A Reason to Celebrate

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

July 11, 2021
7th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture reading: 2nd Samuel 6: 1-5, 12b-19

Question:  What are celebrating today?

Today feels like a celebration to me.  Despite last Sunday being the Fourth of July – and all the celebrations that go with that important day, and Communion Sunday, one of the two sacraments we observe – this specific time feels like a celebration to me.

Perhaps you don’t feel it…perhaps today feels like many other Sundays to you.  You get up, have breakfast, put on your Sunday clothes, and make your way to church either live and in person or via Zoom.  So maybe it’s just a Sunday to you.

I beg to differ.  Let me share a brief list with you of what we are celebrating today:

  • We are safe, well, and worshiping together.
  • Our church finances are in good shape – not perfect, but good.
  • We sold the church property and now we are actively, aggressively seeking a new place to be our church home.
  • We do not live or try to worship in a war zone; so many people of multiple faiths and denominations are in danger each and every time they gather for worship.
  • We have the advantage of offering a Zoom alternative; although the reason for this was because of the terrible pandemic of Covid, we are able to do this because we got grant money to pay for it.
  • Many of us have various ailments, injuries, chronic conditions, and other health challenges; yet, we are better off than others who in similar situations.  Praise God!
  • Finally, I recently shared a meal or two with a few other PCUSA pastors; after listening to the problems in their churches, I will celebrate our church WITH MY WHOLE HEART AND VOICE!  Can I get an AMEN?!?!?

That’s just my list, and I didn’t have to try very hard to come up with it.  I often forget to celebrate the blessings in my life – I allow myself to get distracted by the “non-blessings” that I can always see.  I am confessing that right now…it needs to stop.

King David’s celebration at first seemed “altogether fitting and proper” as the Presbyterian saying goes.  Despite its positive list of good news, Celebration Part One quickly descended into a painful, embarrassing lesson for our hero, David.  Let’s start with the initial reasons for David’s celebration:

  • The Philistines have been beaten soundly in battle; the war with them isn’t over by a long shot, but they are greatly diminished as an opponent.  Considering how long David has been opposing them – remember his battle with Goliath? – this is a wonderful thing!
  • All of God’s people are united and have come to David and given him their backing, their fighting men, and their support. 
  • Jerusalem was chosen as a compromise spot because it was located between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
  • David is the undisputed leader of God’s people, and God’s favor seems to rest comfortably upon his shoulders.

All of this points to the good reasons for this celebration to be held.  David adds to the symbolism of the occasion by relocating the Ark of the Covenant – that ancient golden chest with the remnants of the original clay tablets containing the Ten Commandments that was carried before Moses and the Israelites during their 40-year journey to the Promised Land.  That is a symbolic move that will certainly galvanize the military and spiritual portions of David’s kingdom into awe and respect.

Two problems are coming that it seems David didn’t realize:

  1.  The Ark had been out of sight for so long that many had forgotten about it.  That doesn’t mean they didn’t know what it was or what it symbolized; it just means that dealing with it was not something anyone knew about.
  2. Do you remember just a minute or two ago when I said that “God’s favor seems to rest comfortably upon David’s shoulders?”  This led David to make a serious mistake in his handling of the Ark.  David assumed that because the Lord was with him, he could make up his own rules – even if those made-up rules were showing respect to the Lord.  But according to the Law of Moses, only the Levites were to carry the Ark; they did so by putting poles through the loops on both sides of it and lifting the poles and the Ark onto their shoulders; the Law clearly said NOT to touch the Ark. (Numbers 4: 5-15)

So, working hard, having the right heart, getting a consensus of the people, and even celebrating with “songs, harps, lyres, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals” isn’t enough.  

That’s the lesson here.

As we heard, a well-meaning attendant named Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark when the oxen pulling the cart stumbled, and God struck him dead for touching it.  I doubt Uzzah realized his mistake, and I don’t think anyone else did either.  

David was terrified, so he had it moved to the cover of the nearest house and left it there.  No celebration – no matter how energetic or how loud or how “proper” – mattered at this point.

Then that house belonging to Obed-Edom was suddenly blessed.  (I’ll bet Obed-Edom made certain NO ONE in his house got near to the Ark…I’ll bet he was also afraid of it too.)

So, Celebration Part One was over with.  Everyone went home, probably disappointed and at least a little fearful.  Wonder what the gossip was about David and his so-called relationship with the Lord…

For his part, David went home and pouted.  Scripture tells us that he was “afraid of the Lord that day.”  That is easy to believe – but note that David didn’t totally let the situation rest.  It would seem he kept tabs on the Ark.  When he heard Obed-Edom had been blessed, it was a clear sign to David that he could try again to move the Ark to Jerusalem; perhaps this time David inquired of the Levites for the proper method for doing it because this time there were no problems, no deaths.

Celebration Part Two began with David retrieving the Ark from its very temporary resting place and once again moving it to Jerusalem.  This time, ritual sacrifices were performed every six steps, David danced before the Lord with all his might, and the crowd followed – probably at a safe distance – shouting and sounding trumpets.  

The only spoiler that day came from Saul’s daughter, Michal – who was also David’s wife.  To read that she hated David in her heart must have been a blow to David.  But he was not punished for her hate…Michal was.  She remained childless and barren for the rest of her life.

Now all that remains is for us to learn whatever lessons exist in this passage.

Perhaps lesson #1 is to remember that just because we are doing something for the Lord or on the Lord’s behalf doesn’t necessarily mean we are gaining the Lord’s blessing and approval.  Praying really hard without considering the will of the people or the wisdom of others could be a path to disaster. Without considering the Lord’s plan or wishes is the most foolish thing that believers can do.  This doesn’t mean the Lord isn’t with you; it simply means that another path might be there instead.

This was a difficult lesson for this church to learn.  When we were forced to sell our former property, I can only imagine the amount of prayers that went up to the Lord asking that our church home be spared; that didn’t happen.

When we bought that perfect piece of land here in Towne Lake and began making plans to build our new church home, the amount of prayers that went up to the Lord – as well as all the really cool dreams and plans we made – must have been just as numerous; that plan didn’t happen either.

Now we face a new day full of new possibilities.  What will we do?  Where will we go?  What is our plan now?  And will we EVER get to celebrate properly?  That should be our prayer.


Another situation that daily stares us in the face is the Covid pandemic.  We have all lived with the dread of catching this horrible disease, the misinformation, and the political football the vaccine became – and we are all tired of it all!  We have met people who are unafraid; we have met others who are cautious; we have encountered some who seem to ignore science, if not their own common sense; and many of us have certainly studied our country’s last pandemic from 100 years ago:  the Influenza Pandemic of 1919, at the end of World War One.

A celebration of the certain and final ending of this pandemic seems to be just out of our reach.  Many of us would dance before the Lord with all our might, offering multiple sacrifices deemed appropriate, and generally shouting and sounding trumpets and using songs, harps, lyres, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals – if that celebration was legit and blessed by the Lord.  To declare that celebration ready to go today is about as foolish as Uzzah reaching out to steady the Ark. Until we are absolutely certain, we should remain in faithful prayer.


Schools!  Teachers!  Students!  Administration and staff!  Custodians!!!  All of these people are ready and able to celebrate the annual return to school next month.  After the scrambling of the past 18 months of school life that resembled daily international business meetings, every single person on the short list I just read agrees that they are ready for Celebration!  They all miss the way things used to be, and this is not just a nostalgic longing for the good old days; this is a realistic feeling that things can return to normal, and celebrations can be done!

But if they are done too soon…if caution flees in the face of the celebrations…if everyone is drawn into a sense of blissful complacency, people will get sick and die once again. 

Add first-responders, hospitals, clinics, any type of medical professionals, dentists, and even counselors to the list I just described.   They are ready to celebrate too.

So, perhaps our best move is to just celebrate today.  We are gathered in this beautiful place.  We have each other and our church.  We have lunch and fellowship today for everyone, and we hope all will join us.  

And, of course, we have at least one reason to celebrate, and we should always hold fast to it:

We celebrate the love and salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And we must never, ever forget that reason to celebrate.