Message Delivered on August 2, 2015
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a “No Shame”
Have you been to a ball game, a meeting or any kind of public gathering where someone stands up, says whatever they feel like saying off the top of their head–and then–sits down not worrying a bit how their words or actions will impact the people in the crowd?
People seem to be at their worst when they travel. It is one thing to be seated next to a mom whose child is hollering, but babies are babies. What about the person next to you who chats incessantly? Nancy’s dad used to say that some people rattle like an empty wagon, making lots of noise and saying nothing relevant. What do you do when your seatmate on a plane, train, or bus clips their toes nails, or a mother changes a baby and stuffs the dirty diaper in the seat pocket next to yours? These things all happen– and then some. Flight attendants could fill volumes on their experiences. Recently, a new URL has been created: Passenger Shaming.com, in which smart phone pictures have captured the behavior of passengers and they have been posted on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The pictures show piles of newspapers and other trash, passengers sleeping with their feet between the seats of the passengers in front of them–no shoes or socks–bare feet in the aisles and other obnoxious views. The site is supposed to be a deterrent for bad behavior. Whether or not it works remains to be seen.
In the account of David and the prophet, Nathan, Nathan paints a word picture for David about a rich man taking a lamb from a poor man and David is greatly agitated, espousing that the perpetrator deserves to die for his crime. David had behaved badly by abusing his power when taking Bathsheba for his pleasure and then manipulating her husband, Uriah, to assure his death on the front lines of battle. David then wants justice for the poor man whose lamb was taken from him and Nathan lowers the boom stating, “You are the man!” Nathan does not need to spell out the details. Everyone sees and knows, except David, who is oblivious to the consequences of his actions. Many, or most of us, sometime behave in ways we do not immediately see as a problem for the people around us. We can become frustrated with those who drive while being distracted by talking on the phone–until we get an important phone call about a family emergency–and then resort to Bluetooth headsets to chat while driving. How about sitting in a restaurant next to someone whose phone rings constantly while you are trying to carry on a conversation with your dining companion?
What happens when you are venting to a friend about a bad experience with someone who likes to gossip–and then–whoa! Lights and bells go off when you realize that you are guilty of hypocrisy as you gossip about that person, passing judgment on him/her? We are so good at seeing the bad behavior of others and missing it in ourselves.
After David’s wake-up call, he realizes that not only has he been blind to his own bad behavior, but he has also been blind to the blessings of God. Nathan’s “story” about the rich man was a reality check for David. He had begun to think that he could take whatever he wanted without consequence, including the wife of another man, if only for an afternoon–or if it could be arranged–even longer. Nathan reminded David that it was God who made him king, who kept him safe from Saul when he tried to kill David and who gave him all his riches, including his wives. If David wanted more of anything, all he had to do was to ask God .
In the moment that David spotted Bathsheba bathing on the roof top, he was not thinking about how incredibly blessed by God that he already was–or the huge flocks he owned, or the protection he received as king. All he saw was what he wanted and he put everything he already had in jeopardy. Do we lose sight of what we already have and in a weaker moment, make a grab for more?
Years ago people dressed up to get on a plane or to take some kind of public transportation. Things have certainly gone a long way in the opposite direction. Some have forgotten what they have in our modes of transportation and have lost the ability to appreciate it for what it is. It is easy to avoid casting ourselves in the role of David as the sinner. We want to see the sins of others and to be charged with pointing them out. We are not Nathan. We have not been called to fulfill his difficult job of advising David. To David’s credit, he repented. His prayer of repentance is found in Psalm 51.
There is an old story about a Catholic priest who was hearing confessions. Nothing the priest heard that day was out of the ordinary…until one man walked in, sat down and quietly closed the door. The man told that he had not been to confessions for many years. He had systematically stolen building supplies from the lumberyard where he worked for many years and no one had noticed. The priest asked, “How much do you figure you stole in all those years?” The man replied, “Enough to build my house, a house for my son, and one each for my daughters.” The astonished priest replied, “That is a lot of lumber.” The man responded, “Did I tell you that we also had enough left over to build a cottage by the lake?” In a stern voice the priest continues, “What you have told me, my son, is very serious. I need to think of a highly demanding penance to give you. Have you ever done a retreat?” The priest was wondering if the man had ever gone to a prayer retreat to contemplate his life’s plans and outcomes. “No, Father, I have not,” said the man. “But if you get me the plans, I can get you the lumber!”
Some people have no shame. We can all laugh at or be disgusted by someone else’s poor behavior. It is so easy to see it in others. Yet, when it comes to our own bad behavior, we often do not see it. David needed God, through Nathan, to point out his sin and to remind him of all that he had. We need to be open to the voice of God telling us about our bad behavior.
We all have sin in our lives and have forgotten how blessed we are. There is no time like the present to repent. Read Psalm 51:10-12. Amen.