Sermons

pastorEric aug20141Sermon for Fourth Pentecost
The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer

 

Do you remember the catch phrase from some years ago, “You’ the man”?  It was an all-purpose phrase and came out of an urban setting.  It meant, or could have meant, “You are in charge, you are great, you are successful, you are responsible.”  I heard it many times and even heard it used, as a compliment, towards women:  You’ the man - you are great!

 
I thought of that expression again when I read today’s Old Testament lesson from 2 Samuel.
 
Here is the back story, what happened before this lesson, as recorded earlier in 2 Samuel:  King David sees the beautiful Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, bathing and immediately wants her sexually.  The only problem is that Bathsheba is already married to Uriah, one of King David’s finest warriors.  Now this does not stop David from having sexual relations with Bathsheba.  After all, David is the king and can have just about any woman he wants.  However, when Bathsheba becomes pregnant with David’s child and Uriah does not respond to David’s attempts to get him home from battle to sleep with his wife so it would appear that the child is Uriah’s and not David’s, David hatches a plan to have Uriah killed in battle.  King David arranges for Uriah to be sent to the front lines where he will face nearly certain death in battle.  Uriah follows the King’s orders, not knowing, of course, the real reason he is being sent to the front lines, and is indeed killed in battle.  King David hears the news of Uriah’s death and pretends to be concerned that Uriah has died, but, of course, David is really happy that he can now have Bathsheba as his wife.
 
Today, we would give this story an “R” rating for sexuality and violence.  And that brings us to today’s lesson.
 
Now that Uriah is dead, King David takes Bathsheba as his wife and they have a son.  David may be happy but God is not.  God sends Nathan to tell King David a parable.  This story involves a rich man and a poor man and the rich man taking the poor man’s only little lamb for himself.  The story angers King David and he exclaims that this rich man deserves to die because of what he did and that he had no pity on/for the poor man.  Nathan then tells David why he has shared this story, that it is not about a rich man and a little lamb, but about King David and Uriah and Bathsheba.  “You are the man” says Nathan, meaning that King David is the rich man in the story, the very same one that the King has just said deserves to die!  King David begs God’s forgiveness.  God forgives David and does not take David’s life, but it is forgiveness with a cost – the child that David and Bathsheba have birthed becomes very ill.
 
That is the end of today’s Old Testament lesson.  And Nathan said to David, “You are that man,” or, as I began, “you’ the man!”
 
As I thought of this text, I thought of what it means to be a man, what it means to be a good man, something David certainly was not in this Old Testament story.  And then I remembered Joe Ehrmann.
 
quote justice smallI first heard of Joe Ehrmann when I heard him interviewed by Peter Marty on the ELCA radio program Grace Matters.  (Grace Matters was one of my responsibilities when I served as the ELCA’s Director for Communication).  A former National Football League lineman, Ehrmann is a coach, pastor and motivational speaker.  He has been traveling the USA speaking on the crisis in America among young men, something he calls “false masculinity” or a “false sense of masculinity.” 
 
Ehrmann teaches that there are three basic lies that many boys are taught about becoming a man in the USA. 
 
Ehrmann says that the first lie is that somehow masculine value and worth is connected only to athletic ability, that masculinity is connected only to size and strength.  This leads boys to learn that the essence of masculinity has to do with their ability to compete and win.
 
Then, the second lie is taught when boys reach puberty.  Somehow, Ehrmann says, we teach boys that what it means to be a man has something to do with sexual conquest, being able to use and manipulate young girls and women. 
 
Then, Ehrmann says, the third lie this culture teaches is that men are taught that they can only measure their value, their worth, their success as men, based on their economic success.
 
Ehrmann says that this is a crisis for men and boys built on three basic lies, that manliness, masculinity, is based falsely on athletic ability alone, sexual conquest and economic success alone.
 
And, Ehrmann’s experience is that this crisis transcends race, class, and geography.  It is part of cultural marketing, a message that boys get from the media, from marketing and from music and they get it 24/7. 
 
If you doubt Ehrmann, just listen to some rap music lyrics!
 
Fortunately, Ehrmann does not stop with this critique.  As a coach and pastor, Ehrmann notes that he has sat at the death bed of many men.  From this experience, Ehrmann has concluded that the true measure of a man’s life is the answer to two questions: 
 
The first is simply this - How did I love and allow people to love me?   How did I love and allow people to love me?  Ehrmann says that the essence of masculinity must be built around the one’s capacity to love and be loved.  At the end of one’s life, these are the questions a man must answer:  What kind of husband was I?  What kind of father?  What kind of son?  What kind of partner?  What kind of friend?  It is all about relationships.
 
The second question is this - At the end of one’s life, can you look back at your life and know that you have tried to make a difference, that the world is a little better place because you lived and because you loved.
 
Ehrmann says that how a man answers these questions tell what sort of a true man he is and that these answers are the marks of true masculinity.  And, of course, these same questions apply to women:  How did I love and let people love me?  Have I tried to make this world a little better place?
 
At the end of this Grace Matters interview, Peter Marty asked Joe Ehrmann what Ehrmann would write if he was asked to write his own epitaph, his own quick summary of his life, how he had lived it, what Ehrmann would say.  Ehrmann responded with these words: 
 
“I would hope that my epitaph would say something to the effect that I was a man built for others. My life verse has been from the prophet Micah, about what does the Lord require of a man but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  I’d like to think I’d lived out of those values and goals.”
 
I believe such a philosophy is for more than men.  The questions, “how did I love and allow others to love me” and “how did I try to make the world a better place” are good ones for fathers and sons, but they apply equally well for mothers and daughters and us all.  And, Micah’s teaching and Ehrmann’s life verse are good guides for us all – do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
 
Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God – good definitions of true masculinity and femininity. 
 
Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters – You’ the man!
 
Amen.

 

 

The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer
Senior Pastor - Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California


You’ the Man!
Sermon for Fourth Pentecost
Written by Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer.
June 12, 2016
Mt. Olive Lutheran, Santa Monica, California

 

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