Sermon Options: August 4, 2024

June 23rd, 2021

Healing the Heart

2 Samuel 11:26–12:13a

In Sholem Asch’s novel The Nazarene, the miracles of Jesus are mocked by a blind man. The blind man could have been healed if he had asked. Jesus responded to his remarks by questioning what shall it avail one to be made seeing with the eyes and have the heart remain blind. God initiated spiritual healing of David’s blind heart through an encounter with Nathan.

Known as a judicial parable, this text disguises a real-life violation of the law as a parable told to the guilty person in order to lead him to pass judgment on himself. Spiritual failure obscures God’s dynamic purpose for your life. That purpose can be restored, as it was for a broken King David, by healing your heart through a threefold spiritual/therapeutic process.

I. Sin Must Be Raised to a Personal Consciousness

In verses 1-4 of chapter 12, David was brought face to face with his sin. Nathan gave David a parabolic illustration of reality. David had confused fact with fiction by rehearsing his own self-justification. But the significance of the offense is implied by Nathan’s use of contrasting opposites: rich man, poor man; many flocks, one lamb. David’s personal consciousness was also raised by a private illumination of his resistance to God. The important issue was not the specific act but the nature of the offender. David ignored the sacred value of marriage, revealing the true nature of his heart.

His consciousness was raised further by the prophetic incrimination of his own reticence. In 11:25, David told Joab to not be displeased by Uriah’s death, implying that the Lord was pleased with this holy war. The Lord, however, was not pleased with the king.

II. Healing of the Heart Also Requires Prescribed Consequences

Verses 5-6 of chapter 12 confront us with the inconsistency of human judgment. David said the offender “deserves to die.” Literally, the word means “son of death” and describes the person’s character, not David’s sentence. His anger motivated an irrational demand. Verse 6 records the correct legal sentence, according to Exodus 22:1, a fourfold restitution. We do not judge the seriousness of sin the way God does.

An inverted holy justice is another prescribed consequence in verses 7-12. David was told that the sword would never depart from his house, that his wives would be taken from him, and that his secret would be made public. When holy justice replaces human inconsistent judgment, we understand the devastating effects of sin.

The prescribed consequences also reveal an impatient heavenly jealousy. According to verse 14, David’s actions had provided God’s enemies the opportunity of blasphemy that would bring shame and ridicule on the name of God. The consequences of David’s sin were transferred to the child. That severe judgment would immediately restore reverence to Yahweh’s name.

III. A Penitent Confession

This is the final phase of the heart’s healing. The confession in verse 13 minimizes the person. David accepted full responsibility through an honest confession: “I have sinned.”

The confession also maximized David’s failure. The word “sinned” is unqualified. Confession of sin must be made without explanation or excuse. The confession of sin must also magnify the Lord. David stated, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Yahweh was the object of the confessional act. Although our sin impacts others, it is a rebellious action defying the authority of God.

Your heart can be healed through spiritual therapy that includes a personal consciousness of sin, prescribed consequences for sin, and a penitent confession of sin. (Barry J. Beames)

By Way of Thanks

Ephesians 4:1-16

Everything thus far in the letter to the Ephesians has been a gift. Beginning from the very first words of the letter (“Grace to you and peace”), every line seems to place more bread in an already overflowing basket. Chapters 1 and 2 give us the announcement and extensive elaboration of the many aspects of God’s grace as it has been poured out upon us. Chapter 3 opens with Paul’s own self-description as one whose very imprisonment is a sacrifice of love toward those to whom he writes. That chapter closes with an assurance that Paul is giving something else to the church—prayer. Indeed, the very text is almost a gift of praying.

No other passage in the entire New Testament is so fully saturated with a sense of the blessedness of God’s people in the church. Reading chapters 1-3 truly gives us a feeling of having been richly gifted. But receiving even the most beautiful and sought-after gift can make us feel awkward if we are not allowed to express due thanks for it. Chapter 4 gives us an opportunity to respond with thanksgiving.

I. The Great “Therefore”

In verse 1, the writer states, “I therefore . . . beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” In this case, the word “therefore” is the fulcrum balancing all that came before with all that follows. It is the center point between gift and task, call and response, blessing and gratitude.

In Luke 19 , Jesus shows love to Zacchaeus; therefore, Zacchaeus redistributes his wealth. In 1 John we are told that God first loves us; therefore, we are able to love. In Acts, the Holy Spirit is given to the church; therefore, the church goes out in mission. And in Ephesians we are reminded that God has showered us with grace and blessings (chapters 1–3); therefore, we can respond with gratitude (chapters 4–5).

II. Worthy Means Shared

The way the writer talks about responding to God’s overwhelming initiative is by asking for a “worthy” life in response. By “worthy,” the writer means living cooperatively with others. All the virtues enumerated here address what Bonhoeffer referred to as “life together.” Verse 3 sums up this emphasis nicely (“making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”), and the verses immediately following have become the hallmark of the modern ecumenical movement: “ . . . one body . . . one Spirit . . . one hope . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.”

Asking for unity, however, does not require uniformity. On the contrary, the tribute to unity is followed closely by a marvelous litany of the diversity of gifts and graces given to the Body of Christ (v. 11). Many voices make up the gospel song. The goal of unity is not monotone Christians, but harmonizing Christians, whose variety of gifts “promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (v. 16). Our best means of showing gratitude to God for all that has been expressed in three chapters of this letter turns out to be more horizontal than vertical. To appreciate God’s bounty to us is to live graciously with one another. (Paul R. Escamilla)

What is It?

John 6:24-35

In this conversation between Jesus and some people who had followed him across the Sea of Galilee, there is a reference to an important event in the history of the Jewish people. After Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 people, he crossed the Sea of Galilee only to be followed the next morning by some of the crowd. In this conversation about food that perishes and food that endures, the people reminded Jesus of an event from their history: “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness” (v. 31).

It’s a story worth recalling.

The Israelite people had been led out of slavery in Egypt and had wandered for about two months in the wilderness east of Egypt, the area we know as the Sinai peninsula at the northern end of the Red Sea. They believed that it was God, through Moses, who had led them out of Egypt, and this freedom became the defining event in their history. They owed their freedom to God. But two months after they left Egypt, they ran out of food. They began to complain that in Egypt, even though they were slaves, at least they had food to eat.

So Moses talked with God about the situation, and God told Moses that he would “rain bread from heaven” for the people (Exod. 16:4). The next morning dew covered the ground, and when the dew evaporated a flaky substance was left behind. It tasted, we are told, like wafers made with honey, and it could be ground and made into cakes. The story says that when the wandering Israelites first saw the flaky substance on the ground, “they said to one another ‘What is it? For they did not know what it was” (Exod. 16:15).

They called it “manna,” and there is an interesting play on words here. The Hebrew phrase for “What is it?” is pronounced something like man hu. Man hu; what is it? Manna—“the bread that the Lord has given you.” And they ate it for forty years.

When he was reminded of the story, Jesus carried the meaning a step further: “I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” And the people made a request: “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” (vv. 32-35).

Remember this the next time you come to the Lord’s table for the sacrament of Communion. When we partake of the sacrament we eat bread that resembles the manna provided in the wilderness. And we claim that it represents Jesus, the very Bread of Life.

What is it? It is freedom from the distress of life. It is sustenance in the wilderness of life. It is grace in the pain of life. It is God’s presence in the loneliness of life.

What is it? It is rest in the demands of life. It is peace in the disruptions of life. It is community in the isolation of life. It is security in the uncertainty of life.

What is it? It is manna rained from heaven. It is bread that nourishes the soul. It is Christ, the Bread of heaven, which will “feed me till I want no more.” (J. Lawrence McCleskey)

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