(Asking the Holy Spirit for a miracle)
1. For the miracle of my brain being bigger than my desires
2. For the miracle of courage to speak up
3. For the miracle of being firm with guilt
It was going to be a trainwreck. The train of his life was going downhill. It started slowly, but it was picking up speed. What he wanted was to change his situation, to desperately change his situation. But what was needed was for HIM to change. Which, as you already know, is difficult; and some changes, nigh unto impossible. Thus he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Same thing you and I still pray today, isn’t it.
For the miracle of my brain being bigger than my desires
It all starts when Mr. Trainwreck, whose real name is David, was not doing what he was supposed to be doing. Which is how a lot stories with bad endings start out. See, it was spring time, when kings go off to war. But King David did not. He stayed home, in the palace, sent the army off without him. And it was spring time. Spring time, also the time when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love. Or lust, as the case may be.
And that is when he saw her. On a warm, luscious, spring evening. She was bathing on the roof of her and her husband’s house, which may seem strange to us, but was not strange back then. And he saw her. Didn’t see too much detail, likely, given the distance. But he did see skin, bare skin, which always catches a man’s eye, even at a distance.
One of the most difficult things about sexual temptation is how powerful it is. It is so overwhelming that it can convince you that nothing else matters. Just this moment, just this feeling. And it’s true, in part–for our sexuality is one of God’s powerfully great gifts, to be fully enjoyed in marriage; pity the married couple that has gotten too busy or too distant or too tired. For it is a powerfully good blessing from our Lord by which he means to intertwine not just bodies but hearts and lives and happinesses. So powerful, he contains it in marriage for the same reason we contain water in bottles and pipes and hot water heaters. Super useful if you do. But if you don’t, like when a pipe bursts or your hot water heater bottoms out and floods your basement, then you’ve got a mess, and some things even get ruined. Just like when we use our sexuality outside of marriage.
Sexual temptation is so strong that not only does the Bible wisely say in I Cor. 6:18, “Don’t be alone with your date in a private place” and “Keep the adult content filters on your computer” and “Don’t watch someone taking a bath on their roof”, or, in actuality, “Flee from sexual immorality”, it also reaches deep down and does something impossible. It changes us. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” The Holy Spirit reaches down into us through his Word/Sacrament and does the impossible, he“…grant(s) me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” The kind of spirit willing to call any sexual activity outside of marriage a sin and therefore harmful and an offense to our best Friend, and willing to struggle so that your brain is bigger than your desires.
We might want God just to change the situation, to change my desires, change my hormones, either to give me less of them or maybe more of them. Wouldn’t that make life easier? But what we need is for ourselves to be changed. Changed into people who deeply see our need for mercy from God, since we so often lose our struggles with our desires. And for grace, to get back into the struggle of having my brain be bigger than my desires.
And so he does, the Holy Spirit does change, not the situation, but us. As we keep learning his Word. As we rightly use his Supper. As we keep remembering our baptism, when the Spirit connected us to Christ’s grave and resurrection; to remember our baptism, each day to remind myself who I really am, that I am a saint—and saints have brains bigger than their desires–that God is my Father, that heaven is my home, for he told me so at my baptism, and that this body is for the death of sin, all day long, and for joy, all day long, even in the most deadening defeats and heartbreaking failures. To remember your baptism because while we may want our situation to change, what we need is for ourselves to change. An impossible thing. Unless you have the Holy Spirit at work in you. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” And his answer is “Yes! I am!”
For the miracle of courage to speak up
This beautiful woman is bathing on the roof of her and her husband’s fine house. Her husband is a military man, so he’s off to war, since it is spring time. David sends a servant to find out who she is. And the servant says, “She is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” And probably, without taking his eyes off of her, David says something like, “Oh, Bathsheba, I remember her; she’s a rather…intelligent woman, isn’t she?” Which maybe is true, but that’s not why he is going to invite her over.
I can see them sharing a glass of wine or two, wine being plentiful in Judah, which in late evening situations can be a blessing when you are sharing it with your spouse. But in other situations, a danger. And I wonder, during that evening, amidst the wine and soft laughter, if David was aware of when the Holy Spirit sadly packed up his bags and left David’s heart. For it is impossible for the Holy Spirit to stay in a heart that deliberately plans on sinning. (“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” Heb. 10:26-27) In the days ahead, if David suddenly died, he would have found himself locked forever in the darkness and tortured anguish of hell. That’s why he includes that on-the-edge-of panic line in his psalm, “Cast me not away from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” Experiencing that once was bad enough.
And what about Bathsheba? You wonder, how does she decide what to wear, for a late evening invitation to the royal palace, for a private meeting, with the king? Decisions have to be made. Because the power dynamic in this relationship is way out of balance. David is the king, after all; she’s just an ordinary citizen. If the time comes, when the time comes, will she have the courage to say “no,” to speak up, to say, “David, you are the king and a married man, and me, I’m a married woman–sitting here late in the evening having a glass a wine—this is, at the very least, totally inappropriate and unprofessional.”?
It takes an unusual kind of courage to say that to a king, or a boss, or a coach. The kind of courage that the Holy Spirit specializes in. The kind that changes not the situation as much as it changes me. Because while what we may want is to never be in this kind of situation, what we need is to have a heart filled with this kind of courage that can find its voice when it needs to speak up. “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within in.” And the Holy Spirit through his Word/Sacrament does that, he“…grant(s) me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” The kind of spirit willing to be strong enough to speak up, to say “no.” The Holy Spirit works this kind of courage in us as we hear and learn his Word. As we rightly celebrate his Supper. As we remember our baptism each day to remind myself who I really am, that I am a saint and so I can speak up, that God is my Father, that heaven is my home, for he told me so at my baptism, and that therefore this body is for the death of sin, all day long, and for joy, all day long, even in the most deadening defeats and heartbreaking failures. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” And his answer is, “Yes, I am!”
The miracle of being firm with guilt
The wine and soft laughter lead to David’s bedroom. The next day, life goes on, like nothing happened. That’s how it usually goes with sin. Everything seems to go on like normal. Until.
Your life can change with just one sentence. And usually it’s not the long and beautiful-sentences that change your life. It’s the short ones. Sometimes ones like, “I graduated!” Or, “I got the job!”. Or sometimes ones like,“It’s cancer.” “There’s been an accident.” “I’m pregnant.” That’s the message Bathsheba sent to David. “I’m pregnant.”
This is where the train wreck started picking up speed. Jesus one time said, “whoever looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28) Lust is like a train; it always connects to other sins and their consequences and brings them along down the tracks. And it keeps picking up speed and heading straight for a train wreck. For David, lust led to an invitation over for a glass of wine, which led to adultery, which led to a pregnancy, which led to the cover up, which led to David manipulating others, which led to David arranging the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, which lead to David and Bathsheba having a quicky wedding, which led to months of David feeling achy, no energy, lethargic.
Which led to that embarrassing, tense confrontation with his pastor, the prophet Nathan. Pastor Nathan who confronted King David with his sin, which also took a special kind of courage. And it worked. David stopped trying to cover up his sin and confessed it. Repented. Heard the word of God’s free and full forgiveness. And he was once again God’s friend and walking on the road to heaven.
But the days ahead are going to require one more change, one more on-going, miraculous change. The kind that changes not the situation as much as it changes us, as individuals, and makes us tough, tough with the guilt. “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.” And the word “right”, as in “right spirit” has the sense of being solid, firm, being right smack dab right where you need to be and you aren’t willing to budge. And that’s exactly the kind of spirit David is going to need. And you and me, too. Because we all have sexual sins and embarrassing events and shameful episodes.
One of our professors when I was in college, Prof. Deutschlander, told us, “I’m sorry to have to tell you that you’ll do things in your teens and 20’s that keep you up at night when you are in your 30’s and 40’s.” And I am also sorry to report that you also do things in your 30’s and 40’s that keeps you up in your 50’s and 60’s. And do things in your 50’s and…
And that’s what’s in David’s future, too–bad nights when he wakes up at 3 AM and is plagued by the things he has done, the people he has hurt, the embarrassment and shame.
And while we may want our situation to change—I just want to go back to sleep, or forget about what happened—we might want to have the situation change; but what we need is to have us change. To have the kind of right spirit, the firm kind, the kind that is tough enough to say to your guilt and shame and bad memories, “But I am forgiven because Christ died for my sins. And rose again!” “Yes, I am a sinner, but Christ is greater than my sin!” To say quietly and firmly to yourself, “I am a saint, God is my Father, heaven is my home, he told me so at my baptism, and therefore this body is for the death of sin, all day long, and for joy, all day long, even in the most deadening defeats and heartbreaking failures.”
And it is the special art of the Holy Spirit, to work this kind of miraculous, firm, tough spirit in us, to, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” and he will! He will! By God’s promise, he will. As you keep on learning and relearning his Word, keep on celebrating his Supper as we do every other week, keep on remembering your Baptism each day. He keeps on working this miracle called faith in you.
Which is all part of his job description, as summed up so succinctly in the 3rd Article of the Apostles Creed and its Meaning…