Video of this service can be found here: https://youtu.be/4fI64mGGvAY
Live. If. Unless. Always.
August 15, 2021*
By Pastor John Partridge
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 John 6:51-58 Ephesians 5:15-20
You should always be sure to read the fine print.
You know what I mean. Department stores do it all the time. You get an ad in the mail that says there is 75 percent off “everything” but in the tiny print at the very bottom, it says that the sale doesn’t apply to clothing, toys, housewares, and just about everything else in the store. I read one of those once and I was hard pressed to think of anything that wasn’t excluded in the fine print.
You see commercials on television selling amazing new drugs that say that they can cure all sorts of things, but in the fine print warn you about side effects that sound a lot worse than the thing you want a cure for. Military recruiters promise that they’ll put you into a particular school, or job, but we all know that the fine print in your contract basically says, “we promise to give this to you… unless we can’t, and then we can do anything we please.”
So common is this experience with fine print, that we often have our own lawyers look over important contracts so that we can discover and understand what has been hidden in the fine print. And so many of us have seen it, or been burned by it, that we all understand what it means when people describe the fine print by saying, “The devil is in the details.”
But if we read carefully, the strange thing is that sometimes God is in the details too. Sometimes God makes us promises that come with some fine print, and it is important for us to read and understand exactly what God is, and is not, promising. We begin this morning as David dies and is buried with his ancestors, and as his son Solomon takes his place on the throne of Israel. And, at that moment, Solomon receives one of history’s greatest and well-known blessings. But if we pay close attention, that blessing came with some fine print. (1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14)
2:10 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.
3:3 Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.
4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.
This exchange between Solomon and God is well-known even among people with no religious background. God tells Solomon to ask for whatever he wants, and rather than asking for money, power, or a long life, Solomon asks instead for a discerning heart so that he would be able to rule well. God is so pleased with Solomon’s request, that he chooses to not only give him the thing for which he asked, but also all those things for which he did not ask. God promises to give Solomon wisdom, but also wealth, honor, and a long life.
And right there is the fine print.
God promises to give Solomon wealth and power no matter what, but his promise of a long life comes with fine print. God says that he will give Solomon a long life… IF he obeys God and keeps his decrees and commandments as well as his father David had. Of course, we know that David wasn’t perfect, so God isn’t requiring Solomon to be perfect, but God has an exclusion clause. If Solomon doesn’t keep his part of the deal, God can end his contract and find another king that will.
And if you are tempted to think that this is a unique case, we discover that Jesus does the same thing in John 6:51-58 when he says:
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Jesus says, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” And then, a little bit later he says, “the one who feeds on me will live, because of me” and, “whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” This is exclusionary, small print, language. Jesus doesn’t say that because he came to earth, everyone will live forever. Jesus doesn’t say that anyone who has communion once, or who comes to church once, or who comes to church for a while and then quits, or who choose to follow him for a while and then quits, all get to live forever. Jesus says, “the one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” The implication of this language is that eating and drinking the flesh of the Son of Man is an ongoing, continuous action and not something that we do once and then coast. This is almost exactly like God’s wording in his promise to Solomon when he said, “if you walk in obedience.” These are a future tense that implies a continuous action and not something that is accomplished once and completed.
Paul emphasizes this in his letter to the church in Ephesus when he says in Ephesians 5:15-20:
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul says, don’t be foolish. Don’t just get drunk to dull the pain and then allow yourself to get drawn into sin. Instead, fill yourself, and your time, with spiritual things so that you will… always give thanks to God… for everything. Paul echoes what we heard from the stories of Solomon and Jesus and emphasizes that following Jesus isn’t something that we do once, or for a little while, and then coast. Following Jesus, being filled by the Spirit, caring for one another, worshiping together, and giving thanks to God are things that we are to do continuously or, as Paul said, “always.”
They say that the devil is in the details, but so is God.
From Solomon, we learned that we must not just be obedient, but that we must keep on being obedient and continuously keep God’s decrees and commands throughout our lives.
From Jesus, we learned that we must continue to share in the Lord’s supper, to continue to feed on the word of God and remain in love with Jesus.
And from Paul, we learned that we must always fill our time, and our souls, with spiritual things, and always give thanks to God.
Following Jesus has never been “one and done.” We cannot claim Jesus once, or follow Jesus once, or go to church once, and say that we’re done. Even the verb “to follow” is a continuous tense. It is a thing that we begin to do, and never stop.
Because, when we read the fine print, we understand that what Jesus said was, if you do this… continuously, you will… truly…
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.