Friday, July 27, 2012

Mephibosheth: From Shame to Grace (2 Samuel 9)

My nanny dropped me.  Worst day of my life.  My father and grandfather were with the army in Jezreel.  Every time they went out, I staged my own battle with little wooden men in the garden.  I had archers and chariots and flag bearers.  I was only five, but I moved the men forward in formation until they crashed into one another - with soldiers flying this way and that.  It was great fun!  Of course, Israel always won, and my father and grandfather were always the heros.  The king and the crown prince were always the gallant warriors who saved the day.
Until the rider came.  My nanny had to drag me away from my little Battle of Jezreel.  We at at the royal table, eating the best food of the land, the only food I had ever known.  I still had my dad’s toy soldier in my hand for the whole meal.  I took it with me wherever I went.  It was my way of feeling closer to him while he was away.  
Until the rider came.  We could hear him pounding on the gate - and I can still hear his desperate, haunting voice - hoarse from shouting, dry from riding.  The whole palace spilled into the courtyard to see what all the fuss was about.  There standing in our safe little sanctuary of home was a wounded, bloodied, exhausted rider announced the news that shattered our entire family:  “King Saul and Crown Prince Jonathan are dead!”  
No one had any idea what would happen next. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Unconditional Conditional Grace (2 Samuel 7:1-17)

I’m a bit of a control freak. 

I tend to have a plan with three points for everything.  

Really, I just want things done the right way.  And of course, I usually think the right way is my way.  

Now, you’re not allowed to laugh at this one .  Not that I’m trying to control you or anything, just a recommendation.  

If you don’t think I’m a control freak, that’s good.  That means one of two things: either I’m getting better or I’m getting better at hiding it.  Maybe those are the same thing.
Some of us are loose and free, but for most of us, one of the hardest things in life is letting go of control.  We want to control our present, past, and future.  If we’re really honest, we want to control our family, friends, and pets.  We want to control our bosses, our employees, and our customers.  We want to control our food, our weight, and our appearance.  We want to control the environment, the weather, and global warming.  We stop short of trying to control the stars and planets - but only because we’re too busy trying to control everything else.
Control is hard.  Being out of control is one of the worst feelings out there.  But one of the most basic lessons with God is that we are not in control.  God is.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Ark (2 Samuel 6)

[By popular demand - due to the need to re-read this heavy sermon, here is Daniel Helbling's sermon from Sunday.]

It turned out to be a bad day for David. Worse for the family of Abinadab. It took David three months to get over it. How long will it take us?
Let’s look for understanding and insight that will help us find the value and present-day help in this scripture.
David was rejoicing; he was doing what he thought was the right thing in bringing the ark back to His own city. The presence of the ark in the king’s city would do even more to solidify and demonstrate the unity David had achieved among various factions after Saul’s death. David was careful about the things that he did; he sought the Lord's approval and help and wisdom when he would go out against his enemies in battle. Somehow, however, he didn't stop to review what the historical records would have shown: God had a clearly stated method for moving the ark. He had appointed a specific group of men to transport the ark on their shoulders with poles that went through rings on the sides of the ark. That's the way God had intended it, and that's the way it had been done every time God told Israel to move the ark. The Philistines put the ark on a cart. They had found the ark to be a curse, not a blessing. They just wanted to get rid of it as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Now David wanted the ark to become a blessing on his new reign.

Goodbye Letter #05: Nesheba Joy Thomas

Hello, KNU International English Church!  It's me, Joy.  I want to say a great big thank you to you for welcoming my husband and I so well that we feel like we will always have a home with you.  
I want to thank Pastor Josh for the first invite to church back in 2009.  I had jut arrived in Korea and was attending an all Korean service on the 13 bus route.  I thought about my life in college and thought that a service full of Americans was not for me.  So, I declined that first invitation.  
The second request to join the KNU service was from my then boyfriend, now husband Richard, in 2010. I told him that I did not want o be around that many Americans.  I regret this because there are many beautiful Americans, not like the ones I met in college.  And, Many many lovely Koreans in our church. 
The third and final invitation I got to church was from Mrs. Kim Taeran, in 2011.  She was my co teacher, friend and mentor/mom.  I really felt good about being invited by a Korean person.  So, I thought, " maybe, there are Korean people there, too." 
I really enjoyed my time singing with the praise team, listening to the sermons and taking notes as secretary of the advisory council. My main regret and deepest embarressment is that I did not come when I first arrived in 2009.  I missed so much time with you all.  I hope we return to you, soon.  But, I have a feeling that it won't be for some years, yet.

I love you.  And, hope to see you again.
Joy, Richard's wife

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Retro Poem #6: The Letter Box

words are but words
and words with words
make no more than words
but words are what I have to give you
a word in itself 
is but a scratch on paper
or a breath in the air
the one who speaks the word
does give it some measure of weight
yet words and words are hollow
until words and deeds are one
yet with words I work my deeds
or some portion thereof
time excels all words
and time I plan to give
but time is not all mine
I must for others live
so when life pulls my time away
my words to you I’ll give
words are but words
when words alone
but these words I give
are not mere words
for in the giving
words and deeds are one
a gift I give to you today
not for the gift itself
but for what it will hold
it will hold my words
my words when we’re apart
my words when we’re together
as my pen flows in endless rhyme
my words will grow with time
and time will show
that time I’ll give
to accompany the words
which will build beneath this lid

(I wrote this poem as part of a Christmas gift to Sarah before we got married.  The other half of the gift was a hand-painted box for her to store our letters in while we were apart.  During that Christmas vacation, we started a tradition of writing one letter to each other every day that we are apart.  We are still continuing this tradition 12 years later.  Oh, and, I wrote the entire poem on a long role of paper ribbon which I then used to wrap the box.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Social-Spiritual Covenant of Leadership (2 Samuel 5:1-12)

The idea of the social contract is one of the most influential ideas in the history of government.  From the beginning of time, societies have formal or informal agreements between leaders and followers.  Socrates and Plato said that we have a moral obligation to obey the laws of our land as long as we choose to remain in the land.  Epicurus argued that justice is essentially the mutual agreement not to hurt each other.  
However, the social contract theory took giant steps forward among philosophers of the 17th century.  Hugo Grotius suggested that individuals have certain natural rights which enable us to live together.  Then, Thomas Hobbes argued that we choose to surrender some rights to a king or to a government to protect us from the loss of all rights in anarchy.  Next, John Locke took this theory a step further, saying that government only holds its power through the “consent of the governed.”  In other words, we all agree to keep our governments in power because that is essentially in our best interests.  Locke’s most radical stance was the right to reform the government to make it more effective in serving those governed.
This “consent of the governed” is a really important concept still today.  There are two types of consent - overt and tacit.  Overt consent is when the people choose their leader and submit to his or her leadership.  Tacit consent is when there is neither a formal choice nor a formal rejection of the leader.  Therefore, the people under the leader tacitly (or passively) accept the leader’s authority over them.
Now, hold all of this social contract theory in mind as we turn to our text.  What we will see today is a form of overt consent to leadership.  The people of Israel unite in their commitment to make David their king.  They form a covenant with David, which is a formal social contract.
Read 2 Samuel 5:1-12.