Sermons

By Pastor John Johnson

The Bible is about -- us!!! (No video)

July 7, 2018

Let me be honest: for a number of years, I was jealous of Donald Trump. Indeed, to some extent I am still jealous of Donald Trump, though the reason for my initial jealousy never foresaw his being what I had once aspired to be: President. My jealousy arose because I had to go through some real discomfort when the failure of one company to make a large payment to my company put my company — and me, as a guarantor — in technical default of its loan agreements, and that contributed to my decision that it would be wise to sell my business. Donald Trump had business properties in bankruptcy, but because the banks considered those properties worth more with his name on them than without that name, Trump emerged intact from his difficulties, even though he had contributed mightily to them. I had contributed nothing to the fact that my debtor failed to pay.

So I was jealous that Trump was able to thumb his nose at bankers, while I had to kowtow to my bank.

The second of the passages Sandra read this morning deals with Saul, the first king of all the twelve tribes of the sons of Jacob, the first king of the Jews, and of Saul’s jealousy toward the young warrior David, but in doing so, it deals with my problem, my sinfulness, my jealousy. In fact, all of our Scripture passages today deal with real human emotions. The Bible is indeed about God, but it is also about us and our human shortcomings, about us and our dependence on God. The jealousy of Saul toward David is human, and while I never tried to throw a spear at Donald Trump, the underlying human flaw, the sin, jealousy, was the same for me as for Saul.

And speaking of Donald Trump — he seems to dominate all conversation these days, — until I became very upset with several recent statements, I was going to write an essay about him dealing with how King David, whom we encountered twice this morning before he became king, was also anything but a “good and virtuous guy”; we shall read in a few weeks about how David was both an adulterer and a murderer, and yet, and yet he is held in the Bible as the model for the longed for messiah, not because of his virtue or lack thereof, but because of the perceived well-being of the kingdom under his reign.

David. The story of David and Goliath is also about us, if not so obviously so. Superficially, it is a story of an event, but at the risk of heresy, let me suggest that the story somewhat exaggerates in order to tell the story of how the little combined nation of Israel and Judah could stand up to seemingly more powerful neighboring tribes and peoples. “Never give up! If God is on our side — on my side, on your side, — the game is never over. We can overcome tremendous odds if we keep our faith in God.”

It was a message to boost the confidence of ancient Jews, but it is also a message for us, today! We are like the frightened troops in King Saul’s army, but God is here with us, as God was with them.

And the story of Jesus’ calming the waves? One reason I wanted to incorporate both of the David stories today was because the message I draw from the story of Jesus’ calming the waves is not a new one; I have offered it before. The message, as I tend to phrase it, is in the form of a question: Is this story about Jesus’ calming waves two thousand years ago, or is it about how Jesus can calm the waves that disturb you and me today?

Is it a story about Jesus? Or is it as much a story about the disciples their fears and how their fears are calmed by Jesus, and thus about you and me and our fears and how they, too, can be calmed by Jesus?

I guess, getting back to Donald Trump, part of my message is, “None of us save Jesus is perfect, not Saul, not David, not Donald Trump, simply no one is without sin.” But my message is also, “because we can never be Jesus, let us open our hearts to him, for he can calm our fears — and perhaps lessen our tendency toward human sinfulness such as jealousy, such as hopelessness and fears, whether fear of our enemies or fear of the elements or fear of our shortcomings.”

And whether that leads me to be more tolerant of or more critical of Donald Trump, it reminds me not to expect perfection of any human being, because I am no more perfect myself than was David, or was Saul, or were any of Saul’s soldiers nor any of the disciples who were on that boat with Jesus.

So, the Bible is about us, but of course, not just about us. The Bible, I so often say, is the way we can be led to encounter Jesus, and through Jesus, more adequately and fully to know the God whom we first meet in that part of the Bible we share with the Jews, share with those same Jews for whom the very human David represented, not a divine person, but a high point in their communal history. A high point in their communal history as — their term — in their history as God’s “chosen” people.

But what does “chosen” mean? It means people chosen to receive from God the gift of Torah.

The Torah, over-simplified as “The Law,” by whose standards we as David and as Donald Trump all fall short, which is why we Christians understand that we are gifted to benefit from the Good News of Jesus, that through him our failures to keep Torah have been forgiven. But equally importantly, and what I most wish today to emphasize, through Jesus, we need not fear or be anxious because he is with us.

Through the storms of life, and despite our jealousies and envies and enmities, through our discomforts in dealing with those stronger or with more power or money or more able than we “little David’s,” Jesus is here, here with us, no matter where “here” may be.

And by the way, he reminds us that all, on whatever side of the political divide they place themselves, are children of God and neighbors whom we should love.

So let us open our hearts to Jesus, so that he might calm the earthly chaos of our lives, even as he assures us that our jealousies and our other sinfulness, like Saul’s and like David’s, has not cost us God’s love nor the forgiveness God has provided in Jesus.

And in Jesus’ awesome name, Amen.

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