Sunday’s sermon: Glacier National Park – Consequences

Text used – 2 Samuel 12:1-15

  • When we’re young, the word “consequences” doesn’t tend to be a positive one. Consequences usually mean what comes after a mistake we’ve made – intentional missteps as well as unintentional ones.
    • Consequence of our baseball breaking that window = us paying to replace the window out of our meager allowance
    • Consequence of falling off our bikes = skinned knees, scraped elbows, maybe even a broken bone
    • Consequences of trampolines very frequently involve broken bones!
    • Consequence of neglecting to study for a test or to do any of your homework = failing a class
    • Consequence of spending more than 90 minutes on the phone with your best friend in the middle of the day while you play through the same Free Cell game together on your computers while your mom is trying to call you and getting a busy signal the whole time = getting grounded from the phone for a week … just take my word on that one.
    • It’s just a simple fact that the actions we take and the choices we make are going to bring about other actions. They’re going to necessitate other choices – some that we want to make … and some that we don’t. They’re going to have an affect on future actions, future opportunities, future decisions, future relationships. They’re like the ripples in a pond – continuing to grow and expand and disturb the surface of the water farther and farther and farther out. And while there are times when we can do something to shape and influence the direction of those consequences, there are plenty of times when whatever they’ve set in motion swiftly becomes something we have no control over.
      • Similar to the geological consequences of the constant shifting of the earth under our feet → geological shifting that has caused some of the most beautiful places here on earth
        • Not sudden, immediate consequences → think of the centuries it took for the Colorado River to carve the Grand Canyon as a consequence of its current
        • Not consequences that can be undone → certainly can’t put the mountains back into the earth once they’ve been pushed up! That only happens in Looney Tunes cartoons.
        • Geological consequences create chain of events, chain of consequences → one event causes another causes another causes another
        • READ “Glacier National Park,” pt. 1, pp. 96-99[1]
  • This reflection on Glacier National Park brings up something really important about consequences: the truth that we can never foresee or grasp the full consequences of our decision and our actions in the moment that we make them. Sure, sometimes we can understand some of the things that may result from our decision and our actions – especially some of the most immediate consequences – but the far-reaching consequences are often beyond our perception.
    • Climate effects on Glacier National Park = perfect e.g. → The consequences of our overuse of and reliance on fossil fuels throughout the last 100 yrs. or so are certainly not something that people understood when they became such a staple in our economy and our day-to-day lives. But those consequences have come into sharp and distressing focus, especially in the last 10 yrs. or so.
      • Ripples in the pond:
        • Consequences that cannot be halted
        • Consequences that cannot be reversed
        • Consequences that we need to learn to navigate and mitigate
        • Consequences that will hopefully affect future decisions and actions → consequences that turn into lessons (if we’re humble and aware enough to learn them)
  • Scripture passage this morning = King David’s “consequences to lessons” moment → And it’s definitely not the most comfortable moment that we observe in Scripture.
    • What’s gotten David to this point[2]:
      • Saw Bathsheba from afar → captivated by her beauty
      • Learned that Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, one of the soldiers in David’s army
      • Invited Bathsheba to the palace → got Bathsheba pregnant
      • Tried unsuccessfully to orchestrate it so that Bathsheba’s child could be passed off as Uriah’s
      • Decided instead to orchestrate Uriah’s death so that David could be free to marry Bathsheba à had Uriah sent to the area with the fiercest fighting → Uriah is killed in battle against the Ammonites
      • David indeed took Bathsheba as his wife
    • And in today’s passage, David has his eyes opened to the consequences of his actions by Nathan, one of God’s prophets.
      • God sends Nathan to David
      • Nathan tells David a story (a parable) about a rich man with many sheep who steals the one and only beloved lamb of a poor man just so the rich man could serve it to his guests as a feast → David is enraged by the injustice of this story – text: David got very angry at the man, and he said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the one who did this is demonic! He must restore the ewe lamb seven times over because he did this and because he had no compassion.”[3]
        • Heb. = really interesting – phrase translated as “demonic” can also mean “as good as dead” → speaks to both the way David feels about this hypothetical man’s act as well as David’s judgment of the man’s character → It’s a pretty strong reaction from David! There’s no hedging or holding back here. Clearly, David is beyond angry.
      • Nathan’s revelation to David: “You are that man!”[4]
        • Goes on to detail how God anointed David king after Saul
        • How David was given power and wealth and blessings beyond measure by God
        • How David already had many wives
        • Even goes so far as to say that, if David felt he needed more, God would have provided – text: If that was too little, I would have given even more.[5]
        • Then goes on to lay out exactly what David did to obtain Bathsheba as his wife
        • Finally lays out David’s consequences from his actions
      • The realization of those consequences hits David and causes him to repent
        • Today’s text = simple declaration: “I’ve sinned against the Lord!” David said to Nathan.[6]
        • Tradition = Psalm 51 was written by David as he processed this situation
  • The consequences of David’s actions were inescapable as consequences always area. There is no getting around them. There is no avoiding them. Consequences are a part of life because every decision we make – every act and every word, even every absence of an act and every intentional silence – causes other words, other actions, other repercussions.
    • Australian author and poet Julie Gittus speaks to the power and inescapable nature of consequences: People say that it’s the big decisions that are important … that these are the type of issues worthy of prolonged consideration. But no one ever explains how it’s the little choices that send your life careening in another direction.
    • And while our Scripture story for this morning is certainly a serious example of such consequences, we also have to acknowledge that consequences aren’t always There can be good consequences, too.
      • Consequence of Nathan forcing David to confront his decisions and his sins = David repenting and returning to God → And while the actions that brought David to that point were painful and difficult and even lamentable, the actual act of returning to God is never a bad thing.
      • READ “Glacier National Park,” pt. 2, p. 99[7]
    • And friends, today is a perfect example of a good consequence – this day on which we celebrate 150 years of life and work and mission and ministry here at the Presbyterian Church of Oronoco. We are here today as consequences of the decision and acts and words and faith of 150 years of people working and worshiping here in this space.
      • Our faith = consequence of their faith
      • Our worship = consequence of their worship
      • Our lives = consequences of their lives
      • Decisions that have been made throughout the life of this congregation that have brought us to where we are today. I know they weren’t all easy decisions. I know they weren’t all unanimous decisions. I know that sometimes the consequences of those decisions have included hurt feelings and misunderstandings – even to the point of causing some to choose to leave. But all of those decisions have shaped and influenced a rich, strong, blessed history here at the Presbyterian Church of Oronoco.
    • Also have to consider the consequences in our own lives that have brought us to this place → the ways that our own ripples have intersected with the ripples of this congregation to create a pattern that is entirely unique → ripples that are creating something new even as we speak
  • So as we move forward into our lives … into our worship … into the future as a congregation – into our next 150 years together – I want to pose for you the questions at the end of our Glacier National Park reflection today, questions that address both the challenge and the blessing in consequences: What unexpected consequence has brought you the most harm? Which brought you the most good? Is there a decision to be made in your life that could make a bigger impact than you expect? Thanks be to God. Amen.

[1] Brad Lyons and Bruce Barkhauer. America’s Holy Ground: 61 Faithful Reflections on Our National Parks. (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2019), 96-99.

[2] 2 Sam 11.

[3] 2 Sam 12:5-6.

[4] 2 Sam 12:7a.

[5] 2 Sam 12:8c.

[6] 2 Sam 12:13a.

[7] Lyons and Barkhauer, 99.