The Power Within
July 25, 2021*
By Pastor John Partridge
2 Samuel 11:1-15 John 6:1-21 Ephesians 3:14-21
What is it that gives us power?
In comic books we know that Superman was born on a planet with a red sun and has superpowers when living near a yellow sun like ours. Green Lantern has powers given to him by his ring of power, The Flash gained his powers through an accident of chemistry, Shazam has powers because of special magic, the X-Men have powers because of a quirk in their genetics, and of course biblically, Sampson, Elijah, Elisha, and other heroes of the faith all received their power as a gift from God.
But what about us?
Even if we don’t have super-powers, what powers do we have? Or maybe the question that many of you are asking is, “Do I have any power at all?”
First, you shouldn’t doubt yourself. But second, yes, you certainly do have power. But a little background will help our understanding. We begin in 2 Samuel 11:1-15, where we read the story of King David’s sin and fall from God’s grace. But, although all of us are probably familiar with David, with his closeness to God, his power, and with his great military exploits, as we read this story together, I want you to pay attention to someone else. As we read, I want you to pay attention to Uriah, an otherwise completely ordinary husband, immigrant, citizen, and soldier of Israel.
11:1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So, Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So, he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So, Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
To summarize, David has slept with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. And, when she tells him that she is pregnant and he realizes that their infidelity will be revealed to the world, David sets out to cover it all up. After months of being at war, David sends Uriah home to spend the night in the comfort of his own bed and the closeness of his wife. David assumes that any man would want to lie with his wife, and having done so, any resulting child would be assumed to be Uriah’s. But Uriah doesn’t act according to David’s expectations. For Uriah, to sleep with his wife, in his own comfortable bed, while all his friends and fellow soldiers are sleeping in tents on the battlefield, would be a betrayal of trust. For Uriah, honor, integrity, and brotherly love are more important than his own comfort and sexual satisfaction. Uriah chooses to do what is right, rather than what is best for himself in the moment and, as David continues his attempts to cover up his sin, that choice ultimately costs Uriah his life. But it is Uriah’s honor that ultimately reveals David’s conspiracy, corruption, and sin.
Next, we turn to the well-known story of Jesus and the feeding of the five thousand. But again, instead of focusing on Jesus, as we often do, I want us to listen, and focus, on the contribution of Andrew in this passage from John 6:1-21.
6:1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wagesto buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing, and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
Philip was a pragmatist. There are five thousand men, and probably at least an equal number of women and children that have gathered to hear Jesus speak. There are no nearby villages where they can stop to eat, and in any case, the cost of feeding so many is far beyond what their ministry finances could ever handle. When Jesus asks where they should buy bread, Philip’s response is that buying enough bread was simply impossible.
But Andrew’s response was different.
Rather than explain why feeding everyone would be impossible, which everyone already knew, Andrew comes to Jesus with what he had. I am sure that Andrew realized that what he had was inconsequential in comparison to what was needed. It was obvious that five small barley loaves and two small fish were not enough to feed Jesus and the disciples, let alone ten thousand guests. But Andrew ignores the impossible, ignores the obvious, and, in faith, offers Jesus what he has anyway. And it is Andrew’s faith that sets up one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles.
These are both great examples. But still, what do they have to do with any of us?
What they have to do with us, is that by turning our attention away from David and from Jesus, we have instead directed our attention to the often overlooked, ordinary, everyday, regular people that made these stories possible. It’s easy to read these stories and say that we are not like David or Jesus, but we are almost exactly like Uriah and Andrew. And as Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, he explains how, and why, this is important (Ephesians 3:14-21).
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every familyin heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Paul connects two ideas that we often try to separate. Paul says that he prays that because the church is rooted and established in love, that they may have power. We often think of love and power as separate and distinctly different, even opposite ideas but Paul knows differently. And the stories that we read today back him up. Being “Rooted and established in love” gives us access to power.
Knowing that we are loved, leads us to stability, confidence, courage, integrity, and honor. And these all work together to give us the ability to make not only good choices, but choices that are good. Let me explain. “Choices that are good” are choices that we make to do what is right and loving even when doing what is right might not be what is best for us personally. Uriah chose to do what was right and loving even when doing so came at a cost to him personally. Andrew chose to have faith, risks being ridiculed for his simplicity, and offer Jesus what little he had, even when it seemed obvious that what he had wasn’t enough.
These things, combined with the Spirit of God that lives in us, and who works through us, and who empowers us, is what Paul describes as “his power that is at work within us.” Because of our love and support for one another, within the family and community of the church of Jesus Christ, we empower one another and are therefore free to make good choices, to do what is right, just, honorable, and act in ways that honor God. And that, in turn, frees God to act through us.
And so, let’s return to our original question, “What is it that gives us power?”
We don’t come from the planet Krypton like Superman or have a power ring like the Green Lantern. We don’t benefit from lab accidents like the Flash or have mystic powers given to us like Shazam. But what we have is real. What we have, is the power of God at work within us and the power of God at work through us. And the key to unleashing that power on the world, is found in our faith in Jesus Christ and…
…our love for one another… and our love for the people around us.
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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.