If Israel Was in Charge of the Olympics

July 30, 2012

If Israel Was in Charge of the Olympics

If Israel were to ever host the Olympics, I wonder what the opening ceremony would look like? Which stories would they tell? David would certainly be part of the story. He was the underdog, the young shepherd boy who was chosen to be king. How many times will the story of David and Goliath be used over the next two weeks? He escaped death at the hands of Saul. He unified the nation, captures Jerusalem, and brings the Ark of the Covenant to rest in the new capital city. David is a hero, but he is a tragic hero. Today’s story is when David’s narrative begins to change. He could not fail, and the power becomes corrupting. Soon after our story today David commits adultery with Bathsheba, he sends Uriah to the front lines so that he would fall in battle, and his family begins to unravel. Today’s story is the turning point when he begins to forget from whom his success came.

David is sitting in his palace enjoying rest from his enemies. He calls his court prophet Nathan, and says, “I am living in a house of cedar, but the Ark is living in a tent.” Nathan is fulfilling his role as court prophet well when he says, “The Lord is with you, so do what is in your heart.” This sounds innocent enough. David is enjoying peacetime and he wants to honor God. Well, have you received a gift you really didn’t want or need, and receiving the gift was more trouble than it was worth? It’s like when a family member gives your four-year-old child a drum for Christmas. True story. Wanting to honor God is not the problem. The problem is he didn’t bother asking God if this was what God wanted. Nathan wasn’t much of a help either. “Do what is in your heart. The Lord is with you.”

So, during the evening, God spoke to Nathan. God says, “Tell my servant, David . . .” Notice the language there. God did not say, “Tell the king,” but tell “my servant David, what I am about to say.” God says, “Are you the one to build me a Temple?” This response can be understood in more than one way. Some read this as God saying that it is not David, but Solomon who will build the temple for God. Another way to read it, which I think better fits the context of this story and I think, the whole of God’s narrative is that God did not want a Temple. “Are you the one to build me a Temple? Are you the one who is going to mess this up by trying to contain me in the walls of the holy of holies?” Listen to what God says—“I haven’t lived in a Temple from the day I brought Israel out of Egypt. Instead, I have been traveling around in a tent and in a dwelling. Throughout my traveling, did I ever ask Israel’s tribal leaders, ‘Why haven’t you built me a cedar temple?’” In other words, “David, I didn’t ask for a Temple.”

David is missing the point. First, he thinks he knows what’s best for God instead of allowing God to work through him. This is a lesson to those in Church leadership. It’s easy enough to gather and discuss what we want to do as a church. It’s a different question to ask what God is calling us to do. The other night we had a small initial gathering of River worship leaders to discuss where our community is heading. We didn’t ask how to get more people here or how to make the graphics better or how not to have a boring sermon as valuable as that discussion may be. The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, so we asked how we are fulfilling that mission. What is God calling us to become so that we can be even better at making disciples of Christ. So, over the next few months you’ll be seeing some new things here and there in the worship service. By the way, this is not an exclusive group. If you feel that God is calling you into leadership talk to me after the worship service. I am very interested in what God is saying to you. So, the first way David missed the mark is that he didn’t ask the toddler’s parents if they were interested in the toddler having a drum. He said, “Here, God, this is how I will honor you,” instead of “How shall I honor you.”

Secondly, David is missing the point of God’s story. After the Israelites were freed from Egypt they built a tabernacle so that the presence of God had a place to dwell with the people while they traveled in the wilderness. God desired to move from the fixed mountaintop of Sinai to be on the move with the people. God desired to pitch his tent and dwell among us. God’s story is a story of grace. It is a story of Prevenient grace. Rather than building a temple and having the people move to God, God desired to move toward his children. God moves toward us before we move to God. God’s prevenient grace calls us into God’s justifying grace. God did pitch his tent and dwell among us in the person of Jesus. God moved among us and showed us how to live, how to die, and how to live again. When Christ was crucified the curtain in the Temple which separated God’s dwelling from humanity, was torn from top to bottom. After Jesus breathed his last, God said, “See, not even death will keep me from you.” I cannot be contained with brick and mortar. Jesus is the temple and though humanity set out to destroy that temple, God rebuilt it in three days so that God could live with us always by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s Sanctifying Grace.

So, if the church were to be in charge of the opening ceremony of the Olympics, what would it look like? It would look like the cross because it in we see the story of God—God moving toward us in the flesh, God dying so that we might find life, God walking with us so that we might live the life we’ve found. Now we may not have acrobatics or pyrotechnics or Paul McCartney, but we also don’t have to wait every four years to tell the story. We are blessed to tell it and live it each and every day. Go and tell the story. Live the story. It is God’s desire. Amen.