupt transition from a life under blessing to a life under curse.

Now, with David at home, allowing others to fight the battle, he is no longer the King that in 1 Samuel 8:20 will “go out before us and fight our battles.”

David sees Bathsheba sunbathing, and she is identified in the Bible based on her link to the powerful men in her life – she is daughter of Eliam, wife of Uriah the Hittite.  There is no hint of an affair – this is a power move – David by Chapter 11 is transformed, he is in control and takes whatever he wants.  Later, after this reading we will have the courageous and inspired calling out of this unhinged King by the prophet Samuel – you are the man – but not now.  Now we see what human beings being human run amok with power and desire can do – not that we needed a biblical reminder – we have lots of evidence in our own lived experience of that.  When David finds out that Bathsheba is pregnant, he hatches a plan to cover up his actions.  He instructs Joab to send Bathsheba’s husband Uriah back from the battlefield for a little R n R.  Surely a week at home relaxing with his wife, only to find out months later that she is pregnant, will cover everything up.  Of course, this was not the only option.  If David had shown signs of remorse if he had sought out forgiveness things might have turned out differently.

I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s latest book this summer Dusk, Night, Dawn:  On Revival and Courage.  For those who know Lamott’s writing, she is frank about her pre-conversion life as a Christian.  Hard drugs, addition to alcohol and a life lacking morality that still haunts her.  In this latest book Lamott writes,

“One of the women I hurt most in my twenties, named Esther, began to forgive me thirty-two years ago, when I reached out to her via snail mail.  I tried to make amends to her for having had a drunken and sporadic affair with her husband.  I had been sober for a year when I expressed deep contrition, through a long letter, as I could not face her.  I had not seen her or her family for five years.  I did not expect her to forgive me for what I had done to her and, by extension, her children but sober friends thought that that was her business.

She wrote back right away and said that for her as a Jew, forgiveness was a duty, or a mitzvah, and she had forgiven me long before.  She hoped that I was able to stay sober and that, because my guilt had alienated me from humanity, God, and myself, over time I could forgive myself.  I put down her letter and cried into my sinner hands.” (pp. 88-89)

For those who are familiar with David and Bathsheba’s story, Chapter 12 suggests elements of this kind of painful regret but not now – not in Chapter 11.  Instead of asking for forgiveness, David tries to cover up.  The problem is we have a failure in leadership here.  David doesn’t ask for forgiveness.  I wonder what would have happened if David (even though he held all the power) had confessed to Uriah and asked for forgiveness?  But David is already onto the next plan to cover up his sinful action.

And then it gets worse.  David tries to cover it up.  He calls Uriah back from the front and what do we discover – an example of strong, moral leadership.  He refuses to enjoy the domestic life while the rest of his troops are out in the field.  Not even a wild night of partying will change his mind.  So, David improvises again.  This time sending Uriah back to battle with instructions to put him upfront so that when the battle rages, he will not be coming home.  Uriah demonstrates the kind of steadfast, selfless leadership that David lacks, as Uriah returns to battle, carrying a letter with David’s signature that bears a death sentence.

One could make the case that David in this one chapter breaks half of the ten commandments (Exodus 20).

While there are many lenses that one could read this famous story, I found myself returning again and again to this theme of leadership.

Perhaps it is because in this season of my ordained life I am the Dean of a theological college and our college has the Centre for Missional Leadership that takes seriously preparing leaders – Ordained and lay – for Christ’s Church of tomorrow, today.  This kind of story gnaws at all of us who seek to prepare effective leaders for Christ’s Church.  My work as a theological educator is not limited to the classroom.  It involves deep engagement in the local church across the country, meeting and encouraging potential church leaders, helping them get connected to their studies, seeing them blossom and occasionally struggle in their theological education and then, after graduation, remaining in touch to encourage them and help them navigate the first few years of ministry.  I wish I could tell you that it is always a smooth process, but it is not.  Sometimes the leaders who I have the highest hopes for disappoint.  Often the ones I’m not sure about flourish.  Only God seems to know who the right fit will be.  But often all of us as leaders are a mix.

Leadership matters.  We all know this.  I’m not sure I can think of a flourishing congregation that did not have effective leadership – both in the pastor and the Session.  That doesn’t mean there is only one kind of leadership – no, in fact, there are many, many different styles and gifts in leadership that work in varying contexts.  I was thinking of that this week preparing the sermon mindful that you are searching for a new minister at Dayspring.  As you look for a leader, it is important to remember you already have leadership in the church – in your session, in your Interim Moderator.  But this is a good chance for you all to reflect on what kind of leadership model you want to embrace moving forward.

You will not find the perfect leader.  David had many gifts in the arts, military, governance, etc.  But today’s story shows his short comings.  We all have them.  I certainly have them.  When I think back over the years, I remember people who left the congregations I served – sometimes I knew why, other times they just ghosted me.  David, like any leader, is not God.  There is only one God in the universe, and David nor any leader is that God.

Our leadership as baptized disciples makes an important impact.  The way we treat one another matters in community.  The ordained leaders are especially in need of good moral leadership.  I know this teaching at a seminary.  Sometimes people feel in a more modern, liberal society clergy behaviour is less under the microscope.  In a way that’s true.  But the really important behaviour of how we treat people in community has remained consistent.

Example of Lillian Daniel who shared the best preacher and the worse preacher she heard – she went back to church and heard a powerful, thoughtful, compelling sermon on the need to work for social justice.  She was hooked.  The worse sermon was when a preacher stood up and used the pulpit to first confess his affair and then make a theological case for why it was okay.  The best and the worst sermon were preached by the same preacher.

The quality of our leadership in the church is still connected to the character of our leaders.

Story of Sunday school class watching the confession of a minister who had an affair.  Remember what you saw today – whatever God calls you into – ministry in the church, the arts, government, business, the military – what you do with this one life is a witness to God.  We all stumble and fail, we’re in a fallen world.  Sin is real.  But God’s grace, God’s forgiving love is more powerful and more present whenever you need it, wherever you are.

Years later that Sunday school teacher who gave us that important lesson would lead Manitoba through the worst flood season since the 1950s as the province’s chief engineer.  Appearing on the national news every night, making key and unpopular decisions about which towns would be saved and which would be abandoned, adopting innovative techniques for flood prevention, saving the city of Winnipeg while our neighbour Grand Forks south of the border was completely flooded.  His calm, quiet, Christ-like demeanour was a reminder that leaders come in many different shapes and sizes.  By our baptism we are given a new identity and assigned gospel work in this broken, yet beautiful world that God loves.  What will be your leadership assignment from the Lord this week – as an individual and as a congregation?

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Song: Amazing Grace    vs   1,2,3,6          670  

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

2. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.

3. Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come; ’tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

6. When we’ve been there a thousand years,
bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.

 Words: John Newton, v.6 William Cowper; Music: Anonymous, both Public domain

We respond to serve God

Prayer of gratitude

O Lord our God, we thank you that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and forgiveness.  When we wake every morning may we be filled with thanksgiving for the gift of another day.  When we lie down to sleep may we respond in gratitude for the many blessings you have given us during the day.  May we grow each day in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Gracious God, we thank you for your unending provision. You provide food in abundance and protection under the shelter of your wings. You grant rest and renew our strength. You forgive our sins and heal our diseases. We are overwhelmed by the paradox that through the wounds Jesus suffered, we are healed.

We give thanks for the blessing of our church family. Thank you that we have the privilege of praying together and praying for each other.  We are thankful that within our church we receive your divine wisdom and insight.  You give us not the wisdom of this age or of those currently in power but rather your mysterious and hidden wisdom.  For this we are thankful. Your wisdom is incomprehensible to those who don’t know you, for it is revealed only by your Spirit.

Loving Father, we overflow with thankfulness for all of these blessings you have poured into our lives.

Above all we thank you that we have been brought  into a living hope of forgiveness, reconciliation and eternal life by the life, death and  resurrection of Jesus Christ your Son.  We give you this prayer of thanks in His name.  Amen.

Response: Now thank we all our God

Reflection on giving

We have been giving faithfully even though there is no offering plate being passed in the sanctuary. It may be a while before we return to the sanctuary, but we are still able to continue the ministry and mission that define Dayspring using the various ways described on the screen and in Dayspring Weekly News. Thank you all for your contribution, which comes freely from hearts full of gratitude.


Song: What a friend we have in Jesus    746    

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear; what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

 Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged: take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness: take it to the Lord in prayer.

 Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Saviour, still our refuge: take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer; in his arms he’ll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there.

 Words Joseph Scriven; Music: Charles Convers, both Public domain

Sending out with God’s blessing

Eternal God, Heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of the body of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord.   Amen

Response: Go forth into the world

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”  Jesus


The message, prayers, and children’s story contained in this document are copyrighted (2021) by those who presented them – respectively the Rev. Dr. Ross Lockhart, Nick Nation, and Courteney Vaughan. Any infringement of the copyright held by others is purely accidental and unintentional and will be rectified as soon as possible following notification.

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