Church: Slingerlands Community UMC
Pastor: Pastor Laurel Phillips
Time Spent: 10-11:5am
Overall Impression: good, small, friendly
Type: United Methodist Church
Format summary: the usual- songs, prayer, scripture message and closing
Thoughts: What a good Sunday! I’m starting to realize how much appeal churches have when it’s sunny out and everyone is smiling. Another key to what I take from my project seems to be seasonal in nature. I guess the moral should be for churches to remember that people may be grumpy in winter and adjust accordingly. How to do it? I’ll gather more data for a future post.
Slingerlands community held their outdoor service the day I picked to show up. It was a beautiful day. The message had to do with the idea of webs and linkage. I participated in children’s time as an adult because there were only a few children. We created a pattern by each holding a portion of a long ribbon. It looked a little like a web, the takeaway point being, we are all connected.
The sermon was about David, Bathsheba, and Uriah the Hittite. Because I love this story I will tell it to you twice. The VeggieTales version goes like this:
King George loves rubber duckies. Duckies are his favorite thing in the world. He has an entire closet full of duckies, but he sees one of his subjects with a cute little duckie and he wants it. He wants it so bad, that he intentionally sends this subject into the front lines of the great pie wars hoping he will get ‘creamed’. Then he takes the duckie for himself. Meanwhile at front lines, his faithful subject does get creamed- by lots of pies! He becomes delirious, babbling to himself about pies. After all this happens, a self-proclaimed ‘slightly odd wise man’ named Melvin shows up. He tells King George a story about two men. The first man is rich and has many sheep. The second is poor with just one little lamb. The rich man has dinner guests over. Rather than slaughter one of his many sheep, he takes the lamb of the poor man and they eat that for dinner. King George is very upset about what the rich man did and asks for his identity so he can be punished. Melvin points out that King George has done the same as the rich man and in fact his story was just a metaphor. King George is sorry for what he’s done so, to make amends, he invites his subject over for a nice bubble bath and gives back his only duckie. This brings him out of his pie-delirium and all is well.
The bible version has a far less-happy ending I’m afraid. King George is King David. The duckie represents Bathsheba, a woman David actually knocks up. Problem is, she is married to Uriah and they haven’t slept together since he’s been at war for his king. So David and Bathsheba can’t even pretend that the resulting baby is Uriah’s. David offs Uriah by sending him into the thickest part of the fighting. With Uriah gone, David can take Bathsheba for his own. Here’s where the Melvin analog (Nathan) shows up. He tells the story about the sheep, knowing that David used to be a shepherd. It moves David to anger against the rich man’s cruelty. Nathan reveals his trick and David realizes he is in trouble with God. Nathan says, “You are forgiven. You will not die.” However God punishes David by taking the child Bathsheba is pregnant with. It does not live longer than a week.
Why do I love this story? Probably because of the amazingly good VeggieTales episode. Also it’s very juicy, like reading tabloids. Something about it really draws me in. The sermon points again to a web. Not of good feeling and humanity among all people this time, but of lies and murder. David let one sin lead to another. He became so stuck in what he wanted that it messed up his life. In some ways God is totally harsh in this story. God takes the baby that Bathsheba gives birth to. In other ways God is very lenient. He doesn’t harm David, even though he deserves death as punishment for murder. The way it works out is very old-school old testament. God’s mercy saves a king but kills an infant. Punishment is doled out to a person’s progeny instead of that person. I’m sure this portion of the story spoke much more clearly to audiences back in the day.
It kind of makes me wonder about the whole abortion debate. God killed a full term child already born because he was inconvenient. Maybe all the people who quote the old testament missed this part. It seems to me there should be a big group of religious folks pushing for the exact opposite of what they are now. Clearly the full grown adult life was more important to God than the baby.
Looking at it another way, maybe that’s just an instance of ‘God does everything’. Old testament explanations sometimes take the tack that whatever happened, God willed it for a reason. Did the baby look sick, then Nathan came along to explain why?
Either way it’s a pretty good story. And by good I obviously mean interesting. Because its totally NOT good for nearly everyone involved. No word on how Bathsheba felt about all this. She’s just a woman so maybe no one asked her. But that’s a post for another time.
Anything Else -?: I must fit in pretty well- the Pastor asked me how I’ve been even though we’d never met. Turns out that I look like someone else. That’s starting to happen now and then. I wonder if it’s something specifically nondescript about me or just my smile.