2Sa 6:1-15 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. (2) David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. (3) They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio,  the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart (4) with the ark of God;  and Ahio  went in front of the ark. (5) David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs  and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. (6) When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. (7) The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark;  and he died there beside the ark of God. (8) David was angry because the Lord had burst forth with an outburst upon Uzzah; so that place is called Perez-uzzah,  to this day. (9) David was afraid of the Lord that day; he said, "How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?" (10) So David was unwilling to take the ark of the Lord into his care in the city of David; instead David took it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. (11) The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months; and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household. (12) It was told King David, "The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; (13) and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. (14) David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. (15) So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
So, how many people watched the debate Friday night? Well I admit when I watched it I already had an idea of who I wanted to win, but I really tried hard to set aside my biases and look for one of the candidates to really come out ahead. Unfortunately, when all was said and done, I felt kind of blasé about the whole debate. Both candidates seemed to make some very good points, both seemed very intelligent, but to me there was no real winner. What’s more, for most of the debate the two candidates seemed … almost … too polite. I know that’s probably bad for a pastor to say, but that was kind of how I felt.
When I woke up Saturday morning, the headlines I saw on the internet confirmed what I had been feeling. This is what Dana Milbank of the Washington Post had to say about it:
McCain was controlled. Obama was succinct. And both were so mild that moderator Jim Lehrer didn't know what to do. "Talk to each other," he urged. "Say it directly to him," he pleaded. "Do you have something directly to say, Senator Obama, to Senator McCain about what he just said? . . . Respond directly to him about that, to Senator Obama about that. He's made it twice now."
No use. Lehrer asked about the financial-bailout plan gripping the nation. "Do you favor this plan?" the moderator pressed.
"We haven't seen the language yet," Obama demurred.
"Are you going to vote for the plan, Senator McCain?"
"I -- I hope so," McCain hedged.
Now, I know that toward the end of the debate the two candidates began to attack each other some, but for the most part, they seemed more concerned with giving intelligent-sounding answers than getting into the spirit of the debate. As I reflected on it, I realized what I would have liked to see more of was not personal attacks toward each other, but a sense of passion. The entire debate seemed so academic that it was like there was no passion behind the candidates.
What’s interesting is that in all the headlines I saw, I don’t think I saw any that talked about the passion of the debate – or the lack thereof. I mean, really, how often do we talk about passion in life? If I were to ask you “what is the most passionate thing you can do in life?” how would you respond? I suspect most people would probably say “sex.” But how many of you would say you are passionate about God?
When I was preparing for this sermon, I decided to look up books about passions. So I went to Google Book Search and typed in “a passion for” for the book title. It came back with 892 books. When I typed in “A passion for God”, though, only 10 books were found. Some of the passions that were rated higher than God include “ice cream”, “wildlife”, “cheese”, “mathematics”, “gold”, and even “polka”!
So, I decided to try the same thing with websites. When I searched for “A passion for”, Google came back with 8.8 million websites. And the ones with “a passion for God”? 75,000. That’s less than 1%. There were websites for jazz, tango, paperweights, even Pluto before any for God! There was one that was www.apassionfor.com and had a description of “helping you explore your passions.” I thought – okay, this sounds promising. But when I clicked on it all I got was a website to help you explore you passions through eating. Then I tried www.passion.com thinking maybe that would be better. But when I clicked on it I realized I better stop trying to go to random websites!
But the point is that this society we live in has made it unpopular to be passionate about God. I wonder – do you feel that passion when it comes to Christianity? Don’t answer that too quickly. What I mean by that is not “do you get enjoyment out of the songs we sing at church.” When I ask if you are passionate about God – I mean do you wake up each day looking forward to how you will serve God in some new and exciting way?
Most people, when they first become Christians, experience that passion for God. They think “this is great! All my sins are forgiven. I now have a purpose for living, and I now have a future home in heaven. What a deal!” But as time goes on you begin to lose your steam. The passion slowly goes out of you. I think of it much like some of my birthday parties growing up. When I was little, one of my favorite parts of the birthday was the balloons. I’d be happier about that balloon that any toy I got. But, without fail, every time I woke up the next morning the balloon was on the ground. In just a few short hours, it had last its helium. When we experience that passion for God in our lives, we feel like we could float to the ceiling. But after just a short time we begin to deflate – we lose our helium – we lose our oomph.
Why does that happen? What does that say about us? Are we bad Christians for losing our passion for the Gospel? Well, yes and no. We’re not bad in the sense that we’ve done something terribly wrong or evil – it happens to the best of us. In our scripture reading from this morning, we heard the story of David trying to bring the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. It starts out with David discerning that this was the way to honor God. David knew he couldn’t accomplish this task by himself, but he recognized that being king came with certain advantages. So he asked two men to carry the ark for him. And how did it make David feel? It says “David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” He was passionate about this mission. God was going to be glorified and David was going to be a part of it.
But, what happens? One of the men carrying the ark slips up and ends up getting killed before the ark reaches Jerusalem. And what happens to David? He gets angry at God. Then he becomes afraid of God. And finally, he resolves to just give the ark to one of his friends. He says “here – I can’t handle this anymore – I’ll worship God – I’ll donate some money to God – but I can’t handle this task anymore. Someone else is better suited for it.”
David’s passion for God had deflated. He lost his helium. For months the ark stayed in his friend’s house, just sitting there. He thought this must not have been God’s mission after all. But God began to bless David’s friend for just holding onto the ark. Once David heard this, his hope began to rise, and he took the ark the rest of the way to Jerusalem. And as he did so, it says “David danced before the Lord with all his might. David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.”
Being passionate about God is not a once and done sort of thing. It’s not something that we just experience when we first become a Christian, or first figure God’s mission for our lives. It’s something that has to be renewed throughout our lives. We need to consciously put the helium back into our spirit.
Now, David’s passion left him because he failed in his original mission. He tried to use his resources to accomplish the task, and it ended up getting someone hurt. Often times, when we try to do something for God we run up against some big challenges. Sometimes these seem insurmountable. And when we face that failure, it’s very easy for our passion to leave us. But it’s important to not give up. Whenever we embark on a mission for God, it begins with God calling us to do something. We start out excited about it – passionate about it – then we face a challenge. This happens almost without fail. However, if we move past the challenge – if we find a way to accomplish the mission – our passion returns and we grow in character and spirit.
What this means is that when we face those challenges – those failures – we should not interpret that as meaning we just aren’t cut out for serving God. Instead, we should look at these challenges as evidence that we are on the right track – we are experiencing the challenge so that God will accomplish something great through us. It may mean that we need to take a different look at how to accomplish the mission – perhaps go about it in a different way – but we should not give up.
When I think about passion, I like to think of it as the intersection of our gifts or talents and opportunity. When we find ourselves doing something we’re really good at, we often find a tremendous amount of enjoyment in it. The problem is we often get confused about what our gifts are. David thought his gifts were in his ability to be king, so he found two of the most capable men in his kingdom to carry the ark. But when that didn’t work, he surely must have questioned his ability to lead a nation. In the end he found another way to accomplish the task, and became passionate about the mission.
Are you using your gifts for the glory of God? Do you even know what your gifts are? If not, perhaps it’s time to start exploring them. Actively engage in the ministries of the church and find what brings you passion. Or, if you know you’re good at something but don’t see how that could be used in the church, talk to me and I can help you explore that.
And finally, let me leave you with one additional way our passions can become deflated. That is by failing to learn more about it. David had to be informed about the power of the ark before his passion could be renewed. When you stop trying to educate yourself about your passions, you will quickly lose your helium. When it comes to being passionate about God, you need to study the Word of God. Read your Bible. Engage in devotionals. Coming to church on Sunday mornings and listening to the sermon is great, but it is not enough to sustain you. You need to also regularly read and study the Bible.
God calls us into a passionate relationship with him. He does not ask us to simply come to church on Sunday morning and then be done with him for the week. Instead, he wants us to see him as our daily bread, and asks that we continuously look for ways to glorify his name and to do it with joy. We were not created to simply come to church – we were created to be God’s active disciples on earth. Amen.