Sermon for Sunday, March 17, 2013

2 Samuel 24:10-17 & vs. 25

+Forgiveness: A Season Of Release +

Confession & Repentance Still Prepare The Way

Franklin Circle Christian Church

Cleveland, Ohio ~

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher

To watch the sermon videocast, click HERE:

There is no podcast this week.  We apologize for any inconvenience.


I have always loved the board game “Clue.”  How many of you remember it?  Each player moves her or his piece around the board to the different “rooms” of the mansion trying to discover the Who, Where, and With What questions as to the untimely murder of Mr. Boddy.  “I believe the murder was committed by Col Mustard in the conservatory with the rope.”  No!  “I believe the murder was committed by Miss Scarlet in the kitchen with the candlestick.”  Nope!  “I believe the murder was committed by Professor Plum in the Library with the revolver.”  Bingo!

We live in a culture that is rife with opportunities to revel in “Whodunit?”  From Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell to CSI:Miami, CSI:Las Vegas and CSI:Lima we get an unadulterated thrill from looking at other people’s foibles, faults, and outright crimes.  And to a certain extent, it’s true!  There are bad things happening all the time, and someone has to uncover the truth and make things right!  And we want to watch it or read about it!

But what happens when we are the ones who have done wrong?  “I believe the offence/damage/crime/sin was done by me in my workplace/home/school/church/store with my own hands/mouth/mind/heart.”  Don’t hear that one too often, do we?

Well, maybe not.  But we also live in a culture that luxuriates in lurid confessions!  You’ve heard of the website that posts anonymous confessions.  I looked at it this week… it is mesmerizing… in a most unsettling way.  Dime store novels that confess sexual sins sell like hotcakes.  The weeping, chest-thumping confessions at the county courthouse make for exciting television, not to mention the Angry Accusation/Tearful Confession reality talk shows.  We seem to just love a good declaration of guilty as charged!

But where is the next step in all of this?  Accusing and confessing are certainly a big part of the process of seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, but not all of it.  Not by a long shot.  So we look to scripture for some guidance.  And one of the things I like about the Jewish and Christian canon is that it has not been purged of real people nor have their stories been purified and prettified.  King David being a perfect case in point.  While he may have started out as the ruddy runt of a child in Jesse’s household, singing psalms and playing the lyre like a 18th century Victorian painting, his life was no bed of roses.  Well, if you take into account the thorns on those rose bushes, that might very well be a good image.

It is simply fascinating that this man, whose misdeeds and accomplishments both are recorded in detail in scripture, remains thousands of years later as a Patriarch of the faith and model for us all as to a faithful and good life.  No one bats an eye when they meet someone named “David” on the street (or in the pew next to you) even though that person’s namesake was an adulterer, murderer, swindler kind of cursing, carousing character!

Why?  Well, not only was King David’s triumphs, transgressions, and tragedies writ large in scripture for all to see… and not only were his true confessions disseminated for all to read (albeit it, some of them coerced out of him by wily prophets like Nathan), but, and this is the key is that he turned his life around, he repented, he sought to make amends, he never made the same mistake twice.

In 2 Samuel 12, after being confronted by Nathan the prophet with his own horrific act of contriving Uriah’s death to cover up David’s adulterous affair with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, David does what so few leaders do, he openly confesses: “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’” and then accepts the sad consequences of his sin and goes and sins no more.  In today’s scripture lesson, following David’s odd disobedience of taking a census of the people against God’s wishes, David prayed to God, “‘I alone have sinned, and I alone have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.’” and he accepted the punishment and went and sinned no more.

Beloved, a huge part of the process of forgiveness and being open to the release that comes from it is in acknowledging our own guilt, confessing it appropriately and honestly, and then no longer sinning.  Do we stop doing wrong completely?  Probably not.  But key to someone being able to forgive us is them knowing that we have learned from this wrong and then working mightily to never do it again.  Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “repentance” contain the distinct imagery of “turning around,” either physically or spiritually.  The Greek “metanoia” literally means “to change one’s mind, to think differently afterwards, to have a change of consciousness.”

In this season of release, where we have been thoughtfully and intentionally looking at forgiveness, let us not forget to focus on ourselves as perpetrators in that terrible drama of hurt, heartache, and evil.  Unless we are willing to let the light of God’s searing love and cleansing grace to fall upon us, true and deep forgiveness will never happen.

So let us never forget… “Sometimes, it’s just us!”  Sometimes, it’s just me.