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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
October 29, 2023
1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-30
Grace to you and peace from God, our creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
On Confirmation Sunday, it’s my practice to have the confirmands read their faith statements during the service. They will be printed in the next issue of the VOICE newsletter, but it’s important for you to hear from them where they currently are in their faith learning.
It’s also my practice to give some kind of introduction and make a connection to the day and the scripture reading so that they aren’t just speaking without any context. Because it takes courage, especially at their age, to share about something so deeply personal.
One of the constant themes in the Bible is how God calls and commands the people to live. Which can be summarized as love God and love your neighbor.
In the early history of Israel – in the Bible, not the nation as we know it today – that theme runs parallel with the people’s desire to be like everybody else. Not at the expense of the way God wanted them to live, but by having a king. They really, really wanted a king. Because all the other groups around them had one.
And every time they asked God for a king, God answered, “You really don’t want one. They’re not as great as you think they are.” And the people would respond, “Yes, we do! Please, oh please, can we have a king?”
And after some back-and-forth, God relented and said, “Okay…” And what we read last week and this week gives us an idea of how it all went.
I know that Pastor Sundberg spoke last week about the brutality surrounding David’s rise to the throne. Things seemed to start out a little better for David’s son, Solomon (whose story we don’t read in this cycle). But even he killed some people to secure his reign, and then he enslaved people to build the Temple and his palace.
After everything was built, Solomon ultimately turned his heart away from God and began worshiping some of the other gods in the region. Because of that, God spoke to Jeroboam – whom Solomon had appointed to oversee the enslaved people. And God told Jeroboam that the kingdom was going to be divided, and that he would reign over the people that would leave.
Solomon heard about this and sought to kill Jeroboam. So, Jeroboam fled to Egypt and stayed there until Solomon died.
So, Solomon dies and his son, Rehoboam, ascends the throne – which is where we pick up today. He had an opportunity to do better by the people than his father did. But he squandered it. And as a result, the kingdom that his grandfather, David, had brought together split.
Rehoboam continued to reign over the region of Judah. And Jeroboam became the ruler of the people who split off. And things were fine for Jeroboam for about a minute. But he got scared that the people might change their allegiance when they went to Jerusalem to worship God, because it was so close to Judah. So he established two places of worship in the north and told the people to just go there instead.
Solomon stopped listening to God. Rehoboam didn’t listen to God at all. And Jeroboam only listened long enough to gain power. Having a king really wasn’t as great as the people thought it would be. It ultimately led the people down a road that resulted in foreign invasions and occupations, the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, and the exile.
Through all of this, God kept reminding the people what it meant to live according to God’s way. That never changed. We hear it again in the gospels, in Jesus’ answer to the disciples when they argue about who’s the greatest. “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant.”
As Christians, when we love God and love our neighbor, we are servants to one another in Christ. We don’t do it with the expectation of receiving anything in return. We do it because we love God. And the beauty of it is that we don’t have to do it perfectly; God only ever asks that we serve one another faithfully.
We begin to learn this in our baptism. In the promises that were made on our behalf, and that we affirm at various points in our lives – like today. Because the way we relate to them changes and grows as we change and grow throughout our lives. At this time, I invite our confirmands to come forward and share his faith statement with you.
When we serve one another out of love for God and our neighbor, we allow space for questions, for vulnerability, for the opportunity to explore what being a person of faith means to us in our daily lives – not just when we’re young, but throughout our lives.
And in that space, there is compassion, and empathy, and mercy, and grace, and love. When we serve one another in Christ, those are the qualities of greatness that we strive for because they’re what Jesus taught us. Thanks be to God! Amen.