Friday, June 29, 2012

Between Anointed and Abandoned (2 Samuel 1:17-27)

[This week Logan Kruck is preaching at our church.  He has graciously allowed me to share his sermon here.]

Superman Dies!  How can it be?  Superman can’t ever die!  Don’t you read the stories?!
Those who know me know that I love comics.  I read them all the time.  And Superman is the comic hero of heroes, the standard of what it means to be virtuous and good.  But, when I was 8 years old, I read this comic and was shocked.  Superman was dead.  It’s hard to separate fiction from reality when you are 8.  All of your favorite characters are very real to you.  So, when Superman died, a real hero died.  What could I say?  What should I feel?  As a child, when your hero dies, you feel very alone, as if all the good in the world died with him.  What do I do from here?
Listen now, to the words of David
Your glory, oh Israel, lies slain upon your high places!  How the mighty have fallen!
This isn't the song of Israel on opposite side of the Red sea watching Egypt drown.  It is not, "Horse and chariot are cast into the sea!  How the mighty God triumphs!"
It is a different song.  It is a song of shock and lament.  It is a song out of the midst of the horror of battle.  And our king, our representative to God, is dead.  
The king, who clothed us like the priests of the Almighty God, in crimson and gold so that we may be servants of God has been slain by the enemy.  The king who went forth and fought reverently as though he was sacrificing to God is no more.  
Yet we hear, “For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
   the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.”
The king who was anointed by God to be a servant of God and a representative of the priestly kingdom is defiled, and anointed no more.  The King who is chosen by God is chosen no more.  The mighty is no longer mighty, the glory is no longer glorified, the anointed is no longer chosen.  
The anointed is no longer chosen.
Wait, how can that be?  Isn’t it true that God doesn’t change?  Isn’t it true that once a person is chosen by God, they are always with God?  How can the king, the anointed, the chosen one no longer be chosen?  How can they die by the enemy?
This is Israel’s fear.  Long after the death of King Saul, Israel exists in a tragedy.  Their entire kingdom has fallen to Babylon.  It is as if King Saul truly represents Israel.  The humble servant from the least chosen to be the leader and the hands of God’s promises to the world.  And the reverse, the King who mistakes and rushes God’s plans, taking God’s way into his own hands and trying to control it in order to bless his own people.  Israel was chosen by God to be a blessing, and they are a nation that falls short of God’s commands.  They often go their own way to seek their own blessing.  And just as Saul falls in battle, so Israel falls to Babylon.  
Your glory, oh Israel, lies slain upon your high places!  How the mighty have fallen!
Where is the hope?  Not only can the anointing of a king be reversed, but an anointing of a whole people can as well?  
And we Christians stand with Israel, worrying about our anointing in Jesus.  Isn’t Jesus abandoned on the cross?  Isn’t the anointed Son of God left to die at the hands of Rome?  Jesus, the perfect, blameless, sinless glory of Israel is slain upon the high places.  O how the mighty have fallen!
But, we must remember who writes the Psalm of lament.  It is the next anointed king.  It is David.  And with King David there is a promise that God will never abandon the house of David.  God will always anoint David, and that anointing will never leave.  God will always choose David.  Even in the exile, God preserves Israel.  And that anointing is fulfilled in Jesus.  
This lament holds a promise in the midst of the death and the darkness.  The psalmist cries, “From the blood of the slain,
   from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
   nor the sword of Saul return empty.”
So it is with Jesus, who in his death went to battle with death.  Jesus did not turn back from death, but overcame it.  Christ is risen.  Christ defeated death.
Again, the psalmist moans, “O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
   who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
   who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.”
And yet, it is Christ who truly clothes us in crimson and gold.  We are covered in Jesus’ blood and dressed in his righteousness.  Through this crimson and gold we too will overcome death and have true life in Christ.  
We live on both sides of this lament.  We exist between abandoned and anointed.  We are King Saul, not worthy of anointing, but chosen by God to be an example of grace to the world.  And yet we fall short of this call, abusing God’s grace, rushing God’s promises, and even taking advantage of God’s blessings.  And sometimes it seems that God’s anointing has left us.  We are also King David, promised by God that God will never leave us.  We know that God is always before us, anointing us to continue representing Jesus to the world.  We are constantly given grace and forgiveness, and our anointing is constantly renewed before God. (Our hope, if hope only, is in Jesus or something to the same effect.)  We live between abandonment and anointing because we have been baptized and live in Christ, who was abandoned on the cross, and anointed in the resurrection.  
We live with our fellow saints and Christians.  Even the great Mother Theresa struggled between abandonment and anointing for nearly forty years.  She is a woman known for her love and compassion, yet she felt that God had left her.  She expressed it, saying, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”#  She had the audacity to affirm God’s love to others, while admitting that she felt without it.  And yet she told the truth.  God loves us, and has chosen us.  Even when we are abandoned, we are with Christ on the cross.  And because we are with Christ, we are anointed!  That is the struggle!  
We live with the saints between abandoned and anointed.  We fail the expectations of being chosen to represent God to the world.  We are King Saul, slain on the battlefield.  As Christians, we bear the wounds of Christ on the cross.  Our jobs, schools, families, and society demands that we “work harder,” as slaves, and it abandons us to die if we fail.  We are left, abandoned, feeling as if we have no worth.  And yet we live with the saints between abandoned and anointed.  We are King David the anointed.  We are risen with Christ.  In the midst of being abandoned, we are chosen anew.  God’s grace makes us worthy.  Jesus makes us mighty.  Our weakness is turned to strength.  Our abandonment is turned to anointing.  
The church should affirm this struggle.  The purpose of the church is to see and lament the abandoned.  But it does not stop at lament.  We are to be God’s representatives, choosing and anointing the abandoned, giving them worth in grace.  We are move from Saul to David, from exile to promise, from death to life.  We must come alongside our friends, children, spouses, and even those who are strangers and support them.  We are to work with each other as friends, not stand over one another demanding performance.  We are to be the grace of Jesus’ anointing.
So we can cry with David, with exiled Israel, and with Jesus, saying, 
19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
   How the mighty have fallen! 
20 Tell it not in Gath,
   proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;
or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
   the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult. 
21 You mountains of Gilboa,
   let there be no dew or rain upon you,
   nor bounteous fields!
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
   the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more. 
22 From the blood of the slain,
   from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
   nor the sword of Saul return empty. 
23 Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
   In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
   they were stronger than lions. 
24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
   who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
   who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. 
25 How the mighty have fallen
   in the midst of the battle! 
Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. 
26   I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
   your love to me was wonderful,
   passing the love of women. 
27 How the mighty have fallen,
   and the weapons of war perished!
But we must hear Jesus say in return,
Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
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