Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
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Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
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The Promise

December 18, 2011:

Text:           2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16
Closing:        Luke 1: 26-38

                                The Promise

This message has a different ending
        than what I expected to share with you
        when, on Oct. 31 I decided to speak on this scripture

But then again it is different than what I expected to share with you
        When on Thursday I read and prayed in preparation for it

For on both October 31 and on December 15
        I anticipated sharing a reasonably routine message
                About how God kept God's promise
                By sending God's son into the world.

After all, The Sunday School program is today
        And who is going to remember the sermon
              Even one that would have been worthwhile and of value.
             And hopefully interesting as well.

But on Friday morning, for whatever reason
        Perhaps because having gotten up shortly after 2:30 AM
To deal with the broken window and sign vandalism
I did not have the strength to
lead my ideas as to the message
        which were fine and appropriate
                        to a triumph over God's ideas
                                which were better and more needed.

Sometimes, we can hear God best when we are tired and weak.
The scripture is the story of God's covenant with David.

We only heard the 16th verse when we lit the Advent candle.
        This is the rest of the story:  [2 Samuel 7: 1-11, (12-15) 16]

What God told Nathan to convey to David
        Involved a play on words

The Greek word for "house" could mean
        "house" as a home,              as a temple,    or as a dynasty

So in essence God - through Nathan - told David three things:

        First:  You do not need to build me a house
                House in the home sense,
like David had already built for himself
                House also in the temple sense
                        Like other nations had for their gods

In saying this, God pointed out to David that he (God)
had not asked for either a dwelling place or a shrine

The second thing that God - through Nathan - told David was

        "I will, however, let your descendent build me a house."
                And here the meaning of the word "house" is ambiguous, questionable, and debated

        It might be a temple
Certainly David's son Solomon interpreted it that way for he built a temple for God
It might be a home for God,
Certainly after the temple was built
the Jewish people began to interpret it that way
For they began to see it as     "where God resided"
        But the most interesting way might be to interpret as "a dynasty"
With David's descendents
including adopted descendents like us -
as building materials
And with God ruling forever.

        And the third thing God - through Nathan - told David was

        "Furthermore, I will build you a house."
                Here it certainly meant a dynasty
A dynasty that would rule forever,
                For David already had a home
                        So that is not what God would have built
And David was not a God,
so there would be no temple for him.
                And, of course most clearly, God told him
                        "your house and your kingdom
shall be made sure forever
and     "your throne shall be established forever."

Having said all this, God then told David
        That there will be times when I punish your descendents
        But I shall not take my steadfast love from them.

This promise of a God empowered Davidic dynasty
was important to the Jewish people of David's day
and to the generations that followed.

But they began to question that promise
        When the Babylonians overran Jerusalem
                Destroying the temple
                Placing someone other than a descendent of David on the throne
                And taking many of the best and brightest into exile
When no descendent of David sat as king in Jerusalem:

Some felt that God had broken God's promise
Some felt that God was too weak to keep God's promise.

But still, the promise provided hope for many of those exiled
        Hope that this exile was simply a punishment
And     hope that God would keep the promise
                By sending the anointed one
a messiah descended from David

This hope helped them endure the exile and the difficult days after some had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple.

And you and I know that in the birth of Christ
        God fulfilled that promise,
                Sending his son to be our Lord and our king.

You and I know that God kept that promise
        And that we can count on all of God's promises
You and I know that God is steadfastly reliable
        Christmas is dramatic evidence of that.

That could have been the lesson with which we concluded Advent.
Originally, in fact, I had intended it to be.

However, on Friday, I became increasingly aware that there was another lesson here
        A lesson that is easy to overlook
                As we smugly sit back to open our Christmas gifts
                And give verbal thanks for that first Christmas gift
                     And for the fact that we can rely on God's promises.

That other lesson is the lesson that we who live in today's society need, but hear less frequently.
The lesson is that not only
has God taken the godly promises seriously
and approached them steadfastly,

But that in doing so,
God has given us an example of what we need to do
                When we make promises to God
                When we make commitments to others.
                        To our spouses, to our children
                        To our employers and those with whom we work
                        To our churches and the people in them

For keeping promises and fulfilling commitments
is not just something that God does
It is something that God expects us to do as well.

There are examples all around us of people doing that
        I think of historical examples
                Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine
                        Keeping their promise
to hold the flank at Little Round Top "at all costs"
        I think of personal examples
                My father caring for my mother during the last few years of her life, remembering,
That in their marriage
He had professed to love her and care for her,
   in sickness and health; in good times and bad

One of the gifts wrapped in the Christmas swaddling cloths
        Was the assurance that God keeps God's promises
Another
Was the example that you and I are to do the same

I pray that seven days from now, you and I will give thanks for
        Both the assurance and the example.