Ready to Serve

Sermon Series: Pursuing the Heart of God

Ready to Serve

July 20, 2006 - July 23, 2006

1 Samuel 5:1-13; Luke 4:16-22

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Harry Heintz

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Will Prince Charles ever become King of England?  Is Elizabeth going to outlive him?  Has Charles been eliminated from consideration because of issues from his personal life?  Is Diana secretly living in Argentina (next to Elvis, maybe with Elvis?), and coordinating this so Prince William will be the next king instead of Charles?  David’s waiting doesn’t compare with that of Charles by length of years, but it does surpass it in other ways.  Several attempts were made on his life by the old king.  That hardly makes for a smooth transition, the kind we experience in this country whenever a new president is elected and takes office.  Not much could be smooth about this transition.  After making several attempts on David’s life, Saul took his own life, falling on his sword, when he saw that doom was inevitable.  He couldn’t hand the keys of power over to David.  But the people remembered how God used David.  He had actually been anointed by Samuel long before this.  Now his time to rule has come.


Was David really qualified for this?  He was not a son of King Saul.  He was not even the eldest son in his own family; he was the youngest of eight.  He was a skilled warrior, but that hardly makes one a diplomat.  He had been a shepherd.  Ah—a shepherd.  And the LORD said to [him], 'You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”  A new kind of national leadership is emerging.  It is not based on one’s height and looks, or even on one’s family line.  It is based on God’s calling and the distinguishing mark of it is a matter of heart.  God was looking for a certain kind of heart and he found it in David, a shepherd.  The most known and loved of all David’s psalms is the 23rd, the shepherd psalm.  David likens God to his shepherd.  I don’t think we can improve on that image.


 A few decades ago very large churches started popping up across our country, called megachurches.  Pastoring in such churches took on different shapes than in congregations of, say, 50-100 people.  I heard some people suggesting the shepherding might not be the right image for pastoring any more.  Some suggested that ranching was a better image.  A rancher today might have an airplane or helicopter to look over the vast acreage of the ranch and its many herds.  Then business models emerged for pastors.  A pastor could be a like a chief executive officer.  Another pastor might be like the chief financial officer.  Another might be chair of the board.  Sports gave us pastor as coach or manager or general manager.  All of these models have something to offer.  Pastors can learn from them—I have.  But a pastor without a shepherd’s heart isn’t going to be much of a pastor.  I’m blessed to be surrounded by two pastors with great shepherding hearts.  Kate and Chris bless you in so many ways and they bless me.  They help me to be a better pastor. 


The New Testament word for pastor is the same word as shepherd.  It is what God saw in David.  It is what God desires in all church leadership.  I love church growth.  I believe it is God’s intention for the Church of Jesus Christ always to be reaching more people, which means numerical growth.  We have experienced growth and I want it to continue.  But the essence of our pastoring will not change.  Nothing can replace the shepherd’s heart and the personal touch.  God called David to bring a new kind of leadership to Israel:  “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.”  Whatever your daily ministry is—whether as a student, a homemaker, a worker in a particular job, or a retired person—God wants the same shepherd’s heart to mark your marketplace ministry.  We are all called to the ministry of loving God and loving people with a shepherd’s heart and a personal touch. 


Jesus picked twelve of the unlikeliest people for his circle of disciples.  If they had been put through a psychological process to measure their aptitude for such service, the results may have sounded like this:  “Peter is emotionally unstable and tends toward spontaneous outbursts.  Andrew has no qualities of leadership.  James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty and have hot tempers.  Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that could undermine team morale.  Matthew’s work has been questioned by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau.  The rest are easily forgotten.  One of the candidates, however, shows great potential.  He is resourceful, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places.  He is highly motivated and ambitious.  We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.” 


The Bible is consistent is showing us that the people God calls are far from perfect.  David brought great promise, new energy, and a shepherd’s heart to his national leadership.  Yet he was far from perfect.  I hesitated in reading 2 Samuel 5:13.  I could have stopped the reading at verse 12 and it would have been just fine.  I was compelled to add verse 13:  “After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him.”  There was an understanding then that kings would have many wives to form political alliances.  That was the commonly understood.  And it was wrong.  It was an excuse for unfaithfulness and it was wrong.  Today, as in all days, marriage is subject to many interpretations.  Some want to revise it, to change the rules, to open marriage. 


Last month the General Assembly of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church, USA, met and made decisions.  Some articles and headlines have been misleading.  There has been a clear statement in our denominational constitution for some years.  It was upheld again last month.  Here is what it says:  “Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church.  Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.  Persons refusing to repent of any self acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament."  (Form of Government, G-6.0106b.)  The media may have led you to believe that those words have been removed.  Those words are still in place and we affirm them.  The only understanding of marriage I find in the Bible is the lifelong covenant between a man and a woman.  David’s taking many wives was not ordained or blessed by God.  Troubles would follow.  David would know deep pain and hurt.  This man after God’s own heart was flawed, yet God chose him and used him in great ways. 


David’s reign as king of Israel is underway.  There is great relief that Saul’s reign of bitterness, disobedience, and jealousy is over.  How was David prepared for this royal service?  By learning faithfulness in everyday life.  Just like us.  God designs royal service for each one us.  That doesn’t mean we’ll be in ruling offices in the civil government or in the church.  But greatness is God’s intention for us, all of us.  To love the Lord of God with our whole beings and to love our neighbors as ourselves is greatness.  To do our daily work to the glory of God is greatness.  God created us for this:  “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:10.)


No one would have picked Jesus to be the Messiah, the King of the kingdom of God, on the basis of his humble roots.  He lays aside the perks of heaven to become one of us. Listen to how Jesus begins his public ministry:  “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:  ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’  All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn't this Joseph's son?’ they asked.”  We’re always looking for great leadership and in both civil life and church life we’re disappointed when we see that our leaders are flawed.  Good news:  Jesus is that perfect leader we’ve always wanted.  We’re here to worship and serve King Jesus.  He shepherds us with a perfect heart.

To contact Harry Heintz about this sermon, please email or write to: Brunswick Presbyterian Church, 42 White Church Lane, Troy, NY 12180