August 01, 2021*
By Pastor John Partridge
2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a John 6:24-35 Ephesians 4:1-16
What does it mean to be “worthy”?
We hear the word used a lot, but what does it mean?
The dictionary definition helps a little. It says:
“issues worthy of further consideration”
To repeat, “having, or showing, the qualities or abilities, that merit recognition in a specified way.”
In practice, we use this a lot. We consider whether a scout, or a military person, or an employee is worthy of promotion to the next rank or to a new job. We consider whether a political candidate, or Carnation Festival queen candidate is worthy of our vote.
But why does any of that matter to us in church as the followers of Jesus Christ?
For the moment, just trust me that it does matter. And hopefully, you will understand why before we finish.
We begin in 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a as we remember the story of how God sent the prophet Samuel to confront David for his sin in sleeping with Bathsheba and in murdering her husband Uriah.
26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
12:1 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
The story begins by saying that what David had done “displeased the Lord.” God was not happy. God expected better from David. God expected better for the leader of the nation of Israel, and David had fallen short of God’s expectations. But one of the things that makes this story so compelling, is that when he was confronted by Samuel, and was asked to judge the rich man in the story, David angrily demands swift punishment for the rich man and condemns himself in the process. When confronted with his own actions, David makes it clear that he has not only fallen short of God’s expectations, but he has fallen far short of his own expectations as well. God deserved better. Israel deserved better. And, although it’s too late to do anything about it, clearly Uriah deserved better as well.
And then, in John 6:24-35, as crowds of people follow Jesus after the feeding of the five thousand, we discover that not everyone who followed Jesus did so for the right reasons.
24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Some of the people following Jesus are doing so because he has given them food to eat, and they want more. But Jesus encourages them not to expend their work and energy for food that spoils, but instead to work for food that lasts for eternal life. Jesus says that they can get this eternal food from the Son of Man, upon whom God has placed his seal of approval and considers to be worthy.
But the people demand that Jesus feed them like God gave their ancestors manna in the time of Moses. In the end, Jesus simply says that God has already given them the true bread because he himself is “the bread of life.”
Let’s step back a moment and consider what we know. God chose David from among the entire nation of Israel. David was said to be “a man after God’s own heart.” We would be safe in thinking that God thought David was worthy of being Israel’s king. But even so, David fell short of God’s expectations as well as his own.
Jesus was worthy of God’s seal of approval and his life, and his death, are evidence of that.
But what does that mean? What does worthiness have to do with us? And why does it matter?
We find the answer in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 4:1-16, where Paul says:
4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows, and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
I urge you to live a life that is worthy of the calling that you have received.
Let me say that again.
I urge you to live a life that is worthy of the calling that you have received.
David was called to be the king of Israel. God had judged him to be worthy of being king, but David didn’t always live up to God’s expectations. David fell short and didn’t always live a life that was worthy of the calling that he had received. And so, Paul encourages his church, and us, to live a life that is worthy of the calling that we have received, to do our very best to live up to God’s expectations of us.
The next question is, what would that look like? What would it look like if we lived lives of worthiness? And Paul’s answer is that living up to God’s expectations means that we would lives that are completely humble, gentle, compassionate, and patient with one another, lives that make every effort to be united in Spirit through the bonds of peace. And, more than just living lives of individual struggle, we are to work together to equip one another for works of service, to learn and to grow in knowledge and in faith so that we might all become mature followers who can each do their share of the work for the Kingdom of God.
We aren’t just called to claim Jesus as our savior… and then coast.
We were called to expend ourselves, to work toward a common goal, to learn, to grow, and help others to learn and to grow, so that everyone might become mature disciples of Jesus and share the work of building the Kingdom of God.
God has called us just as he called David.
And God has expectations of us just as he had expectations of David.
May we struggle, work, and make every effort to live lives that are worthy of God’s calling.
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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.