It’s interesting that this was our reading just after we had an election here in Canada.
We just endured a marathon campaign spanning 78 days, far longer than any we have experienced for generations. It was long and it was passionate. It engaged people in a way I’ve never seen before.
I hated it.
It felt un-Canadian to me. People were attacking each other on a daily basis, and I don’t mean just politicians. I saw good, loving people get into heated words because of their opposing views on who should be elected!
Whatever it was, people seemed incredibly tense and sensitive as to what was being discussed during this election campaign. Whether it be immigration, the niqab, whether or not to run a deficit, drugs, personalities, how ready they were… You name it, someone had a passionate opinion on it. Except maybe the hair, everyone agreed he had nice hair.
Now that’s not always a bad thing. We need passion, and I was very happy to see what the country was engaging in what the parties were all saying.
I don’t know about you though, but I really struggled with who to vote for. We had some good candidates running here in our riding, but every party had policies I could not support. This was probably the most difficult election I’ve ever voted in as far as choosing who I would support.
Now that the election is over, it’s been nice to see people reach out across the party lines in order to offer congratulations and respect for each other, especially for the good ones who lost their seats.
Over the last week, we’ve seen the media, and many people are treating this like a party as we have a new charismatic prime minister to lead our country for the next four years.
In some ways this long election “battle” and the resulting celebrations following last week’s vote has a similar feel to our scripture reading this morning.
Israel has been in its own civil war as the north and the south fight against each other for the land. We pick up this morning after the south won and they install David as king. The same David from David and Goliath. The same David who wrote many of the poetic, heart-felt Psalms in our Bible.
It wasn’t easy, as you can imagine any civil war would be. But now the tribes from the north have come to pay respect to their new king, a position David will hold for the next 40 years.
He does a couple of things very early on. He moves the capital back to Jerusalem, making it both the political and spiritual centre of Israel. And he also gathers up his army, 30,000 men, to go and pick up something special.
They are going to go and bring back the ark of the covenant.
It has been some time since the ark has been in the possession of the Israelites. It was stolen from them in a battle several generations before. And now, this new king, the one who has chosen by God when he was just a child, has gone to bring it back to the people.
Does anyone remember what was inside the ark?
The ark is a large, intricately designed box that was carried from place to place as the Israelites moved around. It was built while the Israelites were still wandering the dessert with Moses when they escaped from the Egyptians.
They built the ark to hold the 10 Commandments. So the ark holds the Word of God.
So what is happening when David brings the ark back into the city?
Is he simply returning something back to where it rightfully belongs? Is he righting a wrong, fixing an injustice from days long ago?
It could be seen that way for sure. King David just won a war, so he could easily be going out and getting what rightfully belongs to the people he leads. It was stolen in battle, so he is bringing it back.
But I don’t believe that’s what he’s doing.
Remember what is in the ark. It holds the Word of God.
They brought the Word of God back into the centre of their city.
This is far more important to David than finding a lost heirloom. David was anointed, he was chosen by God to be king long before he actually was installed into the position. David has been called “a man after God’s own heart.”
Sure he made mistakes, we all do. But his heart kept returning to God.
So with great celebration, they bring the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. And this truly is a party.
Imagine the scene. We’re told there are a multitude of instruments as the people, led by their king no less, are dancing before God with all their might as the ark is brought home.
Could anyone see any leader in our country dancing with all their might before God as the nation rejoices the return of His Word to the centre of the nation? I know I can’t.
As a chosen people of God, this is very important to them. They need the Word of God to be the most important thing in their nation, and so it is placed in the capital.
This is a significant event in the history of the Israelites. They realize they need God as the centre. They know in order for things to continue to grow and to receive healing following a hard civil war, they need God.
As I look at the world around us, seeing the priorities people have chosen in their lives, I too believe we need God. We need Him badly.
A few years ago, we in the United Church of Canada, voted to add several documents to our collection we call, “What we believe.” In the process of adding these documents we also decided that all of these documents which describe what we believe are secondary to something else.
We decided all of these documents are secondary to scripture.
We decided the most important thing we have is the Word of God.
So while I personally was not in favour of adding these documents to the collection of what we believe, I fully support that all of these things are secondary to the Word of God.
I wish I could say this affirmation caused much dancing and singing across the United Church, but in fact, it was hardly even noticed. Some people didn’t even realize until after the votes were counted and made “law” in our church, that some small corners actually brought criticism. Although, I’m happy to say, everyone in my network rejoiced, albeit quietly and reserved.
There are traditions out there where churches march the Bible down the aisle every service as a reminder that God’s Word is the focus of what they do each and every Sunday.
These traditions are often very reverent and holy. And for these churches, they hold quiet a bit of power and meaning.
I’ll tell you what I was tempted to do this week, but because it has been a busy week with lots of meetings, I wasn’t able to bring it together.
Imagine bringing the Bible down the aisle as we sang, danced and played a variety of instruments! Imagine as we carry God’s Word to the focal point of our service in this church, we danced and celebrated its arrival. Just like King David and the people of Israel did when the ark of the covenant was returned to its people. Imagine if we celebrated with joy that which God has given us as a sign and a reminder of His love.
I’m not asking that we change our services or throw out our wonderful organ, I’m just wondering if what it might look like if we wore our faith on the outside instead of holding it inside.
Our God is worthy of wonderful praise and celebration. He has done great and powerful things in this world, and in our lives.
He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ to show us the fullness of His love.
Think of the people when they rejoiced when Jesus also returned to Jerusalem for the final time, on what we call Palm Sunday. Everyone was lined up along the road and laying down palm branches and coats in some sort of version of a royal red carpet to welcome him into the city.
And they shouted and cheered his arrival, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)
Two celebrations in the same city, each marking the return of God to make things right. Celebrations to help them focus their hearts on what God can do when He is the highest priority of the people.
I wish I could take a Bible and walk into Parliament Hill and see millions of Canadians dancing and singing led by Justin Trudeau, but we all know that wouldn’t happen.
It wouldn’t happen if we walked into city hall in Sydney, or the Nova Scotia Legislature.
But what if it happened here. What if it happened in our homes. What impact could it have if here in this church we fully celebrated what God is doing in our midst. We do have much to celebrate together, that’s for sure.
Next week we will have our anniversary service where we will welcome our brothers and sisters from Wilson among us and at the same time celebrate 109 years of ministry in this building.
Now sure those of you from Wilson are still mourning the closure of your church, and you have every right to, but to be honest, I am delighted and even a little surprised to see how excited you are to join us here at Carman.
Your excitement is a blessing to us.
I would also say the same to those of you who are here with us from North Sydney. Your ongoing commitment to taking part in the ministries of our church over the last year has been a real blessing as well.
We here at Carman are truly blessed.
We have an energy in this church that took some time to find. We’ve grown in relationship with God as we’ve welcomed the Holy Spirit among us and our new friends who have come have helped in this growth for sure.
Let us continue to strive to put God first and foremost in our church. Let us be proud of who we are as people of God. Let us not be ashamed to share God’s Spirit with others who wonder what we are up to in this place.
We may not see celebrations in our governments for God, but we can celebrate God in this place. And may our celebration be in such a way that people in our communities are drawn in and learn of this awesome God in whom we rejoice.