Ephesians 4:1-16; 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a
Sermon Speaking Truth in Love
Good morning! How many of you watch the Food Network? When I want mindless entertainment, that’s usually the first channel I go to. I love any shows about travel, food, or cooking. Whether it’s Chopped! or Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, if it’s on Food Network and I’m bored, I’ll probably watch it. Though I usually don’t watch the baking competitions, because I don’t bake.
I do think that the cult of the celebrity chef is a little overblown, but I don’t watch those shows when I want to think. Most of the time, I watch them when I’m tired of thinking. We all crave mindless entertainment sometimes.
One of the shows I used to enjoy is called Restaurant: Impossible. It’s hosted by a celebrity chef named Robert Irvine. In this show, the cast and crew find a local restaurant that’s in danger of failing, and then Irvine goes in, seemingly unannounced, orders a bunch of food, and then tells the owners everything that’s wrong with their restaurant.
Then Irvine sits down with the owners and the staff and works through their various issues. Meanwhile, a team of designers and builders comes in and gives the restaurant a makeover. They have a budget of $10,000 and they have 48 hours to do the makeover. All of the action in a one-hour episode covers about three or four days in real time. It’s a very quick transformation.
On the show, Robert Irvine is like a therapist; a very in-your-face therapist. He would tell the restaurant owner, point blank, “you’re killing your own business!” He didn’t sugar coat anything. He wasn’t nice. He wasn’t gentle. He didn’t beat around the bush. I really enjoyed the show, particularly in the years before I went to seminary. Irvine’s approach is almost exactly the opposite of the tactic that the prophet Nathan employs in our reading from Second Samuel.
Last Sunday, we heard the story of King David’s most egregious sins; in today’s reading, Nathan calls David out for his crimes, but he does this very indirectly. Instead of getting in King David’s face and saying, “You have sinned before the eyes of the Lord!” Nathan tells David a story—a parable about a rich man and a poor man.
This parable is not like most of Jesus’ parables. In this case, there’s a very clear answer: the rich man has sinned against the poor man; he has caused great harm to the poor man. After hearing this story, David correctly identifies the guilty party: the rich man deserves to die for his crime and he must make restitution. Then Nathan pulls the rug out from under David. He says, essentially: Dude, you’re the rich man! You sinned against Uriah the Hittite! Only, instead of taking Uriah’s lamb, David took his wife, Bathsheba. And then David arranged for Uriah’s murder. David cannot make amends for his crimes.
Nathan was a prophet. That means that he speaks for God, from time to time. Which begs the question, why can’t Nathan just come right out and name David’s sins? There are two answers to that question.
First, the obvious answer is that David is the king. You can’t call out the king. A prophet who calls out the king might get ignored or exiled. Might. More likely, that prophet would end up like Uriah the Hittite. Dead. Kings have the power to silence the voices that disagree with them. Kings get to create their own reality, their own truth.