Rodger McDaniel is the Pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church
in Cheyenne. This is an excerpt from yesterday’s sermon.
Rich people are not who we think they are. In this world where the vast majority of people are dirt poor, we are them. We may not feel rich but God who sees a broader view of the world knows better.
When Nathan begins, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb,” David’s antenna should have gone up along with ours, but we always think the villain in Bible stories is someone else…not us!
The poor man had raised his little lamb from birth, it had grown up with his children, he fed it, cuddled it like a child. Imagine how these words created images in David’s mind. He had first been a young shepherd. David himself had raised lambs, loved, fed and protected them. David’s thoughts wander back to another less complicated time in his life.
But along came a traveler to visit his rich friend. A lamb must be roasted for a feast. This rich man certainly had lambs of his own, but why slaughter one of your own if you have the power to take it from the poor and feed it to the rich?
David has reverted to his days as a young, caring, faithful shepherd. Hearing this story his anger in kindled. He has the ears of a shepherd but the power of a King and orders whoever did this awful thing must die. Nathan’s trap slams shut. King, he says, do you not recognize this man who did this? Are there no mirrors in the palace? “You are that man!” You are the one you have condemned? The lamb is Bathsheba. The poor, faithful shepherd is your servant Uriah. Bathsheba was his only lamb while you had many and yet you took his to satisfy your sinful heart.
David confesses, “I have sinned against the Lord.” He awaits his punishment. We wait the sentencing. But David is forgiven. “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” It is the innocent who shall pay your price. David can keep his Kingdom, his palace, his riches, even Bathsheba. He is forgiven…but the young nameless child born of this sexual assault will die.
Shakes you to your core doesn’t it? The idea that this innocent child is sentenced to death for the sins of his father just doesn’t seem right. What meaning can David find in that judgment? It is indeed the Lenten question and one for which we must find an answer as the day of the cross closes in on us. What can it possibly mean that another died for my sins?
I have struggled with that idea until it occurred to me it is not simply a “belief.” It is an act, a Jesus-following practice. This is the fork in our road. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…And sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood…and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair…and having perhaps the better claim…
The road often taken is the one leading to an ill-founded belief that only Christianity and not Christ is “the way, the truth and the life.” To reduce the death of Jesus to a mere set of beliefs turns Christ followers into what Stanley Hauerwas calls “mongerers of values, denizens of the mall, selling and shopping and buying along with the rest of us.” Like fish mongers, we peddle our beliefs in the religious marketplace trying to persuade potential buyers that what we are selling is of a better quality than what those Muslims or Jews or Buddhists are mongering down the street.
The other road, the road less taken, the one obscured by the relentless undergrowth of exclusivity and Christian exceptionalism leads to understanding the death of David’s son and God’s only Son is more than a belief. It is the connection of belief with action, the unity of God’s hope for the world with any relationship we claim to have with God.
Yes, David’s son died for David’s sin. But David saw that for what it was…God’s judgment on David’s sin. For David, it didn’t end there with images of the suffering child. Restored and renewed by the forgiveness he experienced and the pain of his son’s sacrifice…David and Bathsheba began anew and Solomon, the last great King of Israel was born of their new hope.
The death of Jesus didn’t end there either. It is the connection between the failures and tragedies and trials of our lives with God’s hope for the world. It is the connection between what we believe and how we live. That is truly Resurrection.