2 Samuel 11:14-17, 26-27; Matthew 1:1-16
December 27, 2020
— God’s Redemptive Power
This is one of the most beautiful sermons I have ever preached, and it
has nothing to do with me. No, the beauty is found in the subject. It should
always be about the subject. This sermon is about grace or the most
powerful way that we can experience God’s love. Imagine for a moment
that you are a plate or some other kind of piece of pottery. I know that is a
bit of a strange image but stick with me for a minute. As (let’s say) a piece
of fine china, you have a bad day and end up shattered on the floor. You
might think that is the end of your life of usefulness. You might think that
your part in this world is over except for as junk.
But you may have heard that God doesn’t make junk. The extra page
I gave you is four pictures of mosaics. A mosaic is a beautiful and
interesting artform that has been around for a very long time. It is ancient
and can be found in many ancient places and are still being made today.
Since they are simply pictures, an artist can make a mosaic depicting
anything that you can also paint. What makes mosaics different, however,
in that a mosaic is made up of lots of little pieces, each with different shapes
and colors. You look at the whole picture to get the image, and they can
certainly be beautiful, but when you look closely at a small section, you see
that the individual pieces are not that pretty but are often broken shapes of
material. It is easy to imagine how the first mosaic came into being.
Someone broke a piece of pottery, but before they threw it away, they
realized that they could make a new shape out of the broken pieces. Just
arrange the broken pieces in certain ways and make all kinds of pictures.
Lots of shapes and colors brought about a whole world of mosaic
possibilities. All of the sudden, trash became art and became valuable.
Whole businesses came about because of this. While in Israel, I once
visited an ancient town where we found what looked like an ancient mosaic
store. They had examples of random mosaic patterns all over the floor that
did not go together except as examples of patterns that you could use in
your own home. It was a home décor place, the ancient Lowes or Home Depot.
Back to the page I gave you. For those listening or watching on
Facebook, I will have this page with our post for this sermon. The two
pictures on the top are from the church where Jacob’s well is located. That
is the well where Jesus had the conversation with the Samaritan woman in
John 4. You can see a picture of Jesus himself and a mosaic of the well.
The bottom two mosaics are from a town near Nazareth where we can
easily imagine Jesus worked with his father growing up. This town is
known for its wealth of art and mosaics. The woman’s face is referred to as
the Mona Lisa of ancient world. The other is just a lovely example of people
in activity where you can see the detail of this kind of art. One day I will be
able to have a presentation of this pilgrimage to Israel and will show you
many more beautiful and wonderful things from this part of the world.
I hope the point is clear here. With pieces of broken things, you can
still pull together beautiful and enduring art. Beauty can come out of
brokenness. This is such an important lesson for me but also for David.
Throughout the season of Advent, I have been considering different
families and lessons we might glean from how the Bible tells us their
stories. We looked at Adam and Eve, Ruth and Naomi, and Zechariah and
Elizabeth. All of these families somehow also point to the coming of Jesus.
Today, we are considering one of the worst stories in the Bible: King David
and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
We heard the story. King David was at home rather than being out
with his forces. He spied Bathsheba and was consumed by her beauty, so
much so that he had her husband killed so that he could have her for his
own. This is such a terrible story, especially for someone who is supposed
to be such a hero of faith. And the story only gets worse. They conceive a
child, but they are not allowed to have the child who dies before it can know
life. David is crushed. The rest of his reign somewhat seems to go downhill
from there, but David and Bathsheba (whom he has married by this point)
do conceive, again, and have a son named Solomon. And yes, that is the
same Solomon who becomes king after David.
Here is the mosaic. There is a lot of brokenness here in this story:
lives, dreams, virtue, faith, actual people, hearts, and all kinds of things.
David is raked over the coals by Nathan the prophet for this stunt. God is
furious, but God is also faithful, even when we are not. He made a promise
to David about something – that he would establish David’s throne forever – and God was not going to back out of that.
David never lived to see it, of course, but nearly 1000 years later, a
young girl and her fiancé from Nazareth travelled to Bethlehem for the
census. She was close to her due date but made the trip anyway. Maybe
she was nervous about being without her husband at home. Maybe she
wanted to make sure she delivered her baby with her husband there. For
whatever reason, they made the trip to Bethlehem together, but the only
place they could find for shelter was an animal cave where they had their
baby boy, and the only bed they had for him was an animal feed trough.
Matthew tells us part of this story, but he begins his gospel with the
history of Jesus’ family – his genealogy. We looked at this passage a couple
of weeks ago when we considered Ruth and Naomi’s story. Now we need to
see the whole picture. It is vital to Matthew that Jesus is the son of David
as well as the son of Abraham which is how he begins. Matthew makes that
really interesting move of naming women in Jesus’ genealogy which no one
back then would have done. Matthew not only names women, but they are
scandalous women in Jesus’ Jewish family tree up to Mary. Tamar is a
foreigner who tricks Jacob, her father-in-law, to have a child with her.
Rahab is a prostitute in Jericho, Ruth is another foreigner, and then there is
the situation that is so bad that Matthew cannot even name her. Everyone
who knows the story knows that the mother of Solomon was Bathsheba, but
Matthew won’t let us get away from the fact that David killed Uriah in order
to get Uriah’s wife. The tragedy that haunted David lives on for centuries,
even up to the birth of Jesus.
And that is the beauty in all of this. The horrible decisions and
horrible abuses and horrible violence of David that led to lives being lost
and much suffering were also the ground from which God brought new life
and possibility. The horrible ugliness that is the story of David and the wife
of Uriah is also the link that God created in the chain of Jesus. God the
Father brought something beautiful even out of the brokenness of such
While I have never done what David did, I know I have done plenty of
sin and wrong in my life. My actions are touched just as much by evil as
David’s were. We have all done things offensive to God’s holiness, but since
we can see God did not abandon David, even in that fractured part of his
story, we can also remember that God will never, never, never abandon us
and that God will bring good out of the mess we make in our lives in this world, even if we will never live to see it ourselves.
In thinking about this I was reminded about the story of Louis
Zamperini and his life as a Japanese POW in WW2 dramatized in the movie
Unbroken. He faced extreme persecution and torture, including by one
Japanese officer in particular. When he finally made it home, Zamperini
was almost undone by his own brokenness until he realized the only way
forward was for him to make peace with the people who tortured him, even
the officer who treated him the worst. Zamperini went to Japan with
healing and forgiveness and good will in his heart. Even though the worst
officer refused to meet with him, Zamperini still publicly forgave him. He
was able to recognize the humanity and love of God in even his worst
enemy. That is a profound picture of grace coming out of extreme
There is always hope for us in God’s grace. None of us deserves to be
so loved by God, but nothing we could ever do can make God love any of us
any less, and God’s love for us is so full that nothing we could ever do could
make God love any of us any more. This love is already complete and
perfect so that anything we face in this world, no matter how evil or wrong,
can even become a part of God’s picture of love and grace. Even if we never
live to see what the goodness of God creates, we can be certain that all
things can be healed, even the broken limbs of God’s family tree. To God be the glory. Amen.