Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blessings and Cursings

I “heard” a really tough sermon in church this morning. WOW!. It was a lesson I had not recognized in that text and it challenged me down right down to my core values. Using Pastor Jim’s talking points, here are some ways I would say it.

Whatever Jim called his sermon, he talked about contrasting “Blessings and Curses.” That is about as basic as you can get with life; you can bless people and the events of your life, or you can curse them. Either way, life goes on, but the reaction is mostly up to you: life becomes a blessing or a cursing.

Jim has been preaching out of the life of David. Today’s lesson came from 2nd Samuel 16:1-14. Vs 1-4 finds David in tough times, past sins catching up with him, his family in a mess, his son Absalom competing for dad’s kingdom … a real mess.

In v1 David meets Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, who is loaded with goodies for buying favors. Mephibosheth was the crippled son of Saul that David befriended years before. Mephibosheth has sat at David’s Dining table for years, under David’s protection because he respected Saul, as a man God honored, although he replaced Saul as king.

When David inquires of Ziba about his goodies, Ziba lies to the king, thinking to flatter him and curry favor, and maybe regain some of David’s floundering kingdom that had once belonged to Saul.

David accepts Ziba’s answer and extends to him a blessing … “all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours…” (v4). With that, David proceeds on his journey and meet Shimei, son of Gera. Shimei “came out cursing … threw stones…” and as he cursed him, he declared to David and his party, “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed and worthless fellow!” (vs. 5-7).

One of David’s defenders, Abishai, offered to cut off the head of this rabble-rousing critic, whereon David responded with a soft answer, a generous blessing, and words that perhaps acknowledged his own shortfalls: “What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the Lord has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’”

David responded … “…Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him. Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day… “So David and his men … arrived weary and he refreshed himself there” (vss 5-14).

While Shimei cursed and insulted him, David moved on; he trusted God and returned good to Shimei for his evil curses. When David was restored to his throne, and Absalom was dead, Shimei apologized to David for his bad behavior. David, rather than getting even, proved to be a giver instead of a taker. Again, he extended generosity and reconciliation, filled with gratitude to God.

The descendants of Shimei live among us today--in the family, in the office, and elsewhere. They are our critics and competitors, throwing dust, cursing and insulting us.

I liked Jim’s illustration of the 2nd grader. Mom and her 2nd grader are preparing valentines to send to his class mates. All goes well, and he signs each one she hands him, “Love, Jimmie.” … until Mom hands him a card with the name of “that girl” who is mean to him at school. He strikes out “Love Jimmie” in favor of something more fitting.

Wishing to share a “learning moment” with her son, Mom urges Jimmie to be kind to the girl; extend a blessing rather than returning the hurt feelings she causes him. She asks her son to protect the girl from the pain he feels and give her his blessing.

The lessons are obvious. Iranians imprison Americans. Muslims behead Christians. Wealthy Wall Street investors defraud a public that pays via default and is then insulted with higher tax rates because they lack the deep pockets for legal defense. Closer home, thorny issues become even more personal and hurtful.

From our international clashes, to our Wall Street occupation, to our local guerilla sniping in the office, or home, or across the backyard fence, the applications abound. Whether we strive with a sibling, or face our worst enemy, somehow the words of Jesus take new meaning as we hear him say. “if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same … But love your enemies, and go good, and lend, expecting nothing in return … and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" (Luke 6:33, 37, NASV).

You will bless people, or curse them, and we all do one or the other. What goes around, comes around, and it seems to me that life lives a whole lot happier when we bless people and circumstances rather than cursing them. Thanks Jim, for that word, I will intentionally focus more on what our mutual friend Berquist described as "The Miracle and Power of Blessing."

From Warner’s World, I am

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