Belmont Heights United Methodist Church
Worship April 23, 2023 - Sermon - On The Road Again
  • Echo
  • Because He Lives
  • The Servant Song
  • Goodness Of God
  • An Unexpected Response

    Now, David had just received the news of the death of Saul. A foreigner had brought the news, even the crown, to David. David’s arch enemy was defeated. This story didn’t quite match up to the cause of Saul’s death recorded in the last chapter of 1 Samuel. Perhaps this young man wanted to find favor in David by claiming to kill his enemy?
    Whether the Amalekite was relaying a fanciful story that did not depict Saul falling on his sword or whether he was telling the truth and he finished him off, it doesn't matter. It was the intent of the messenger that became the problem. He announced with glee and gloat the death of Saul and whether he actually killed Saul or simply took advantage of an opportunity, he did so trying to gain favor out of the death of the king. David wasn't having it.
    Everyone expected David to rejoice at the passing of his enemy, Saul. Instead he offers a lament, a funeral dirge. David the hunted, now David the King, is filled with sorrow at the death of those that were hunting him.
    Life can get complicated that way....

    It’s Complicated

    The relationship between Saul, Jonathan, and David.. well as one possible Social Media status would say, it’s complicated...
    David recognizes Saul as both his enemy… and his King.
    So David laments...

    How The Mighty Have Fallen

    “How the mighty have fallen”. This is a phrase we often say with a bit of glee and gloat ourselves. Often used when a powerful person, who we must admit, we love to hate, falls from power and grace. We snarkily say, “My, how the mighty have fallen.” Like the young Amalekite, we can’t wait to get together with friends and share our mutual disdain and vicarious triumph. Dripping with sarcasm, we pretend to be shocked or upset. When in reality, we are really hoping that their tragedy makes us “right”, moves us and our own ambitions up a peg or 2.
    But this is NOT how David used this phrase. It is clear that this is a lament. A funeral dirge.This phrase was not only used in sorrow and to acknowledge God’s anointing on Saul, but to humbly remind David himself that life’s tragedies befall even the mighty. That even his own greatness was God given and fleeting in comparison with God’s creation. That all we are and all we do belongs to God.
    In contrast to the gloat and glee we and the Amalekite might want to express at our enemies’ downfall - we must remember that they, too, are created by God, in the very image of God, loved by God, and redeemed by the Grace of Jesus. How the mighty have fallen, should be our lament, lest, we too, fall into the trap of celebrating another’s sorrow and tragedy for our own gain.

    Slings and Arrows

    And it’s hard. For so often those that we are called to love are the same ones who only bring the slings and arrows in our lives. Yet, from David, to Jesus, to the Aposlte Paul - the calling is to Love our enemy. Saul had been defaming David - then resorted to hunting him - quite literally chasing him with slings and arrows. He tried to kill him on several occasions. David had to go into hiding, into exile.
    Then Jonathan, his best friend, decided that his loyalty to his father, Saul, outweighed his love for David. David was betrayed by those he loved. Yet instead of responding with gloat and glee, he responded with lament and sorrow at the news of their death. He responded with compassion for those that loved Saul and Jonathan, as he did. He responded with empathy, For what should have been. For what could have been. For opportunities to reconcile, now lost.
    Can we, like David, respond with compassion and empathy, even when dodging the slings and arrows thrown at us?
    What is...


    Loving the unlovable
    Loving our enemies
    Who is our enemy?
    Who is our neighbor?
    Compassion is loving someone to their higher selves. It requires mercy and accountability.
    Compassion is NOT letting someone get away with something. It is showing somone the way OUT of their path of destruction.


    Seeing our enemies as God sees them - created in God’s own image. Empathy is Honoring all humankind as God’s own, even if we or the world see them as “the other”. It is walking in the other person’s shoes for just a moment. It is far more profound than sympathy - something done for or to someone. Empathy requires a walk WITH. Empathy requires letting go of our own ambitions and journey and taking a detour to pick up those who may have lost their way. In in doing so, we may just find that we, too have lost our way a bit - and by walking together, we can find the Light. Sympathy is passive, distant, and the first step. Empathy requires getting up close, personal, active, and a journey with.
    And we must respond with this Compassion and Empathy now. For as David discovered in his lament, it is..

    Too late for the dead

    David mourned Saul and Jonathan - remembering their anointing by God. There is not a single person we can look at that God does not love - even our enemies. David doesn't gloat over the defeat of Saul - rather he mourns. David now only remembers the love of Jonathan, not the betrayal.
    That was the essence of David’s lament. It was now too late. Death had come in its finality.
    In ministry, pastors are often counseling those who believe it is too late - too late to apologize, too late to reconcile, too late to respond in love. The wounds are too deep. The transgression too much.
    We gently remind them, and ourselves, if truth be told it is..

    Never too late for the living

    Can our soul wait for the Lord? Can we wait, hold aside our propensity to gloat over another’s tragedy, just long enough to see even our enemies with the loving eyes of our Creator? In our darkest places, in our deepest valleys, can we cry out, Lord, forgive us, as WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US?
    Can we truly love and pray for ALL? Our family? Our friends? Yes, even our enemies?
    Can we wait for the Lord, until our soul is satisfied that this Love, this Grace, this mercy, is here. It’s not too late. For any of us living.
    Can our very souls love with the compassion and empathy of a Child of God, seeing our neighbors as God sees them?



    Incline our ears, Oh Lord, to hear the cries of Your people, to respond in Love, and to remember there is not a person we see that You do not love.
      • Luke 24:13–35NRSV

  • Here I Am To Worship