Celebrate Good Times!

2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5 – October 25, 2015

The Ark of the Covenant. Do any of you get visions of Raiders of the Lost Ark in your head? I really struggled writing this sermon this week and toyed with the idea of just playing that movie. The Ark of the Covenant held the 2nd tablet of the 10 Commandments and was believed to be the place where God lived. Literally, they believed God lived in this box.

And newly knighted King David unites Israel and Judah – brings the people of Israel back together – and then brings God home to Jerusalem, the City of God. And they dance. They celebrate. They praise God like crazy because God moved into the neighborhood. No wonder they were pumped. They danced with all their might, scripture says.

They danced with all their might because their separation and division was over.

They danced with all their might because the bloody warring would stop, at least for now.

They danced with all their might because God remained faithful to them.

They danced with all their might because God was home now.

We could make dangerous assumptions right about now: God is favorable to them and prefers them to any opponent, even the Philistines. Or because they were faithful, God rewarded them. Or that God loves them and only them.

And possibly, probably, this is what the people were thinking. That God favored them by giving them David as their king and bringing them back together. And you can’t really blame them. Their celebration of this turn of events makes sense.

But do they know what it really means to have God back in the hood? Do they know what it means to have God at the center of their lives, not just the center of Jerusalem? I’m betting the answer is no because the time they were emerging from was a time when they were ruler-less. It was the time of the Judges – the time setting of last weeks story of Ruth – that is neatly summed up in the last sentence of the book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.”

All the people just did what they wanted. Which seems perfectly reasonable, right? Until what another person does hurts you. Or you hurt them. If the reigning mantra is doing what’s right in your own eyes, it doesn’t take long for that to slip into doing what’s right for your own self and only your own self. So pretty soon, people start to realize it’s not a good policy and they start to yearn for a king who will certainly make life better for them. So they ask Samuel to give them a king. Samuel was a good judge, who was dedicated to do his work in honor of the Lord and played a major role in helping the unification of the kingdom of Israel. So the people demand of him to appoint a king and he knows, in his bone of bones, in his heart of hearts, that a king won’t fix their situation. Samuel prays to God about this and God tells Samuel that appointing a king is as good as rejecting God…yet God tells Samuel to go ahead and do it anyway.

The first king is Saul and that is not a dull story. It’s HBO-worthy complete with murder, revenge, delusional thinking, sex and war. Kinda like Game of Thrones, I’d imagine. Yet, in the midst of it all, God is still there. God does not abandon that hot mess nor does God abandon the people in today’s reading.

Of course the people are excited that David is their king. Of course they are excited that God is going to live in their city. But right away we know that perhaps their loyalty is more toward their human king than the King of all the nations and all time. We all joined our voices in these telling words today: Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.

They do mention God in this affirmation of David’s leadership, but I suspect they are more ready to worship David than God.

We all suffer from this tendency, right? We have just begun the long slog of presidential campaigns with candidates promising to save us from ourselves or save us from the Philistines. And some days we believe them, don’t we? But we will always be let down by them. Those promises will be broken. The dream will vanish. The leader will fail us.

Which is what we should expect, being Christians. What I mean by that is this: we gather to worship God together and one of the first things we do is ask for forgiveness from God. And then toward the end of our worship, we approach the table and meal that gives us a physical remembrance of the gift of forgiveness and mercy. Our faith, our very religion called Christianity is based on the undeniable fact that we will screw up.

I, as your pastor, as a public religious leader, will fail you at some point – or already have. This gathering of people called River of Hope is not perfect. We will hurt each other. It is what we do after the failure that matters the most. Will you stick around and be part of this River of Hope community even after I or someone else has disappointed you, let you down, failed you? Will you stick around to experience forgiveness not from our own might but from the work of God through Jesus Christ? It’s like nothing else you’ll ever experience.

David, the advisor who would cheer up King Saul through music and dance, would eventually fail a whole bunch during his reign as king of Israel. Yet, we know he was a good king. We know he was successful. We know God was in his life.

Our scripture today doesn’t deal with forgiveness through Jesus Christ. It’s about the start of a promising leader who trusted in God. It’s about a leader who brings God back to the people and places it at the center of their lives. And it’s about the people’s response to what God has done.

That’s the Good News of this scripture today, folks. God is not trapped in the Ark of the Covenant but is set loose to be involved in our lives – central to our lives. This God is with you when you fail and when you succeed. God is in the midst of your great days and the terrible, terrible ones. Proclaiming faith in God and praising God often messes up your life even more. God is set loose from that box and we are never the same.

This is the God who claims us, loves us, and is always quietly or obnoxiously at work in our lives. It’s enough to make you wanna dance with all your might.