Sunday’s Sermon – What Will We Do?

15Aug

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, August 14, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia You can find other sermons, devotions, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

2 Kings 7:3-11

Now there were four leprous men outside the city gate, who said to one another, "Why should we sit here until we die? If we say, `Let us enter the city,' the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; but if we sit here, we shall also die. Therefore, let us desert to the Aramean camp; if they spare our lives, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die."

So they arose at twilight to go to the Aramean camp; but when they came to the edge of the Aramean camp, there was no one there at all. For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots, and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, "The king of Israel has hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to fight against us." So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys leaving the camp just as it was, and fled for their lives. When these leprous men had come to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent, ate and drank, carried off silver, gold, and clothing, and went and hid them. Then they came back, entered another tent, carried off things from it, and went and hid them.

Then they said to one another, "What we are doing is wrong. This is a day of good news; if we are silent and wait until the morning light, we will be found guilty; therefore let us go and tell the king's household."

So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and told them, "We went to the Aramean camp, but there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied, the donkeys tied, and the tents as they were." Then the gatekeepers called out and proclaimed it to the king's household.

What Will We Do? 

Well, this morning we bring to a close this sermon series we started five weeks ago. Now, as y’all remember, it’s been sort of centered on a fishing theme, and in particular, how we’ve been called by Jesus to be fishers of people. And during each sermon, we talked about an aspect of what that really means. For example, in the first sermon, we looked at how we’re all here because someone “caught” us, you know, taught us about God and Jesus and stuff like that; therefore, Jesus has actually called fish to catch fish, which kind of makes sense. I mean who better to catch a fish than another fish. That was week one. And in the second sermon, we focused on the reason it’s really important for Christians to get out and share what this Jesus business is all about. I mean, since Christianity focuses on a man and not an idea or a concept or a principle, the only way people can know about Jesus is for someone to share the stories. And that was week two. And in the third sermon, we talked about how sharing the stories, sharing the truth, man, that takes courage, because every time we do it, we’re running a risk. And for that reason, we looked at how we might follow the example of those earliest Christians and pray for courage. That was week three. Now, at that point, we were half way there, because in the fourth sermon, we considered how we don’t have to do it alone, because if we’re expected to go up to folks and say, “Let me tell you about Jesus,” we’re probably not going to do it. Instead, God has put us in a Christian community that has the potential to reflect Jesus to the world; therefore, if we’ve got our act together and we’re become the kind of people Jesus has called us to be, we can simply invite folks who don’t know about God or Christ just to come and see. That was week four. And then during the last sermon, we talked about how, in spite of our best efforts to muddy the waters, the good news about Jesus, in other words, the message we have to share, is really, and I mean really simple. It involves knowing two things: that we’re loved by God and that God came to us as Jesus. And it involves doing two things: namely trusting God and loving him and one another. That’s it. That’s what separates Christians from everyone else. And that was last week. Now that, in a nutshell, is where we’ve been.

And even though I think we’ve covered some pretty important ground, there seems to be one issue remaining, one that frankly will determine whether this series was positive or just a lot of words. You see, some where down the line, we’re going to have to decide how we’re going to respond. I mean, in light of all this stuff, what will we do? You see, that’s still a question that we haven’t answered.

And I’ll tell you, because it’s still hanging out there, that’s the reason I think this passage from 2 Kings is perfect for this morning. But to understand everything that’s going on, I think we’ve got to think about the context a little bit. You see, way before any of this happened, y’all need to know that the people of Israel had divided into two countries: the Kingdom of Judah in the south and the Kingdom of Israel in the north. And the capital of Judah was Jerusalem, and the capital of Israel was city called Samaria. Any way, right before the passage we read, Israel, the northern kingdom, was at war with a nation called Aram. It was around the modern country of Syria.

Well, the war was not going well for Israel. As a matter of fact, they were getting their clocks cleaned. And at this point, the Aramean army had surrounded the city of Samaria, you know to starve it into surrendering. And according to what it said in the passage right before our story, it was really working. Now, I probably shouldn’t say this right before the picnic, but according to the writer of 2 Kings, “as the siege continued, famine in Samaria became so great that a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.” Yes, that’s what it said, bird poop. I bet you can hardly wait to dig into the chicken up here. But that’s not even the worse of it. Man, they were actually eating one another, and so, as we enter the passage I just read, things were really bad in Samaria.

And if they were bad for the people in the city, image how bad it was for those four lepers at the city gate. Now granted, nobody wanted to eat them, you know with the leprosy and all, still, nobody was going to feed them either. And that’s why they felt as though they really had three options. One, they could enter the city, you know, where they famine was, and people were eating donkey heads and dove dung and their friends and neighbors, and if they did that, they would die. Or their could sit there, outside the city gate, and if they did that, they would die. Or they could go to the camp of the Arameans, and if the enemy spared their lives, they might live. But if the Aramean decided to kill them, they would die. Those were their options.

And so, they picked the only one that offered any hope. They got together their rags and whatever body parts that had fallen off while they were sitting, and they left. And when it was just starting to get dark, they went over to the Aramean camp, but as they got to edge, they saw that there was nobody there. Now, we, the reader know why. God caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses, and they assumed that Israel had hired the Hittites and the Egyptians to attack them, and so they all ran away. And they ran so fast, that they left all their stuff behind. And that’s what these four lepers found. And when they saw all this stuff that the Arameans had left, I think one thought went through four leprous minds: party. Like it said, “when these leprous men had come to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent, ate and drank, carried off silver, gold, and clothing, and went and hid them. Then they came back, entered another tent, carried off things from it, and went and hid them.” You see, these guys had stumbled on something incredible, but it wasn’t because they were faithful and it wasn’t because they were intelligent and it wasn’t because they’d done anything to deserve it. They had received this magnificent gift as a result of God’s action that they didn’t even know had happened.

And it was right here that they faced the same kind of question we face. What would they do? But this time they had two options, didn’t they? You see, on one hand, they could have kept it all to themselves. I mean, they could have continued to go from one tent to another, eating as much food as their stomachs could hold while the people in the city were eating donkey head sandwiches and dung burgers. And they could keep on hiding gold and silver and causal wear in the sand so they wouldn’t have to share it with anyone else. Now that’s something they could do. Or, on the other hand, they could go back to Samaria and tell the people what they now knew, that for reasons they may never understand, God had saved them. Now that was their choice.

And of course, we know what they did. Remember, according the writer of this book, “then they said to one another, ‘What we are doing is wrong. This is a day of good news; (I love that, “this is a day of good news.”) [and] if we are silent and wait until the morning light, we will be found guilty; therefore let us go and tell the king’s household.’ [And] so they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and told them, ‘We went to the Aramean camp, but there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied, the donkeys tied, and the tents as they were.’ Then the gatekeepers called out and proclaimed it to the king's household.” You see, the lepers had to make a decision, and they decided to share their “day of good news.”

And I’ll tell you, we’re at that same place ourselves. Right now, we can recognize that for us, this is also a day of good news; because today we know that we are loved by God and he showed that love by entering our time and space as Jesus Christ. And we’ve decided to trust that his love is real and that we have the chance to love others. Now, that’s what the day means to us, but maybe not for the family living next door, r the person in the other office, or some of the other folks we see every day.
It’s not a day of good news, because they don’t know what we know, and they haven’t been asked to do what we’ve done.

And for that reason, right now, we can decide that we’re not going to stay quiet about it. I mean, we can muster up the courage to do what we’ve been called to do. And that’s not to hide out behind thick walls and stained glass and hope someone stumbles in the door, but rather we’re going to take the good news out into the community our community, out to folks who desperately need to hear something that’s positive. And we know that doing this kind of thing will be whole lot easier, once we’ve all decided to put aside all the stuff that we’ve allowed to separate us and to start working together to make Cove the kind of place where we can invite people to come and see Jesus. And building that kind of community, that kind of church, I’ll tell you right here and now, I think we all know that it has less to do with the kind of music we sing or the order we follow or the building we use. Man, this stuff is secondary at best. Jesus called us the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Folks will see Jesus in us through the gospel we share and the faith we claim and the love we show, especially the love we show one another, because if we can’t even love one another, man, there’s no way anybody’s going to believe we love God or our neighbors, regardless of the words we use.

You see, as we’ve been talking about over these last five weeks, we’ve been called by Jesus to be fishers of people. But now we’re still left with a question, what will we do?
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