So as I mentioned in my earlier post, I think we can bring people into the sermon process and make it more communal by letting people see, comment, and engage a sermon manuscript before it is finished. Below is my finished manuscript. In my case I did not preach all the words below because I improvise as I tell stories, etc. The sermon itself is available on ITunes under Parkwood Baptist Church, Annandale, VA.
Spaces and Places Sermon Series
Kidron Valley: Shadows – Following God in the way of Jesus is new life!
August 15, 2010
Parkwood Baptist Church
Once upon a time there was a young boy. He lived on in this county with beautiful green grass and plenty of forest with many other people. He and the other people were very merry and very happy though they had a rough life. One day the boy was out scavenging for food and noticed a deer. The boy took his bow and arrow, set his sites, and released. The deer came down and the boy was thrilled. There would be food for everyone tonight. The young boy thought to himself, “I must hurry. The Sherriff has outlawed killing a deer on his land.” Too late. The Sherriff’s men were looking for him and now they had caught him breaking the law. All he wanted was some food to feed the people sense they were starving. The boy immediately thought’ “I’ve got to get away.” After a short run the boy realized he wasn’t going to get away from the soldiers so he climbed a tree and luckily, Robin Hood appeared. He jumped in and took care of the soldiers and the young boy got away.
Many of you know, recently, my wife had our first son and I’ve all sorts of time to think about life. It is amazing what one can come up with in the middle of the night with a fussy baby. I came up with the above one night. I thought to myself, who is wrong? The boy who steals a deer from the Sherriff’s land to feed himself and his community that is starving or the Sherriff that withholds food from these people? I wondered what I would do in the hypothetical situation that if my son needed medicine because he might die that we could not afford and CVS had access to, would I steal it if CVS wouldn’t give it to me? I think I might do something like to save my son if put into a life or death situation. But, is CVS right in withholding the medicine from my son?
Don’t we ask this question in our everyday life too? How will we respond when we desperately need something but we know it would be wrong to take it, or do it, or live that way? Ours might be more simple like deciding whether to give the extra change back to the clerk. Are we not faced with these types of choices everyday?
The last four weeks we have arm chair traveling with Pastor Mike. What a tour it has been. We visited the Garden of Eden and learned that God created all and made us unique. We’ve stood at the summit of Mt. Moriah and learned to trust God. We glimpsed Jabob resting his head and naming that place Bethel because all creation is the House of God. Last week our chains feel off in Egypt as we learned our God liberates us from sin and sets us free. This week we journey cautiously through the Kidron Valley where we learn following God in the Way of Jesus leads through death to new life. Join me in the Kidron Valley. The Valley of the Shadow of Death.
There is this story in the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel when King David and his sons journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and take all of Israel with them. Amnon, son of David, came to obsess over the sister of his brother Absalom. With the help of his adviser, Amnon feigns illness to get Tamar alone in his bedroom. The plot unfolds and Amnon, playing sick, cries out, “Send everyone away and Tamar, bring the bread you have made for me to my room.” Amnon, being stronger overpowers his brother’s sister and rapes her. When Absalom discovers what has happened to his sister a great shadow passes over him and he never speaks to his brother Amnon again. Scripture tells us that over the next two years Absalom hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar and devises a plan to lure the son’s of David to his land in order to kill Amnon. The feasting begins at Absalom’s home with all of his brothers. Over the course of the party, Amnon becomes intoxicated and Absalom gives the order to his men. Amnon died that night a slave to the sins he committed. Word arrives back to David that his son Amnon has been slain and that Absalom has fled to Geshur where he stays for three years.
The beginning of this story is one of coveting or lusting and revenge.
Don’t we all have this problem? Don’t we all covet, lust, and take revenge?
Have you ever watched some children play? Once in awhile one really goes a bit overboard. So I’m watching these kids play in a church nursery. “Oh, how cute!” I think. “Vrrrmmmm, vrrrmm, vrrrmmm, one races the fire truck around the room in a sloppy, this toy is too old for me way.” “Building blocks, I’m building blocks,” another one might be thinking. “I just love Luke Skywalker, really it was a stuffed animal but I like Luke better,” one child thinks to themselves. All of a sudden a little girl playing with her own toys gets up, walks over to each of the kids in turn, takes their toys and puts them with hers, and sits down with them all. She didn’t even play with them. This is when it gets good though, one of the kids that had her toy stolen walks over to get her toy back, which is not being played with by its new owner, and reaches down to grab it and the little girl whom stole the toys whacks her!
These types of problems only increase as we get older. Think of terrorism. One group needs something. The other has it so they take it so the group that needs it takes it. The victim of the theft retaliates and someone in another person’s family is killed. Well the family that stole something to start, retaliates and kills a family member. This goes on and on until we have people sneaking around blowing each other up.
Do we not all have these problems in our lives and around the world? Do we not covet, lust, and take revenge?
The story in 2 Samuel goes on. Absalom has been away for years and scripture tells us David longs for him. The Kings advisor sees David’s longing and devises a plan. He sets it up so this old wise woman comes to ask for David’s judgment in a case. “King David, please hear my case,” the woman asks. David says, “Tell me the story.” The wise woman then responds, “I had two sons. They got into a fight and one killed the other son. Now my whole family is clamoring for me to kill my last son. I don’t want to kill him. He is my only son. Please decide if I have to kill my last son.” David thinks for a moment and says,” Tell your family that the King’s word is that your last son shall not be punished unto death. He shall live.” Here is where the wise woman gets her name. “King David, may I ask a question? Why then do you not do the same for yourself. If this is a good judgment for me is it not the same for you?”
David realizes his longing and sends for Absalom to come home after years away but David does something inexplicable that we all do. He says Absalom can come back home from Geshur but he cannot be seen in the King’s sight.
The middle of this story is one of floundering in the tension between the Way of Death and the Way of Life.
What would it be like if God never passed judgment?
David’s son does evil against his sister and another son then kills him, doing evil in return or taking revenge. David’s response as the one to pass judgment is to make no judgment at all. First, he let’s Amnon get away with the rape. Then he let’s Absalom get away with murder. Then has Absalom come home because he longs for him but won’t let his son see him to say you’ve been bad or good job.
One of my favorite shows is the Cosby Show from the 80s. One time Theo sneaks out to go to a concert that he was told he could not attend. The funny thing is he never gets into the concert. Well Claire and Cliff find out are waiting all night for him to come home. They want to know he is okay. They are worried. Theo finally comes home and they parents send him to his room until they‘re ready to give him his punishment. Theo knows he has done wrong. Well imagine if they just left him up in his room? What if no judgment was passed. Theo would probably get angry eventually and Claire and Cliff would become anxious and everyone is in limbo. David leaves Absalom, himself, the family, and Israel in limbo. He sends Absalom to his room but never tells him to come out for judgment. So this situation festers for years and years.
There is something really cool about the geography around the Kidron Valley. It is right next to Jerusalem. You see Jerusalem stands up on the hill to the west of the Kidron Valley while the Kidron runs north/south right next to it. We have the light, the “footstool of God,” the City of God, literally next door to the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The tension between light and shadow is literally right in the geography the same way it exists in our lives. The tension between stealing medicine to save one’s son or to let him die; another grave sin when the it is possible to save the boy. Do we choose to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death or do we walk in the light? We must choose everyday.
Eventually, Absalom sets King David’s advisor’s field on fire because he so mad. “I am so mad that David hasn’t called me in to pass judgment. Am I off the hook or not?” David is finally forced to see Absalom and forgives his son. Absalom doesn’t forgive David though. For the next 40 years Absalom waits at the city gate with his retinue and every time a petitioner comes to see David for judgment he let’s them know they’ll not even get in to see the King. If only he were the judge he could decide in their favor. So all Israel comes to love Absalom. The plot unfolds and Absalom heads back to Geshur with 200 spies. He sends the spies into Israel and they manipulate events in such a way that the whole country is behind Absalom. David receives word and must abandon the city of Jerusalem. The City of God. The light on the hill. All of David’s household retreats and they leave by way of the Kidron Valley. The Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Kidron Valley represents the Way of Death.
In the scripture David pauses in the Kidron Valley. It seems like David’s family had paused in the Kidron Valley for the last several years. They were not walking in the light. The chose the Way of Death. I know David looks back to Jerusalem as Absalom’s forces move into the city. He sends the ark back, to be housed there. He prays that all will be well until he can return if it is the Lord’s will but for now he must pass through the Kidron Valley, the Way of Death, into a new life.
The end of the story teaches us we must die to our old selves to have new life.
How often do we walk through the Kidron Valley? The Valley of the Shadow of Death?
The real question is do we emerge on the other side? David emerges and sets off into the wilderness for a time. If you want to find out the end of the whole story you can find it in 2 Samuel 15-17.
You know Jesus passed through the Kidron Valley a number of times. One time his friend Lazarus was dieing and he needed to come to him. He left Jerusalem and crossed the Kidron and on the other side Lazarus was raised from the dead. Another time he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane when soldiers came to arrest him and escort him through the Kidron Valley to his trial where he was condemned and crucified. Of course, three days after passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death he was raised to new life.
It is following God in the Way of Jesus that leads to new life.
Jesus came to teach us the Way of Life. When we live in that way we too will not only emerge from the Kidron Valley to new life but we will give new life to others as well. As the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus, when we walk in his Way we have life eternal.
I have answered my question about what I would do if my son needed medicine and somebody wouldn’t give it to him. Of course they commit a sin in withholding it but if I steal it I too walk in the Way of Death. My answer is each of you. If you walk in the Way of Jesus you will be the hands and feet of God in giving me son new life.