You Will Shepherd My People 2 Samuel 5: 1-5, 9-10

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1 You Will Shepherd My People 2 Samuel 5: 1-5, 9-10 Over the past few weeks, we have been exploring the story of David as given to us in the writings of 1 st and 2 nd Samuel. When we left David last week, he was in a time of great grief and lament after the death of King Saul and his son and rightful heir, Jonathan. David loved Saul and had been loyal to him even though Saul had been trying to kill him. And Jonathan had become David s very dear friend. Even though the death of Saul and Jonathan solved some great problems in David s life (no one was trying to kill him anymore) and although it presented what some would have seen as a great opportunity David was nevertheless, heartbroken and he invited, even ordered, the people to lament with him. The story goes on to tell us that God directed David to go to the town of Hebron in Judah and there the people of Judah anointed David as their king. But meanwhile, another one of Saul s sons, Ish-Bosheth became king of the northern kingdom of Israel. War and intrigue continued and eventually Ish-Bosheth was killed as well. And so this morning we continue with the story: 5 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD said to you, You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler. 3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. 9 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces [b] inward. 10 And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him. As I listened to Whit s sermon last week, the text for this Sunday was also rattling around in my brain, knowing that I would be preaching on it this morning. And as I heard Whit speak about how David dealt with that great loss in his life; the death of his King Saul and his beloved friend Jonathan, and how it can teach us, the church, something about the importance of grief and mourning rightly observed in our own life and how it can teach us, the church, something about our role, our ministry of calling the people to lament and showing them how and joining

2 them in it I found myself thinking about how the story of David in this Sunday s text can also teach us, the church, something else about our role and our ministry and about our call in the world. The time following the death of Saul, was a time of great turmoil. The people had been through years of struggle and war. Strong leaders competed for power and loyalty. And now the people of Israel found themselves without direction and without a clear leader. They must have felt frightened and vulnerable with the threat of their enemies the Philistines, never too far from their awareness. But then there was David, and they saw something in David something that gave them hope. They remembered how David had watched out for them in the past, how he had fought their battles- with them, and for them. How he had somehow always had their backs. He was somehow like them, they thought. They shared the same roots. They still belonged to each other. We are your own flesh and blood they said. And they saw in David, the shepherd, that he had once been and somehow still was and so they went to him and asked him to be their shepherd too. And David made a covenant with the people and agreed to be their leader and king. There are numerous references to sheep and shepherds in scripture. These pastoral metaphors must have really worked because they show up repeatedly. To us sheep are quaint and sort of cuddly. We envision a lost sheep as kind of cute a sweet little lamb with big old sad eyes and maybe a sad little bleat. But then most of us don t really know much about sheep, do we? But in the time when the text was written, people knew sheep and many were shepherds. They were an everyday part of their everyday lives. And judging by the number of references to them, the sight of a lost sheep or a sheep without a shepherd must have been a pitiful thing to behold. Jesus told a parable about a lost sheep and a shepherd who left the rest of the flock-all 99 of them, to go on a risky excursion into the wilderness in search of that one that was lost. Matthew tells us that: seeing the people (Jesus) had compassion for them, for they were distressed and dispirited, like sheep without a shepherd. Matt 9: 36 A lost sheep must have been a pitiful thing indeed one deserving, almost requiring, a compassionate response. Jesus showed compassion for those who were like sheep without a shepherd and David did too and the psalmist tells us that the Lord is OUR Shepherd for we are often lost as well but we shall not want for the Lord, Our Shepherd, makes us lie down in green pastures and restores our very souls.

3 And as we look out at our community and the world around us today especially when we hear on the news of nine people being murdered, in a church, during Bible study because of the color of their skin (He wanted to start a race war, he said). How can we not see that there are lost sheep everywhere and the whole blame world is in dire need of a good shepherd? And how can we not share, if we truly believe it, not just in our empty words but in the fullness of our lives, that we know a good one, a good shepherd? And that this shepherd is the one who can lead them to still waters too and that surely there is goodness and mercy enough for us all. For if they do not find a shepherd here, they will surely find one somewhere else and they have and they do and as we confess every Sunday morning, sometimes even we follow a different shepherd. But we the church, as the body of Christ the anointed Messiah in the direct line of David are called to be that shepherd, as the hands and feet and heart and voice of Our Shepherd King, Jesus. And we, like David, are called to use our enormous gifts and the significant power and influence that, yes we still do have for the good of the community, the flock, the lost sheep around us, and among us. And to be a witness to the truth of the Good Shepherd we know by being the good shepherd and doing what good shepherds do. To guard, to feed, to nurture and protect the flock and to always remember that the shepherd exists for the sake of the sheep and their well being and not the other way around. The people of Israel had been through a great deal and they were lost and without direction like sheep without a shepherd but they saw something in David that gave them hope and so they came to him and submitted themselves to him and crowned him their king. The people of our time have been through a lot as well, and are still going through it. And if we have any sense at all left, then we surely know that we are lost too and in desperate need of a new direction. And so the question I ask of us this morning is this: when the people look at us, the church today what do they see in us? Do they see in us anything of what the people saw in David? When the people looked at David they saw in him one who was their advocate and protector. When the people look at us today do they see in us one who will watch out for them and always have their backs? Do they see in us one who will speak up for them and will join them in their struggles? Do they see in us one who will fight with them and for them when the going gets rough?

4 When the people looked at David they saw in him the shepherd that he had been and never ceased to be. When the people look at us today do they see any remnants of the Good shepherd left in us? Do they see in us the one who will guard and nurture and feed? Do they see in us the one who will drop everything and risk the journey to find the one who is lost, and will wade in to the mud and muck and lift them up and pull them out and lead them home and who might even care enough to go back and do the long and difficult work to drain the dang swamp so that they and no one else will ever fall victim to it again? When the people looked at David they saw in him one who, no matter how successful he was was still somehow one of them. When the people today look at us do they see in us one who knows them and cares what it is like to be them? Do they see in us one who will welcome them as family? Do they see in us one who will include THEM when we say the word US? When the people looked at David there was something about him that gave them hope. When the people look at us, the church, today do they see and hear and, most importantly, do they experience anything here that gives them hope? And when I say us, the church, I am not just talking about the church universal or the PCUSA or 1 st Presbyterian Hickory. And I m certainly not just talking about Whit and Heather either. When I ask, what do the people see in us, the church, I mean US, you and me for WE are the church that they see. There is much writing and wringing of hands these days about the decline of the church. Attendance is dwindling and the centrality of the church in our society is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, if it isn t already. Now I am certainly no expert on matters such as these but it seems to me that at least a significant part of the problem just might be that in a world in which so many feel lost and wandering in the wilderness we don t look, or sound or act much like a shepherd or at least not a good one. And until we do we can t really blame folks for looking someplace else. Our text today tells us that David became more successful and powerful because the Lord God Almighty was with him. His success was not because of what he did but because of what God did through him. The story of Saul shows us that in the end power and prestige don t count for much if God s hand is not in it. But God loved David and blessed what he did because David was after God s own heart. David, you see, not only loved God but loved what God loved. In our Christian tradition we might talk having a Christ-like heart. To not only love Christ but to love what Christ loves. To, like Jesus, have compassion for those who are like sheep without a

5 shepherd {which at least on occasion is pretty much everybody} and I for one believe that if we are to ever find our saving grace it just might be in this. It is not just about having the right dogma, or the right programs or the right music or the right worship style. But it is in having the right heart, to be after God s own heart, the heart of Christ the heart of a good shepherd. The people of Israel were frightened and vulnerable they were lost and they did not know where to turn. But then they remembered David and they saw something in him something that gave them hope. In some ways, not much has changed in the past 3000 years. We are just as lost and in need of a good shepherd as ever. Maybe more. But when the people of our time look at us, the church, the followers of Jesus, the anointed Messiah in the direct line of David do they see in us anything of what the people saw in David and do they find the love and compassion and hope of Christ in us? For if we do not find it here, in the church, then where on earth are we to turn?

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