“The Temptation of Twofers” July 29, 2018
“The Temptation of Twofers”
2 Samuel 11:1-15/ Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21/ John 6:1-21
In the world of socially awkward moments, I think I have just found one that belongs in the top ten. Imagine, if you will, Jane and Joe. They’re a nice couple: they work hard and appreciate the joy of good conversation with friends. And so it was that when Jane and Joe received a flyer for the opening of a new restaurant in town, they immediately thought of the Martins and asked if they would like to join them. Good food, good conversation- this will be fun. The food was good and there was lots of it; so much so that both couples decided to each buy just one meal and split it. When the waitress brought the check, Jane reached in her purse and pulled out the flyer that said, “Special introductory rates! Buy one meal, get the 2nd for $1.00.” At this point, Mr. Martin reached in his wallet, slapped a dollar bill onto the table, and with a big grin said to Joe, “This oughta’ cover it. Thanks so much for inviting us along. This has been great!” Yeah, that’s awkward.
For the last 8 Sundays, we have been reading from the Gospel of Mark. Today begins another series, if we dare call it that. It’s a series that will be devoted strictly to the 6th chapter of John. Our reading today is John’s version of the stories that were left out of last week’s text from Mark – namely the feeding of the 5000 along with the story of Jesus calming the waters of the Sea of Galilee. It’s interesting to note that this story is told in all 4 of the gospels, which is not always the case, but I have to say that my favorite version will always be from the Gospel of John. I like it best because John gives us so much more detail. It speaks to the actual miracle sure, but it also speaks to the human condition and the somewhat selfish ways that we act when faced with the generous nature of the divine.
At the same time we are continuing our study of the rise to greatness of David, the lowly shepherd boy. Today’s text from 2 Samuel tells the heartwarming story of King David who (vs 1) In the Spring when Kings go off to war, finds himself hanging around the palace with a little bit too much free time on his hands. You know, I can’t help but to find it funny and frustrating at the same time that our biblical heroes are so…. well, flawed. “Idle hands are the devil’s tools,” so they say, but surely this shouldn’t apply to David. Let’s face it, David had everything. His enemies fell before him and his people loved him. And David was well aware of the source of his good fortune. The Lord God had chosen him to restore the nation of Israel. Surely he had to know that God could take that away. But that’s the nature of temptation. It’s all around us and if we go looking we won’t be disappointed. Like Sam Levinson says, “Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it’s at; we’ll find it.” In most cases, like David, it starts with a feeling: a feeling that this thing I probably shouldn’t be doing is going to make me happy, is going to make things better, is going to straighten up this mess. The next thing you know, like David, you’re scrambling to cover your tracks saying, “What was I thinking?”
Believe it or not, this temptation thing can be found in the story of the feeding of the multitudes as well. John’s account in particular gives us a hint that Jesus is trying to teach us much more than the fact that the creator of the universe can… well, create stuff. It’s all about how the crowd reacted to God’s abundance that got my attention. Upon seeing the crowd Jesus asks Philip, “Where are we going to buy bread to feed these folks?” It was a setup – he was pushing Philip’s buttons here. The rest you know: “It’ll take a half years wages to feed this gang,” he says. No mention of the fact that the nearest town is miles away, but that’s not the point. The point is we can do this. With God’s help, we can do this…and they did. But the lesson that hit me right between the eyes was how the crowd reacted. Did they rise up in a collective attitude of worship and praise? Did they let this example of abundance wash over them and change their hearts and minds to become followers of Christ? Not hardly. No, in John’s account they plotted to grab him and make him their king. With one breath they confess that this is the Messiah and then with the next breath they were saying to each other, “We can use this guy.” Here was their meal ticket, here was their escape from poverty and sickness and disease. Here was their two for one deal of the day, and it’ll only cost you a buck. The temptation of bowing to a king to step in and take care of your needs is nothing new. But if there is anything to be learned from the teachings of Christ it is that he didn’t come here to fix us. He came to save us. He came that we might find new life and new hope in the power of the Spirit. And he died that we might live. And you know what, that’s a pretty good deal – for us. A pretty good deal that God sent his only son that whoever believes and trusts and abides in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. It’s the ultimate two for one; all this, and all we have to do is believe. The question is, what do we do with this gift, this abundance?
Well, we go on living our lives; of course, we do. But do we live them in fear there will never be enough? Or do we live a life of abundance in Christ? Paul, in his prayer to the Ephesians, understood this all too well. I’d like to close with this prayer, paraphrased if I may, from my heart to yours. I ask the father in his glory to give to you the power to be strong in spirit. He will give you that strength through his Spirit. I pray that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. I pray that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love – how wide, how long, how high, and how deep that love is. Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love so that you will be entirely filled with the fullness of God. With God’s power working in us, he can do much, much more than anything we can ask or even think of. To him be glory in the Church and in Jesus Christ for all time, forever and ever. AMEN
This is our gift: God’s abundant gift of Christ. I don’t know about you, but knowing that makes the temptations of this world seem kind of lame.
Peace & Shalom