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Unfathomable Forgiveness

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I think we can agree that there are people around the world that are in positions of leadership that have a tendency place themselves and their position above what might be right or truthful. I am not going down a political rabbit hole and I honestly don’t think I have to because people from every political realm, and as I said from around the world, tend to like to use their positions of power to be able to either stay in power or try to pass things that they want to get passed. The issue I have about all of that is that it becomes about that person and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the people they say they want to serve. It’s about what they want the world or the community to look like and they will do what it takes to make that happen.
This isn’t just an issue that exists in the political realm either. This is something we see play out in the corporate world and other communities as well. Some people are more concerned about the ability to build power and wealth and stay in that power and wealth than they are about how that affects those around them. I have heard people talk about this idea for power and control come into the world of sports and even people’s HOA boards.
What happens that can really be harmful is that, in our world, some people are even willing to lie or cover up wrongs that may have happened because it is about not getting caught. It is only when someone does get caught does something happen. Even then some people or companies are still not willing to admit that they were in the wrong. The real issue at hand though is that it isn’t that the person or company was caught and they had to pay a fine, because typically that happens when the truth is uncovered. The fine or punishment, though hefty, hardly gets at the real issue, and that is that typically communities are harmed and broken because of the greed and power that a person or corporation abuses. It is people’s lives and communities lives that are changed, broken, or harmed because of the decisions made by others.
That is what I believe is at the center of our story today. King David is almost always talked about as the greatest king in the line of kings for Israel. And we see that referenced even in scripture. There is no king like David. The throne of David will have no end. He defeated Goliath with a sling and a stone. David is the one who united the kingdom. He brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. He wrote many of the psalms. Jesus comes from the lineage of the family of David. Yet at the same time we see that David was also deeply flawed as a person and we see that most clearly in today’s scripture reading.
David sleeps with someone who does not belong to him. He commits adultery and there is no way that we can separate his position of power from what has taken place. Bathsheba becomes pregnant by him, and to make the situation better in David’s eyes, but as we know becomes far worse, is he tries to have the husband Uriah come home and sleep with her. This is the part that we skipped over but it’s important to bring to our attention because it continues to show the path that David goes down to try to cover up and lie about what he has done. It doesn’t work, and since he has already gone down this path of deception he keeps going down it instead of making it right. That path leads him to sending Uriah to the front lines of the war that is happening and deliberately pulling back so that Uriah dies in battle. He does this so that he can marry Bathsheba after the formal mourning period and hope that no one questions anything when the baby comes a little earlier than it should. David uses his power to do everything he can to cover up what has happened.
And what is the result? The real result of all of this is that there is broken community. If we think about all of the communities that are broken by David it is quite astounding. The loss of relationship with a good warrior Uriah plus all the other people the died alongside Uriah when David sent them to the front line of the war. We could even say a broken community of king to his soldiers. David has broken community with those he is married to, and to Bathsheba for her life she knew before what happened. He broke community and trust with the people of Israel that he leads. He broke community with his prophet Nathan. And Nathan points out he also breaks his community, his covenant with God. Just last week we talked about how important living daily into the covenant is for God, and the week before that we heard the 10 commandments. We see how David broke those commandments and covenants with God.
That is an important and powerful lesson for us all to learn today. When we place ourselves, our positions, our power above others we break the very community we think we are trying to build or save. That goes for each and every one of us. It goes for me especially. As a brand new pastor Bishop Finck, of the Pacifica Synod, told me and the other new pastors, “As pastors, as leaders, and persons in a position of power, you have the ability to build up a congregation or tear it down.” I’ll never forget those words and I do my best to live by them. But we are not perfect. None of us are. Which is why I have failed at times, and why it is so important for all of us to do our best to lift each other up and hold each other in times of success and in times of failure.
We don’t get the passage today, but David confesses he has sinned against God and Nathan declares forgiveness to him. The reason why we have a psalm today is that Psalm 51 is David’s confession to God and his declaration of God’s love and grace even after such an ordeal what we’ve just talked about. When we look at David’s confession, Nathan’s absolution, and what David says in the psalm we see how even in the midst of such a horrific event, God’s love and grace can still abound. It doesn’t mean that David doesn’t have a lot of work to do to restore those communities to where they need to be, but it does mean that God’s ability to create good, to offer love and forgiveness goes well beyond our brokenness. It also shows how God can used flawed people to bring about God’s mercy and grace to the world.
So my final word for us today is twofold: First, we shouldn’t think anyone is so high up that they cannot do wrong in the eyes of people or God. We must hold each other in loving accountability for our action and inaction. But even more importantly we should recognize and understand that at the same time none of us are beyond God’s love and grace. Let me say that again…none of us are beyond God’s love and grace and that God’s forgiveness and promises extend to the thousandth generation as we heard a few weeks ago. So as we go out into this world this week, remember that each person you meet, you encounter is worthy of God’s love and that we should extend that love, forgiveness, and grace to all who are in need of it, including ourselves. God’s promises, God’s covenant, love, and grace are for you and for all people no matter what. Live into that each and every day. Amen.
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