Notes for A More Coherent Sermon – In the Shadow of Hiroshima

NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON:
1:30 p.m., August 2, 2009
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Social Room, Northview Meadows Co-op
Oshawa, Ontario

*FIRST LESSON*
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.

The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.

*RESPONSORAL PSALM*
Psalm 51:1-12
R. Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
C. Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

R. For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me
C. Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

R. Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
C. Surely you desire truth
in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

R. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
C. Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

R. Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
C. Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

R. Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
All: Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

*EPISTLE* Ephesians 4:1-16

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men.”

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

*GOSPEL* John 6:24-35

Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

SERMON PROPER BEGINS

Our world is filled with imperfect people. This has always been the case. From jumping to conclusions to exploiting others to violence in our homes to war—we live within creation as fragile, dangerous, frightened, violent individuals. But our world is also filled with people of compassion and vision, who create havens for victims of domestic violence, who seek to solve disputes between neighbours, who bear witness of the power of non-violence in places of violent conflict, who live within creation as calm, confident, gentle people. Part of our imperfection is that we may be both—at times the peace maker and at times violently driving our opponents from our presence.

Something that gives hope is the fact that we usually know what is right, even if we don’t always achieve it. The Old Testament passage we heard today had King David challenged by the prophet Nathan. When told of an injustice, King David immediately wanted to help the victim and seek to hold the oppressor to account. Nathan brought the message home to David that the oppressor was David, a revelation that lead to a transformation in the life of David and the promise of forgiveness and transformation if David truly repented.

The crime of David was causing harm to an individual—he arranged for Uriah the Hittite to be in the front lines of a battle in the hopes that he would die so David could pursue Uriah’s widow. He used violence for personal ends and, although he couldn’t escape the consequences, he could still find a way to be forgiven for his actions and find a way to redeem himself in the eyes of God.

On August the 6th in places around the world people will gather in silence to reflect on what can happen if we turn to violence for collective ends. We all know that violence is wrong; we may understand it and justify it in certain circumstances, but deep inside we always want something different to occur.

We look back at August 6, 1945 and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima with understandable horror. Approximately 140,000 people died by the end of 1945 as a direct result of the use of one small bomb. Some justify the use of the bomb as a way of shortening the 2nd World War. But even they would have preferred that another option had available that would have had the same result without so much killing, so much destruction, so much unleashing of fear about what we could do to all of creation.

Whether translated as “Thou Shalt Not Kill” or “Do not murder” the 6th commandment tells us very clearly not to take the life of another. Whether for personal reasons or to pursue national interests, killing another is wrong.
On September 11, 2001 it seemed that the world was about to let itself embrace the God of War and turn away from any understanding of the God of Love. As I often do, not completely unlike David, I responded in words:

BUT IN WHOSE NAME?

My memory of war is all second hand
—I was not at Mai Lai. I was not running down the road
with napalm etching into my flesh.

I did not watch my feet rot in trenches
or wake up with my neighbour’s blood dying my shirt
or believed, somehow, that my battles lead to freedom and to peace.

I was not on a bridge in Belgrade or
at an airport in Grenada or
in a schoolroom in Baghdad or
in a factory in Dresden or
at a church in Nagasaki or
in a hospital in Stalingrad or
in an office in New York.

Nor is my memory of serving peace first hand.
I have not sat in the Gulf Peace Camp or
prayed in Chiapas or planted trees outside Hebron or
disrupted the School of the Americas or
handed out leaflets in Burma or
sat with the families in East Timor or
fasted with the wives outside Gestapo headquarters.

But I have held the children of war.
I have talked with the veterans of war.
I have added my prayers to the voices for peace.

It has to start somewhere.
In the here and now war is being waged
and in the here and now the seeds of peace are being looked for.

The war is waged in someone else’s name. Not in mine.
The work for peace is in the hands of us all, including mine.

++++++++++++++++++

We, as individuals and as a society, aren’t perfect. But we can reach out towards perfection. We can seek ways to bring into the present the eternal Shalom Kingdom, a world in which violence and hatred and suffering does not abound. We can sow the seeds of a new world by turning away from what we know harms others and seeking to ensure that what we do does not add to the suffering of the world. And we don’t have to wait until we achieve perfection before we accept this responsibility. Imperfect people can still stock the shelves of a food bank, drive a neighbour to the doctor, donate to a homeless shelter, bite their tongue to avoid speaking in anger, refuse to kill. Imperfect people doing good things is at the heart of the shalom kingdom—we all have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but we all can also be a reminder of the loving presence of God within creation, showing what is possible if we open ourselves up what God offers to all. We can be an instrument of God’s peace for all of creation.

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