Presence of the Lord

Mark 6:14-29; 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

Sermon Presence of the Lord

Good morning! It was so good to see so many of you in church yesterday for Bob Saylor’s memorial service. I know that Patsy was very happy with the way everything turned out. It made me proud to be your pastor as I saw all the love and support you showed her with your presence.

As many of you know, the history of the Presbyterian Church is one of division and reunion. The largest schism in the church occurred just prior to the Civil War, when the church was divided over the question of slavery. The church split into the United Presbytery Church and the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Those two branches finally reunited in 1983, which is when we adopted the name Presbyterian Church, USA.

At the same time, the newly named PCUSA issued a document called “A Brief Statement of Faith.” It’s part of our Book of Confessions. It’s a statement of our shared beliefs. It begins with a simple declaration: “In life and in death we belong to God.” It’s such a plain and simple statement of our common identity.

This is going to sound strange, but it’s true: I love a good funeral! While it’s always difficult to say goodbye to a friend or loved one, at a good funeral, we are reminded that the person who died belongs to God. In life and in death. We are reminded that we all belong to God, in life and in death. And in the process, we are reminded that we are all connected to one another.

I felt that sense of connection yesterday at Bob’s funeral and I hope those of you who were there felt it, too. I certainly hope that Patsy felt it. I believe that that sense of connection, that feeling of belonging, that’s the Holy Spirit in action among us. That’s the presence of the Lord.

In our reading from Second Samuel, we see King David dancing before the ark of the Lord—you know, the ark of the covenant. Now, thanks to George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and to a lesser extent, John Williams, I don’t need to explain what the ark was. But I need to tell you why it was significant.

The ark was the sign of the presence of the Lord. We see the ark in the beginning of this morning’s lesson because it is a sign that God is present, is with the people called Israel. David had recently succeeded in uniting all the tribes of Israel. His armies carried the ark with them into battle as they defeated the enemies of Israel and Judah. These victories, along with the ark, were a sign to all the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel that David was the true king.

Remember, David was anointed king as a young man, long before he ascended to the throne. He was anointed when Saul was the king of Israel, but really, Saul was king over the northern tribes. And he didn’t exercise his power in a fair and judicious way. David was only anointed king after God lost confidence in Saul. But even then, it was many years before David was truly affirmed by the people as their rightful king.

In today’s reading, we see the proper response to the presence of the Lord: “David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals” (2 Samuel 6:5). They celebrated the presence of the Lord with music and song and dance. They expressed their joy in the best way possible. Literally, they rejoiced!

Yet not everyone was rejoicing. David’s wife, Michal, was enraged: “As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16). She despised him in her heart. On that day, Michal was NOT rejoicing.