First Presbyterian Church

WHEN GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD PEOPLE

2 Samuel 6:1-19
Mark 6:14-29
Another in the Summer Stories: Meditations on Life with Purpose.
It’s as old as Methuselah but truly a classic. Bill Cosby tells the story of wanting to hit Harold (old weird Harold they called him) with a snowball. He explained the rules. No hitting with slushballs made up of ice and gunk. As he started his windup to snowball Harold, what should occur but a slushball hit him squarely on the side of the head. It was ole Junior Barnes who had done the deed. He returned fire but missed. Every day he was in search for Junior Barnes to return the favor. Not until July 12 did Junior get his due. He had made a special snowball for Jr. Barnes, even with his name engraved on the side. Junior was on his front step as he has convinced him he was Jr.s best friend. Not a snow ball in sight on that July day so he went to the freezer to retrieved the special instrument of pain. How devastated he was to learn that his mom had thrown the snowball away! So he went back outside and he spit on Jr. Sometimes you just want people who deserve to get what’s coming to them their due because frankly “they deserve it.” There are books (one by a famous rabbi) concerning ‘why bad things happen to good people’ which we have agonized over for years. The disciples, those trusty followers of Jesus were all the time being asked or were asking themselves why in the world could good people wind up with all the trauma/tragedy and heartache that they do!! Even Jesus had to weigh in on this one with his “The rain falls on the just and on the unjust”.
But today’s stories are just the opposite – when good things happen to bad people. Those occasions get our goat. We don’t want good things to happen to bad people! Of course we identify bad people as “other than us”, folks who find their names in the public section of the newspaper, folks described on the nightly newscast. Bad people – certainly doesn’t describe the like of good Sunday meetin’, church goin’, hard workin’ died in the wool Presbyterians!
But to have good things happen to bad people, that shouldn’t happen. They deserve to get what’s coming to them and it definitely isn’t something good! And we will do our part to make sure that happens – that they get their just punishment.

We will often do anything in our power to assure not that Bad People have good things happen to them but instead, bad people have what’s coming happen to them. Another case in point is America’s Most Wanted is an American television program[1][2] produced by 20th Television, and was the longest-running program of any kind in the history of FOS TV Network until it was announced on May 16, 2011 that the series was canceled after twenty-three years, with the final episode airing on June 18, 2011. The following September, America’s Most Wanted’s creator and host, John Walsh, announced that the program would resume on the cable network Lifetime later that year. Presented by Walsh, the show’s purpose is to profile and assist law enforcement in the apprehension of fugitives wanted for various crimes, iand also many of whom are currently on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. On May 2, 2008, the program’s website announced its 1,000th capture; as of July 3, 2012, 1,190 people have been captured because of AMW. The show usually ends with John Walsh saying, “…and remember, you can make a difference”, or, on occasion, “…and remember, you do make a difference. During the 2010–2011 season, the show averaged an audience of five million.[10] Within hours of Fox’s announcement of the show’s cancellation, campaigns to save the show were started by fans.In September 2011, it was announced that Lifetime had picked up America’s Most Wanted from Fox. The show has since gained much success on Lifetime, with twenty-two fugitives being captured within 6 months of AMW’s debut.
Leave it to us to assure Bad Folks get what’s coming to them. But today’s scripture bears explaining. King David in 2 Samuel was in the process of restoring Israel to the good guys – the Israelites. The bad Philistines had been conquered and Jerusalem was being restored as the capital. The Temple and it’s contents including the Ark of the Covenant – that mysterious symbol of the Presence of God was being carried along by servants. They knew that it must not be touched. They knew the rules for handling and not handling such a holy symbol. But as they were in parade formation, the ox stumbled that was carrying the Ark, Uzzah reached out to stabilize the Ark and was knocked dead on the spot. The party came to an abrupt stop – the parade was cancelled and everyone began seriously looking over their shoulders in fear they too would be struck dead. Why do you suppose such a tragic episode occurred to a seemingly innocent man? Is it God getting even with someone not careful enough with a sacred object? Could it have been lightening? Could the man have been electrocuted? In this case bad happens to good for no known reason and we don’t know exactly why but it warily makes us check our own rear view mirrors. Then the other scripture – we know John the Baptist. We know Herod the ruler, It’s when their stories merge that the fireworks begin. Herod usually listened to John. John had a way – as least as much as a preacher could – an unusual influence over King Herod for the King would listen to John. But Herod’s conscience was always bleeding when he left John. His wife who Herod had married after divorcing his first wife was jealous and annoyed at John. Whenever he was around preaching her husband was always moping around fixated on what John said was wrong with all of them. She had had enough so at the next party, as her daughter danced and the wine flowed, she finally got her way. In front of all the guests, Herod boasted, “What will you have, my dear?” The head of John the Baptist. Herod was crushed. He couldn’t embarrass himself at his own dinner party. He certainly didn’t want to kill the man he knew had the hand of God upon him – John the Baptist. He had to comply. And so it was, John’s head was served on the next platter. Why? Because the King was too weak to do the right thing. Herod got away with beheading Jesus’ first cousin – John the Baptist. Both these stories aren’t the ending we usually enjoy. We detest the plot in both of these. After all who wants to hear stories where the innocent guy gets creamed and the bad guy wins!! I mean, what kind of ending is that! We like movies in which the innocent guy gets what’s coming to him in the end and the bad guy gets punished and all that is supposed to happen before the credits roll in the end. How do we deal with just the opposite? What can we do? Who can we call? What 1-800 line can we contribute to in order to aright the ship again! I suggest for your consideration a proposal – each of us need to enact a I’m Not Responsible Department. Does anyone have such a department? The I’m Not Responsible Department is excellent when there are results you want to change and you can’t, when there are bad guys who win in the end and there’s nothing you can do to affect change in the situation. Sometimes that is the case and the I’m Not Responsible Department becomes an important way of reminding ourselves that there is much we simply aren’t responsible for not should we be. Sometimes we get to feeling that the world’s timeline is up to us – that is until we get knocked around as a stern reminder that I’m Not Responsible. I can’t change the outcome nor am I supposed to. Sometimes the bad guy wins and the good guy doesn’t get what we think should be coming to him, that’s when we need to visit the I’m Not Responsible Department. Now remember that there are sometimes that we should be responsible and we simply aren’t. We drop the ball and go AWOL when our work, our family, our church and the world needs our input, our wisdom, our wit and our sweat. Let’s not forget that. Still there are other times that We Simply Aren’t Nor Were meant to be responsible. We can’t change the outcome. We weren’t meant to have our wills put into play because we aren’t responsible. Stop trying to be responsible when you shouldn’t be. Stop trying to change others when you can’t. Stop trying to be in charge of the world’s timelines when the world doesn’t need you to be in charge. Instead visit your I’m Not Responsible Department and stay there awhile. Unfortunately with both these stories today, I am saddened by their outcome but there’s nothing I can do to change a bad end. Visit my I’m not responsible Department and choose to move on.
There is another place we can and should visit. Other than the I’m not responsible Department, we should all have a “I’m so angry I made a sign department.” Recently I saw a sign someone had painted about something – either some of the Occupy Wall Street protests in which people were protesting being part of the large majority who pay more taxes than a small minority who pay the least taxes. At any rate, they stood in front of a sign which read, “I’m so angry, I mad a sign.” What good does that do, you ask? There’s something called justifiable anger which is important to express often when the bad guy doesn’t get what should be coming to him or when the little guy get’s jilted. I’m so angry I made a sign may feel like small potatoes but sometimes I need to say something when the world seems unfair and when justice seems more like a pipe dream than a guarantee. After all, you just might do some good.
Two church stories about pastors – one was abused by her church and another the pastor mishandled over a 7 year period over 100K of the churches funds. Only 1K could be proven and actually traced so it may never go to court, but something needs to happen so another church won’t suffer the same fate 15 years down the pike. I’m angry that folks got hurt. I’m angry that a church acted more like sinners than saints and treated their pastor more like a battering ram than a servant God had sent there to lead them. I’m so angry I made a sign says that I stand up for the abused and battered, I give a voice to those who don’t have one, I believe in those who have no one to believe in them and I protect those who can’t protect themselves.
There is a final part of these stories that you don’t actually see in the stories but is a critical piece that shouldn’t be overlooked and that is the Always Pray – Never forget to Pray Ingredient. Too often we forget to pray. Too often we undervalue prayer. Too often we neglect the one thing we can do. Even when we aren’t responsible, we can pray. Sometimes when we’re too angry to sleep, to talk about it, too conflicted to know who to turn to, we can pray. You’ve heard it said, “Prayer changes things,” and it does, but more often it changes us. Prayer makes a difference when nothing else will. Prayer takes the times when we shouldn’t/couldn’t be responsible and believes/knows that God is always responsible and that is best illustrated via prayer. Prayer works when nothing else or no one else will or can. Prayer works when no one else should or could. Prayer is better than our anger. Prayer opens doors. Prayer unlocks doors. Prayer unclutters clutter. Prayer smoothes out the confused, repairs what/who is broken, it works. It works when you think all hope is lost. Try it – Always pray – never forget to pray. But I don’t know how to pray. I can’t use those fancy words. Good. Fancy words aren’t what God wants anyway. God wants you at your most basic honest self. God wants you to talk to Him as you would a neighbor over the back fence, a friend over the phone, or a loved one in a text message. This morning we have a choice in that we can visit our I’m Not Responsible Department and remember that for many things and over many people – we just aren’t responsible. And in some instances – at least those in which the person doesn’t have a voice to speak for themselves, or doesn’t have the resources to have people listen to them, we can use our justifiable anger to make a difference in people’s lives who can’t make a difference themselves. And we can finally visit the Always Pray-Never Forget To Pray. Try one or all today!