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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 30, 2022
1 Kings 3:4-10, 16-28
Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
When I began preparing for today and read this text for the first time, I sputtered when I got to verse 6 and Solomon recounting that his father, David, walked before God in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward God. Because that isn’t the part of David’s story that we read last week.
What we know to be true, though, is that despite David’s faults, God kept great and steadfast love for him, and continued to show grace to his descendants.
Like his father, David, Solomon was not the oldest living son – the one who would traditionally be named king. But his mother, Bathsheba, and the prophet, Nathan, convinced David to proclaim Solomon’s rights to the kingship when he was still young – it’s estimated that he was in his early twenties when he ascended the throne.
Most people at that age, men and women alike, when asked what God should give them, would likely answer with money, privilege, fame, power. But in this part of Solomon’s story, it doesn’t look like he’s been caught up in wanting any of those things yet. He identifies himself as God’s servant – chosen to lead God’s people.
And he knew what he needed. So he asks for an understanding mind, that he might govern well. And God not only gives him that wisdom, but God also gives him riches and honor, and promises Solomon a long life if he walks in God’s ways and keeps God’s statutes and commandments.
And all of that happened in a dream. But when Solomon woke up from it, he realized it wasn’t just a dream. That God had spoken to him and he had received more than what he’d asked for.
And it wasn’t long after that his wisdom was put to the test when two women who were sex workers – lower class, marginalized, no power, no social standing – came to him to clear up a dispute. A heart-wrenching dispute at that. On the one hand, it’s surprising that they were given an audience with the king. On the other, he’s the only person who would have listened objectively and made sure justice was received.
Solomon is often characterized as the hero of this story because he gives the baby to the woman who valued its life. But that woman is a hero, too, because she also exercised wisdom. It’s important to acknowledge that.
The problematic part of this story is that Solomon’s decision doesn’t resolve the trauma that’s happening here, or resolve the grief and the likely postpartum depression that’s going on. It’s important to acknowledge that, too.
Throughout the rest of his reign, Solomon didn’t always make wise decisions. He married many foreign wives, he increased the army, he engaged in political manipulation, he accumulated more gold and silver than literally what the Law allowed for a king, and he enslaved the indigenous people in his area and forced them to build his cities and the Temple of Yahweh. And after Solomon’s death, the kingdom split into two.
And we know all of this because it’s in the Bible, too. So, as always, when you have time, I invite you to read the rest of Solomon’s story.
When we began the readings from the Narrative Lectionary, they were about covenant – the promises made between God and God’s people. At first, the emphasis was on the ways God would honor the covenants made.
Now we’re in the part where we learn what it means for God’s people to live into the covenants. This is where they get tested, because humanity repeatedly fails to keep up its end, and God continues to be faithful. We constantly have to resubmit ourselves to the covenant, remembering that God is still faithful even when we fall short.
And we know that God’s faithfulness continued with David’s descendants even beyond Solomon and all his faults. Because for us as Christians, it ultimately brings Jesus to us and the fulfillment of all of the previous covenants. And we know that, in Jesus, we are promised that God will always be faithful to us, and show us great and steadfast love, and give us grace.
When we resubmit ourselves to the covenant God fulfilled in Jesus, we live in response to those good things. Another way we think of it as Lutherans is the daily renewal of our baptism.
In baptism, we make promises to God – and if we’re baptized as infants, those promises are made on our behalf. As individuals, we renew them daily, and as a congregation we renew them at various times throughout our lives. We’ll renew them in a few minutes when we receive new members. And next week, we’ll bear witness to them when Abigail is baptized.
I’m going to read the promises here, but if you’d like to follow along, they’re in your bulletin on page 6. When we renew our baptismal promises, we promise with God’s help to: live among God’s faithful people; to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper; to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed; to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
Living among, sharing, proclaiming, serving, following Jesus, striving for justice and peace in all the earth. We do all of these things out of love, for the sake of others. Kinda makes us sound like superheroes, doesn’t it? Sometimes it takes a superhero effort to live into these, which is why we acknowledge that we do it with God’s help.
It’s important to remember, though, that we don’t renew these promises to be better than anybody else or to gain anything from God. But rather because we’ve already received God’s love and grace.
Martin Luther put it something like this: If we’re saved by grace through faith, then loving our neighbor or our self isn’t necessary; but we should do good deeds for our neighbor – not because they earn us points with God, but because our neighbor needs them. So we just do it without asking, “What’s in it for me?”
And as we look at what’s going on in the world, we have plenty of neighbors who need to be on the receiving end of God’s love and grace. We sometimes think that it should be easy to live in response to God’s grace and faithfulness. But it isn’t always easy, and we’re never promised that it will be. And sometimes we overthink it and make it more complicated than it needs to be.
But at its core, renewing our baptismal promises – living in response to God’s faithfulness and love and grace – simply means acting and living in ways that honor the well-being of another person. Which is what we all strive for, whether we’re aware of it or not because most of the time it happens in day-to-day living.
We renew these promises when we work with our ministry partners in the community and in the world, like Backpack Meals for Kids and Lutheran World Relief. We renew them when we comfort someone who walks in our doors, needing help and doesn’t know who to reach out to.
We live in response to God’s faithfulness when we assure someone that they’re forgiven for the mistakes they’ve made, and that it’s okay for them to forgive themselves.
We renew our baptismal promises when we listen to a friend who’s had a hard day, when we help a student with their homework, when we encourage someone to try a new activity – especially here in church when they’re trying to find their place, and when we pray for one another.
Renewing our baptismal promises – living in response to God’s faithfulness and love and grace – simply means acting and living in ways that honor the well-being of another person. We don’t do it to be better than anybody else or to gain anything from God, but rather because we’ve already received God’s love and grace in abundance.
God never promised us that living into these promises would be easy. There are times when it will be risky and frustrating. And there are also times when it will be cause for a great celebration. Either way, living in response to God’s love and faithfulness and grace, enables us to partner with God, and participate in transforming the world so that it reflects God’s love.
Thanks be to God! Amen.