Sunday, July 4, 2010

Saul's Slide

Today is the Fourth of July and Communion Sunday, which we celebrate the first Sunday of each month. In Brad's welcome, a shadow passed over our hearts as we learned that Jeanette Ciaccio left us to be with the Lord last night.

During announcements Brad also cited the Breakfast Roundtables which we have been sharing this summer from 8:15 to 9:25 each week. Members and regular attenders are invited to join us each week for breakfast to discuss questions and issues of importance in our visioning for the future. This morning we discussed these questions: Do we see the church as a safe haven from change or as a change agent in the culture? And, does our church view the changing culture as a problem to be solved or as an opportunity to be had? And finally, with many insights resulting, how has the community around our church changed in the last five years and how have we changed or not changed with it?

The quartet led us in worship this morning with their usual warmth and expression. Eric Borndal read the Scripture after, Galatians 6:1-17, which was followed by two Independence Day standards, O Beautiful for Spacious Skies and Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.

Our prayer time preceded the sermon, a continuation on this summer's theme from the Book of Samuel.

Saul's Slide

Pastor Brad opened with this powerful insight: I think one of the saddest things in this world is to see something that was once strong and useful and vigorous and full of beauty end up in a state of decay. Restaurant closings in the area were cited as examples. No one starts a restaurant with the aim of seeing it fail. A person has a dream, and when it fails it is painful. Companies, too, fail... and so do churches when the passion and vision is lost. It is a painful thing to watch something decay. The saddest is to see the deterioration and decay of the human spirit. When you think about what they might have become, it breaks your heart.

This morning's sermon was the beginning of a two part message about Saul's slide. David had a front row seat as Saul declined.

In I Samuel 9 begins with the anointing of Saul as Israel's first king. Saul is an impressive man, standing head and shoulders above the rest of Israel. Samuel says about Saul, "Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among the people." Coming from a prophet of God, this is a very high compliment.

Saul was also humble. When he discovered he was going to be honored he replied, "But I am from the smallest tribe of Israel and my clan is the smallest clan. Why do you honor me?"

Saul was anointed king at age 30 and he reigned 42 years. He began with a bright future, but in the end he was just a shell of what he had been. How does this happen? Nobody plans in the beginning to be wicked or violent or cruel. Brad believes that Saul failed because he was unable to face the brokenness inside him.

Brad made reference to an article with this title: Totally Normal Women Who Stalk Their Ex. What's comic about this title, he said, is that there are no "totally normal" people of either sex. If you were to sit with anyone for a while and probe deep enough, you would find that no one is "totally normal." We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The question each of us must ask ourselves is, "Will I have the courage to face my own brokenness?" Brad appealed to us to fight spiritual decay. There are four stages of spiritual decay. This week, Brad shared the first and next week we will hear the following three.

1) Saul's spiritual decay started when he began to tolerate subtle disobedience.

The first recorded example of subtle disobedience appears in I Samuel 13. Israel was at war with the Philistines, with many of them deserting or hiding in caves out of fear. Saul has been told to wait seven days for Samuel to arrive in order to make a burnt offering to the Lord. To bolster the men's courage, Saul grows impatient and decides to make the burnt offering before Samuel arrives. Just then, the prophet shows up and says, "What have you done?" Saul makes rationalizations. He distorts the truth instead of owning up. Saul did not trust God.

In chapter 15, Saul was sent into battle against the Amalekites with the specific instruction to not only wipe them out but to destroy everything they own, including the cattle. The army attacked and successfully defeated the Amalekites, but instead of obeying the explicit instructions, Saul permitted his men to keep the cattle as spoils of war.

The issue here is Saul's "selective obedience." We think that because we obey some of what God asks of us, it is good enough. Saul did most of what God asked. He then twisted things to make his disobedience seem like a good thing. "The soldiers kept the best of what was found so they can sacrifice it to the Lord."

To which Samuel replied, "To obey is better than sacrifice."

The first step toward spiritual decay is subtle disobedience. Are there areas in your life that you are withholding from God?

We closed the service with the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

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