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Standing with, and not on, the Amalekite

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sermon for the sixth Sunday after Trinity

Don’t you feel a bit sorry for the Amalekite?

After all, he sees King Saul trying to commit suicide by leaning on his spear, failing and mortally wounding himself. He seeks the king in pain and terminally ill. He sees him utterly crushed by the Philistines and his whole cause destroyed. He hears the king call to him, “Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me.” This is what the king says, and this Amalekite does what he’s told and takes away Saul’s pain by giving him the coup de grace – the blow of grace, the stroke of mercy.

Then, in mourning, he tears his clothes, puts earth upon his head and goes to tell King David what has happened and what he has done. At least, that’s his story.

You see, we also have the report that Saul asked his armour-bearer to hold his sword while he falls on it. According to that report, the armour-bearer does so, and then commits suicide himself.

Is the Amalekite lying by telling that he has nobly killed Saul, a man whose dislike of David has been very much in evidence? Or is he, indeed, directly or indirectly responsible for Saul’s death.

Either way, this Amalekite is told that he has killed the King’s anointed and his execution is pronounced and swiftly carried out.

Harsh?

[PAUSE]

The king himself orders you to help him kill himself? What do you do?

Do you say, “it’s the king, so we must obey him”?

Do you say, “he’s dying slowly and painfully, so we obey him”?

Do you say, “he has nothing left to live for, so we obey him”?

Or do you say, “No, Your Majesty”?

Why?

[PAUSE]

We are very good about raising questions about life and death, but we are not so good about finding answers. The experience of this Amalekite shows us just how many questions suddenly rise out of the one single act. We Christians are always confronted by people who throw a barrage of questions beginning “what if…” and expect us to have a ready answer. Too often we don’t have an answer that we ourselves would find satisfactory. As all the questions buzz around our heads, we cry out “argh” and then try and find something a little more easy to deal with like Quantum Gravity or solving the Gettier problems.

How do we deal with questions of life and death?

[PAUSE]

We start with God.

We have to, because all things start with God. God is the source of life. He gives it and He takes it away. It is His right to do so because He is the Creator. He seeks not the death of the sinner, but rather the sinner turn to Him and live. He has the power to take away life and to give it back again.

We also have to start with the fact that God is love and relating to Him is what it means to love. It is in Him alone that we live and move and have our being at His good pleasure and ours. We see Him provide for us by feeding the multitude we see Him heal the sick and forgive the penitent and generally act how God act and living how God lives.

At each part, He seeks out Life! He promises Life. He restores Life!

And we have to act according to the pattern He sets so that we can be truly united with Him and share in His divinity as He shares our humanity.

[PAUSE]

The Amalekite is probably not telling the truth, which is probably why he gets punished so harshly. This is not David shooting the messenger; this is David punishing one who has killed the rightful king – the one anointed by God for God’s purposes.

Were we there present with Saul at his lowest ebb, then it would be our duty as Christians to preach light in the midst of darkness, joy in the midst of despair and life in the midst of death. We cannot do this glibly or like Pollyanna with her tedious Glad Game which is often a gross insult to the pain and suffering of others.

Nor are Christians called to be lawyers pronouncing this a sin or that a sin according to a set of rules and instructions and thus killing by standing upon them just as the Amalekite claims to have stood on Saul to end his life.

 Life and Death are not a matter of our understanding of the Law but on God’s unique ability to destroy Evil with His very self.

We Christians have to feel their pain and, being the Royal Priesthood, offer that pain to God through our own sufferings.

We stand with Saul in his agony, not upon him.

We stand with David in his misery, not upon him.

We stand with the Amalekite in receiving the punishment for his foolishness, not upon him.

We stand with all humanity in all suffering, not upon any single one.

Only then can we preach the Way, Truth, Light and Life of God.

[PAUSE]

Of course that’s not easy to do.

Of course that’s practically impossible.

Of course that’s almost obscene in the terror it gives us.

But it is what God does.

It is what God calls us to do.

And it is what God will help us to do by sharing fully, honestly and authentically with our humanity. This is what it means to put on Christ. This is what it means to forsake ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him.

We start with God in all things. We stand with Him in all things. We live with Him in all things and into Eternity.

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