Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sermon: Wednesday of Reminiscere (Lent 2 Midweek)

15 March 2006 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: 2 Sam 13:1-22

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

The script-writers in Hollywood have really missed out by not reading 2 Samuel 13! Why, here is a story line that could give Crash, Brokeback Mountain, and Transamerica a run for their money in terms of “left coast values.” Indeed, this chapter in the Bible is not what we would normally consider “family devotional reading.” In one chapter, we have incest, rape, and fratricide (that is, murder of a brother). We also have deceit, intrigue, and a family so dysfunctional that not even Dr. Phil would know what to do.

And this is in the Bible! This is the family of Jesus!

Yes, indeed, sin is always lurking about the family of the promised Messiah, as the devil tries to confound the ancestors of Jesus and snuff out the Christ centuries before his birth.

For this lurid and yet true story isn’t preserved for us by the Holy Spirit and read to us this day for the purpose of appealing to our base desires to hear filthy and violent stories. And yet, here it is.

This dreary chapter of Scripture is a gift from God, not only to warn us about sin, not only to assure us that even the most seemingly pious and holy family is plagued with scandal and shame – but most importantly, this chapter tells us about Jesus!

How can this be?

One of the titles of the Messiah is the Son of David. And just as all of the heroes of the Old Testament are dimly-drawn foreshadowings of the One to come, even the fallen in their own way point us to the Savior. For just as Jesus is a New and Greater Adam, a New and Greater Moses, a New and Greater Elijah, he is also a New and Greater Son of David.

The past two Wednesdays, we have learned how the sons of David were weak, fallen, sinful men – and yet their stories point us to the coming Son of David who would be without blemish, whose death would not be a result of his own sin or stupidity, but of his love for us who are sinful, stupid, and fallen.

Today’s reading is the same.

For David’s beloved firstborn son, Amnon, whose name means “the faithful one,” falls short in ways that Jesus does not. Amnon transgresses where the Law forbids him to go. He is tempted by his fleshly appetite, and he falls, he yields to Satan’s lure, and he is ensnared in its web. This is in sharp contrast to Jesus, the truly “Faithful One,” who would likewise be tempted by the fleshly appetite as he fasted in the desert – only he was to overcome that temptation by hurling the Word of God at Satan, thus entangling the devil in a web of the Faithful One’s making.

Whereas Amnon sins by seeing not a sister, but rather an object of lust, our Lord Jesus looks upon all Christians as his mother and brothers and sisters. Amnon has no regard for his father, who would be terribly hurt and scandalized by his family’s conduct, and the consequences of this horrific sin. But look at our Lord, who obeys his Father’s will, faithful even unto death, an act of reconciliation for all of the children of God. Amnon’s selfish act of lust divided and destroyed his family, whereas our Lord’s selfless act of love bound every baptized Christian together into a New and Greater family, a family connected not by a family tree, but rather by the Tree of Life!

Consider poor Tamar. She was entirely innocent. She didn’t entice Amnon. She didn’t seduce him. She resisted him, but was overcome by force. Listen to her pain as she pleads to her brother not to rape her: “Where could I take my shame?” Even though she is the innocent party, she will be tainted physically, psychologically, and spiritually by this act. She will likely be treated as an outcast. She weeps and wears ashes in her pain.

An innocent woman bears the shame and devastation of sin.

But consider another woman, the adulteress brought to Jesus, whom the priests were going to stone. She too had nowhere to take her shame – except perhaps to a painful death and a scorned grave. While not innocent, she was about to pay the ultimate penalty for her sin. But what does Jesus do? He shows mercy on her. He takes away her shame and her guilt. He places her sin onto his own body, and remits her sin. He tells her to go and sin no more.

Through the New and Greater Son of David, this woman, this “sister” of our Lord, though guilty, is relieved of her shame and the devastation of sin.

In the case of Amnon, Tamar, and Absolom, the effects of their sin ripple outward, intensifying, until more violence would erupt. Absolom (a son of David who is described as being “without blemish”) is filled with rage. He seeks revenge. In the remaining verses of this chapter (which are not part of this evening’s reading), two years pass, and Absolom tricks his father David into allowing Amnon to accompany him on a business trip. Absolom orders his servants to slay Amnon – David’s firstborn son.

David’s family is left in tatters. The firstborn is dead. Another beloved son is a murderer and on the lam (and he would later rebel against his father and would be found dead hanging in a tree and pierced with spears. But this is another son of David for another time.

But look at how Jesus is truly the Son of David, the “one without blemish.” If anyone had reason and justification for revenge, it would be Jesus. He was rejected by the religious experts of his own people, was deserted by his own followers, was betrayed by one of them, was permitted to be tortured by a cowardly Roman governor and an effeminate deviant puppet King of Judea. He was tortured amid a mob of his own people, all for sins he never committed. But does this New and Greater Absolom, the Son of David who is truly without blemish, lurk and wait for revenge? No indeed. Instead, he prays “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And while he too hangs in a tree, and is pierced by a spear, he is no rebel. In fact, he obeys his father’s will even to his own death. As the hymn proclaims, he is the “Lamb who goes uncomplaining forth.”

Of course, it’s easy for us to throw stones at David for being such a poor father in many ways, and to throw stones at Amnon for his selfish lust and violence, and to throw stones at Absolom for his vengefulness and rebellion, but we dare not, for as we pick up our stones, we can hear the Word of our Lord, the true firstborn, the true one without blemish, the true Son of David telling us that whichever one of us who is without sin may indeed cast the first one.

For we too are lustful, violent, vengeful, and rebellious. And while our sins and scandals may not be written down in the best selling book of all time, nor will they likely be read in public places three thousand years after the fact, we know of our own dark side. We know full well when we look into the mirror of David and his family, we see our selves looking back at us – and it isn’t pleasant.

Like the father of this dysfunctional family, we need a shepherd willing to proclaim law to us, to call us to repentance. Like David, we need to come to grips with the accusing finger of the Law that says: “you are the man.” We need to be willing to confront the Amnon and Absolom that lurks within us. We need to admit that we are as frail and wretched as they are, trapped in our sinful flesh, and without hope. Well, not really without hope. For the New and Greater Son of David rescues us just as he rescued the adulteress. And like King David, we can sing “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!” And this, dear friends, is only because of the sacrificial death of the New and Greater Son of David.

Let us pray again and again, “Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner!” Let us again and again return to the font, where Jesus disarmed the stone-throwing devil. Let us hear the words of absolution that flow freely like the blood and water from Jesus’ side. Let us eat the flesh and drink the blood of the crucified and risen Son of David, so that his victory is our victory, his purity is our purity, his eternal life is our eternal life. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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