Sunday, December 20, 2020

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 20, 20208

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 20, 20208 Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ” (2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Surprise” You know as I think about how God works in our lives it seems to me that God surprises us all the time. We get settled into our way of doing things and then all of the sudden God hops in and says “Surprise! It’s not going to be that way anymore.” I’ll bet many of you could come up with many more stories of that kind of surprise, than I can. Ask my wife about the surprise of Hannah. She tells the story much better than I ever could tell it. It gets better every time I hear it. Surprise is a part of life, and very often it’s God who’s on the giving end of it. The bible too, is full of folks who were surprised by God. St. Paul is one. He was a deeply religious man, the student of one of the most important Rabbis of the first century. He was sure that he was doing exactly what God wanted him to do. He very zealously sought out, and arrested members of a new “cult” that was causing divisions in the church. He had papers from the highest church officials that allowed him to travel wherever he needed to go to find them and root them out. And he was good at it too. Paul, his name was Saul then found Christians wherever they were. He was even present and approved of the execution of an incredibly famous Christian named Stephen. Saul was certain he was doing exactly what God wanted him to do. But, one day on the road to Damascus Jesus, the one who’s church he was attacking, knocked him off his horse and said “Surprise! You think you’re doing God’s will? Well, you’re not. You’re not persecuting a bunch of religious fanatics you’re persecuting me! It’s time to stop. I’ve chosen you to be my voice and my servant. And not only that; now your going to be called Paul. Surprise!” Paul was indeed surprised. It was a life-changing event for him, and a life changing even for the Church of Jesus Christ. Just imagine the surprise for that young girl in the Gospel for today: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26-27, ESV) “Greetings,” the angel said to Mary. “Surprise! Things are going to be quite different for you now!” Mary had plans of her own. She was soon to be married to a local businessman. She was young, but that was normal for her day. She soon expected to have children; it was expected of all married couples to have children as soon as possible. “You are a very favored woman.” The angel said to her. “And God himself is with you.” The text says that Mary was troubled at the greeting. Surprised, I’d say, and afraid of what was going to happen to her. But the angel insisted that everything would be ok. “Don’t be afraid… but… Surprise! You’re going to have a son, and he’s not going to be your husband’s son, he’s going to be God’s son. God’s going to give him the throne of David. Surprise! Your son, God’s son, is going to be King!” Of course, Mary didn’t know how this was all going to come about, because although she was engaged, she wasn’t married yet. “Remember what I said, Mary, this child is going to be God’s son. He will be placed into your womb by the Holy Spirit.” Mary was surprised but she allowed her plans to be changed. And the world was changed because of the surprise that God planned for Mary. Another king in Israel was surprised, too. This king was a distant relative of the Surprise King born to Mary. He too, was God’s man. He wasn’t perfect but he lived in God’s forgiveness and God called him a man after His own heart. King David was settled in his palace after God had done everything, he promised to make David king. He was at rest from his enemies, the text says. As he looked around at all that God had done for him, he made some plans of his own. “I live in a great palace that God has given me. It’s time to give something back to God. I’m going to build a house for God. Nathan, God’s prophet, agreed, “Hey,” he might have said, “that sounds like a great idea. Let’s do it!” But that night God said to Nathan, “Surprise! That’s not what’s going to happen. Go tell the king, Surprise!” It wasn’t that what David was planning wasn’t a good thing. It was proper for him to want to give back to God from what he had been given. It was proper to want a beautiful place to worship God. It’s just that God had a different surprise in mind. “Remember David,” Said God though Nathan. “Remember where you came from. You were a shepherd. I took you out of the pasture and made you king. That was big a surprise! Kings don’t come from shepherds, but I made you king anyway. I’ve led you to take care of my people and your descendants will take care of my people forever! You want to make a house for me, well I’m going to make a really great house for you. It’s all going to start with your son Solomon. He’s going to be the one to actually build the temple you’re talking about.” But the surprise wasn’t over. “What’s more, David, the house I build for you is going to be more than just a house of wood and stone. Surprise! Your house is going to last forever.” David may have been a little disappointed, but he listened to God. And God did build a house from David’s son. Solomon builds a beautiful temple, but David’ Greater Son, Jesus Christ built the house of God’s Church. The shepherds sitting on the hillside outside of Jerusalem were surprised, the night that David’s greatest son was born. We know the story well. “Greetings, Surprise!” the angel said. “I bring to you, shepherds (yes you!), good news of great joy. The King and Savior of the world is born for you tonight!” They were surprised and terrified and joyful. And when the sky was filled with the surprise of a “host” of angels. Surprise probably isn’t the word that best describes what the shepherds felt. When it was all over one of the shepherds said, “Hey guys, to you think we ought to go and see this King?” I’m sure the others looked at him with a funny look, of course they were going to go. They were surprised, but they went and found everything just as the angel said they would. But that wasn’t the end of it all for them. When they told other people about everything that had happened to them “everyone” was surprised. “Surprise! God told us shepherds first!” So, God surprises us with Jesus. He was born where no other king would have been born. And he was going to do what no other king could do, build an everlasting kingdom. That kingdom is the church. It’s not liked any other kingdom. God’s people aren’t the “cream of the crop.” We are sinful people. God’s kingdom, in Jesus, is built on the forgiveness of sins. That’s the biggest surprise of Jesus. Our sin should be our death and punishment. Jesus, our king, doesn’t punish us, instead he takes it to the cross. When we gather here on Sunday morning we expect to hear, “Your sins are forgiven.” But it really is a surprise. David’s surprise, Paul’s surprise, the Shepherd’s surprise, and Mary’s surprise are all about this surprise of forgiveness for you and me, in Jesus. But really, I wonder… is it really a surprise? I don’t think so. We really shouldn’t be surprised that God keeps his promises. What should really surprise us is that when human beings broke their relationship with God in the garden, he didn’t kill them on the spot. Instead, he said, “Surprise! I’m going to fix everything. Satan, who tempted you and who will continue to torment you, will be crushed once and for all. I’m going to send a Savior and he’s going to rebuild your relationship with me.” That’s the promise that was fulfilled when Mary gave birth to Jesus in the dirty stable that first Christmas night. It really isn’t a surprise at all. It really wasn’t a surprise that God chose to make the announcement to the shepherds first. God was really fulfilling the promise he made to bless all the world through the Seed of Eve. He just wanted the shepherds to remember (and us too!) that the promise of Jesus Christ is for all people, even those who aren’t very lovable. It wasn’t really a surprise that David wouldn’t build God’s house, either. God was really just trying to show David that he was in charge. He wanted David to remember that even though his son Solomon would bring peace, (that is what Solomon’s name means after all), but that there was going to be an even greater prince, and even greater son who would bring peace. In fact, he would be called the Prince of Peace. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace who sets right what human beings set wrong. He wins the peace by his suffering and death on the cross. Even Mary’s surprise wasn’t really a surprise at all. All along God promised that he would take care of sin. All along God was promising that he would take care of the “wages of sin.” Every time a sacrifice was made in the temple, it reminded the people that the spilling of blood was necessary to pay the awful price of breaking God’s law. And from the very beginning God promised to come and pay the price himself. It was in God’s promise to another woman, Eve, that God said his own heel would be bruised. When Mary looked at the baby lying in her arms, she was looking at the flesh of God that would pay that price. And as for Paul; no real surprise there either. It was just God making sure his promise went exactly as he planned. That plan included you and me, and Paul was the man who would bring the Good News of God in the flesh, the Good News that God and man are reconciled, to the gentiles. In case you’ve forgotten, we are gentiles. The Good News that Paul preached is for you and me. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

No comments: