Sermon for 26 July 2009
As we listen for the Word of God,
let us pray:
God our maker,
you formed the world and all that is in it,
and you desire all people to share its plenty;
help us to look for the possibilities you bring,
that we may be fed by your justice,
for the sake of Christ. Amen.
2 Samuel 11.1-15
Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’
That’s Psalm 14.1, today’s psalm. Interestingly, it’s also the first line of Psalm 53, which is nearly identical to Psalm 14.
These are strong words. Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’.
Who are these people who deny God ‘in their hearts’, people that Psalms 14 and 53 call ‘fools’?
They aren’t automatically people who find it hard to believe that there’s a God. There are people who have intellectual problems with believing in God. Are they the people whom Psalm 14 names ‘fools’? Not necessarily.
Karen and I once lived a couple of doors away from an old man who has since died. He’d emigrated to Australia from Greece, and set his family up in a farm in central Queensland. Drought and poor prices had combined to drive them off the land.
This experience had left this formerly devout Greek Orthodox man to stop believing in God, and declare himself an atheist. In fact, he loudly declared himself an atheist to anyone who would listen. He had never forgiven God for what had happened. Every time we spoke to him, he talked to us about God, the God he couldn’t forgive.
Can you get the disconnection? He said he didn’t believe in God, but he couldn’t let God go. It seems to me that he had a relationship with God. He was angry with God!—very much like Job in the Old Testament.
Psalm 14.1 says, ‘Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”’ This old man said, ‘There is no God’ with his lips, but he didn’t say it in his heart. He still had a relationship with God. It was turbulent, it was troubled, it was conflicted. But he would not, could not, let God go. I saw him holding on to the God he couldn’t believe in, in his demand for God to be fair. It was possible to see something of God in him, even when he couldn’t believe.
So who are the ‘fools’ who say ‘in their hearts’ there is no God? Some of these fools are atheists. Some of them are Christians.
We read Psalm 14 alongside the story of David and Bathsheba. Now, maybe David was just taking in the air on the flat roof of his house. Maybe he’d heard about the gorgeous woman who lived just down the way and wanted to see if he could catch a glimpse. Whatever the case, it seems like his eyes just about fell out of their sockets the day he saw Bathsheba taking a bath.
That day, he acted as though there is no God. He made a deliberate choice to act as though there is no God. He planned in his heart to sin, and he said to himself, ‘God doesn’t care, God doesn’t matter.’ In effect, he said in his heart, ‘There is no God’. And David became a fool.
Bathsheba’s husband Uriah was fighting David’s war, so David had an opportunity. He took Bathsheba. What choice did she have? The king wanted her—she went.
Bathsheba became pregnant. To avoid a scandal, David recalled Uriah from the fighting so that he’d sleep with his wife. But here’s the thing: Uriah was no ‘fool’. He didn’t edit God out of his life—and he was a Hittite, not even an Israelite. He trusted God, and he had integrity. He wouldn’t go to bed with his wife while his comrades were out on the battlefield.
David was worried. Everyone knew Uriah hadn’t slept with his wife, and they could easily count back nine months once the child was born. So the next night, he got Uriah drunk to make it more likely that he’d go to his wife’s bedroom. But Uriah still wouldn’t go.
David was stuck. You know, when you start off down the wrong track thinking that God doesn’t matter, you can get yourself deeper and deeper into the dirt very quickly.
David didn’t want Uriah to come back from the war and make a fuss about what had happened. So he arranged for Uriah to die. And to add a touch of sinister panache, he go Uriah to take his death warrant with him—a letter telling General Joab to place Uriah in the thick of the fighting, then fall back and leave him on his own, where he would inevitably be killed. As he was.
Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’. At that point in his life, David was a fool. And he lived to regret it.
We may believe in God. But there are times when we are fools. We act as if there is no God. Our hearts betray our lips. We say there is a God, but our hearts say differently. People can see it by our actions. We become fools, and the scriptures warn us not to be fools.
Our society encourages us to be fools all the time. Look after number one! Be your own boss! Do your own thing! Use this deodorant/drive this car/wear this dress and life is yours. As if.
A Christian writer called Peter Rollins was once asked if he believed in the resurrection of Jesus. He’s a provocative thinker! Listen to what he says:
Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…
I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.
However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.
We could say the same about being a fool. There are times when we are fools, when our lives show that our hearts there is no God. Those are the times we turn our backs on those in need, when we remain silent in the face of injustice, when we centre our lives on ourselves.
And, thank God, there are times, few, yes, and far between, that we are not fools. Times we feed the hungry, give water to those who thirst. Times we realise that we are not saved alone but we are saved together—together with the poor and downtrodden. Our salvation means bending down so that others can stand up straight.
Are we fools? Yes we are. Our hearts are fickle. Are we fools? No, we’re not. God is changing our hearts to be more like the heart of Jesus.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus says, ‘I am the Bread of Life.’ Believe it! Trust him, as we come soon to the Holy Meal.
Let’s allow God to change our hearts. Let’s wake each day and commit ourselves to Jesus and his Way. It’s a daily discipline. Nearly everything you read, see or hear is taking you away from centring your life on God. Nearly every message you receive is teaching you how to be a fool who says in their heart, ‘No!’ to God. Many of your friends are people who have no idea that if they aren’t fools, they are dangerously close to it.
save us from foolishness,
and give us a real longing for Jesus,
the true Bread of Life.
Help us to long for your word
and hunger for your truth.
Help us never to forget that Jesus
is the food of eternal life.
Help us to feed on him always. Amen.