I promise to keep your words.
I implore your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
2 Samuel 9:1-11:27
David has been an ardent warrior, bravely facing mighty foes. And now, while his army is fighting somewhere else, he is lounging at home.
He notices a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, and he desires her.
Bathsheba's husband Uriah is one of the soldiers now at battle.
When Uriah returns, David is not able to trick him into providing an alibi for Bathsheba's pregnancy. David sends him back to battle, to the forefront of the hardest fighting.
We can see in David's sin many echoes in our own time. People who have demonstrated great ability, devotion, and talent to getting to the top then misuse their gifts. They become willing to harm many people.
As you read this story, imagine yourself as each of the characters. As David, what gifts have you benefited from? Have you misused your status? How does a middle-aged person overcome temptation?
As Bathsheba, how do you resist the advances of someone much higher in status to you? To whom can you turn for support?
As Uriah, how do you measure your loyalty to someone you have deservedly respected at times when that person has behaved in such a way that he has damaged that respect?
Go back and read Isaiah 5: The farmer worked very hard to make things right for that vineyard. Yet, the vineyard was a disappointment. The farmer responded.
Here in John's Gospel, the vineyard again is used as a metaphor: The branches that don't produce fruit are removed from the vine. The branches that do produce fruit are pruned so that they will produce more.
Consider the effect on your community from what your church congregation is doing. Would that community be better or worse off if your congregation pruned some of its actions and practices from the vine?
If the answer is "better off," then what further pruning would make the effect even better?
Continuing the metaphor of the vine, Jesus has just said that those who abide in him will bear much fruit. He then points out what happens to branches that do not bear fruit.
He is reminding us of the futility of the church trying to make it without adhering what he said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
Michaella Bruezella points out in Sojourner's Commentary the challenge in this command:
Indeed, our hardest task is not loving one another, but doing so as Jesus did—recognizing each person’s ability to receive God’s grace, and then serve as its ambassador to the world.When we have suffered loss, when we fear disruption in our community, when we don't feel in control of what is happening or is going to happen, we still need to heed that command, "Love one another as I have loved you."
Remember, Jesus was preaching to people living in hard times, and John's gospel was written to people who knew loss and were facing more difficulties. To these people, at that time, came the command to love.
To be able to withstand difficulties and disruptions, we must love one another--and remember what love looks like.
The plans of the mind belong to mortals,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All one's ways may be pure in one's own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
Prayer for Today: God, we give you thanks for the many ways that you have shown your love for us. Help us now to recognize how we can share that love with others--even those others that don't agree with us. Amen.