Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sermon: Wednesday of Christmas 1 – 2010 Feast of King David and St. Thomas of Canterbury

29 December 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: 2 Sam 7:1-16

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Exactly 840 years ago this evening, a murder took place. But this was not an ordinary crime scene, for the victim was Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury. He was killed by four knights while he was conducting the service of vespers at his cathedral. Knowing they had come to murder him, the archbishop refused to run away and calmly chanted the service even as he was being brutally slain at the altar. According to an eyewitness, Thomas’s last words were: “For the name of Jesus and for the protection of the church, I am ready to embrace death.”

It was a crime that shocked England and all of Europe. For murders are not supposed to happen in churches, and certainly not bishops during services. Worst of all, this murder was instigated by the king himself, who did not like the fact that the archbishop would not do whatever the king told him. Thomas saw Jesus as his true king, and King Henry was not happy to play second fiddle to anyone – not even God.

Ever since that day, St. Thomas Becket has been a hero to every churchman who has to choose between doing what is morally right and doing what is politically expedient.

Along with being the Feast of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr, today is also celebrated by some Christians as the Feast of King David, the psalmist, prophet, and king.

Interestingly, King David, like King Henry, was responsible for the death of an innocent man. The lowest ebb of King David’s life involved the ordering of Uriah into battle so as to leave Uriah’s wife Bathsheba a widow – freeing her up to marry David. David’s repentance and confession before the prophet Nathan is the source of Psalm 51, which we sing to this day in our liturgy as the offertory: “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”

For kings have the power to kill and inspire others to kill. Kings can easily lead and be led into sin. But the beauty of King David, the thing that makes him truly majestic, is his willingness to repent. Unlike King Henry, David does not try to control the one whom God called to, in turn, call the king to repentance.

When David sought to build a temple for the Lord, the Lord spoke to Nathan the prophet and ordered David not to build the temple. It was not God’s will for David to build it. And even though it diminished his own glory, King David obeyed the Word of God as sent through the prophet.

For the Lord spoke to David, telling him that God has no need of a house. He promises David that “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.”

Indeed, the violence of King David and of King Henry continues to this day. Our fallen world limps along waiting for the Son of David – the Lord served by Archbishop Thomas, the one spoken of by Nathan the Prophet – to come and institute peace. But that time is not yet here.

And God goes on to tell David that the day would indeed come when the Lord would permit a house to be built for Him – though it would be completed by David’s Son, a Seed “who shall come from your body, and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build a house for My name and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to Him a Father, and He will be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him.”

David’s imperfect son, King Solomon, would indeed come from David’s body, build the majestic temple in Jerusalem, and sit on David’s throne. He would also be disciplined for his poor judgment in the matter of his wives – and yet the covenant would remain with Solomon and his descendants forever.

But David would have another royal Son, a perfect Son, who would likewise come from the body of David. And in fact this greater King’s body itself would be the true temple, the one to be destroyed and rebuilt on the third day, a living temple of the Holy Spirit and not made by human hands. And though this new and greater King would not commit iniquity, He was destined to bear the iniquity of the world, take the “blows of the rod of men and the stripes of the sons of men.” And though He would pray from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” we know – even from Psalm 22 which our Lord was praying at this time, a Psalm of David, that the Lord has not forsaken Him. And in fact, in the Lord’s crucifixion and death, which is His victory over death, the prophecy is being fulfilled: “Your throne shall be established forever.”

Indeed, we worship a King that is greater than David and greater than Solomon. For the Lord Jesus does not commit murder to take that which is not His out of lust, but rather suffers murder to save that which is His out of love. Similarly, the Lord does not seek political power through idolatrous marriages, but rather remains true to His bride, the Church, being the King of the kingdom not of this world.

And our King Jesus, our Savior, inspires Thomas Becket not merely to do that which is right, but to entrust even his very soul to the hands and care of His Lord Jesus, His Savior and His King.

Let us ever honor St. Thomas and St. David, for they both served the King and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ. Both confessed their sins, both led a life of repentance. Both served the Lord in their respective callings – David in a palace and Thomas in a cathedral. Both died in the faith, putting their faith in the God they worshiped – trusting not in their own righteousness, but rather in the One who came to us in the manger and who died for us at the cross.

And if we are ever called upon to die for the sake of our crucified Lord Jesus Christ, let us commit ourselves to our Master as did both St. Thomas and St. David, and let us pray “The Lord is My Shepherd” along with both King David and Archbishop Thomas, knowing that we need not fear any evil, not even in the shadow of death. For we know that our Lord has overcome all evil, He who is our Light and our Life, now and even forevermore. Amen.

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

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