2 Samuel 11
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
As we consider the meaning tonight of the Ten Commandments in the Small Catechism, I wish to begin by reflecting upon a story. It’s a story that seems to be the plot of bad reality TV. It’s the Bible story that is our lesson for tonight in David, Bathsheba, and Uriah.
King David was one day walking on the roof of his palace. David saw a beautiful woman off in the distance bathing named Bathsheba. Bathsheba was the most beautiful thing that David had ever seen with his eyes. David was going to get with Bathsheba by any means necessary. Bathsheba wasn’t going to be able to say “no” to the king. Bathsheba then becomes pregnant. David knew that if this got out it would damage his rep. David wanted to do anything to get this child problem to go away.
Bathsheba had a husband named Uriah. Uriah was a soldier in King David’s army off fighting battle. David decides as a way of putting an end to the scandal to demand Uriah comes home from the battle to lay with his wife. David didn’t want to lose a soldier, yet if he didn’t it would soon get out that Uriah wasn’t the baby daddy. Uriah though was a much better man than David. Uriah refused to leave his fellow soldiers behind in the midst of a battle. Uriah was the ultimate teammate. Uriah was the guy on the end of the bench still encouraging his teammates when losing by thirty points. David wished that his whole army was like Uriah. David knew that his Uriah and Bathsheba problem would need resolution.
So David then decides to notify his commander to place Uriah at the front-line of battle, and have his fellow soldiers abandon him in the midst of a fight. Uriah would soon lose his life. David then quickly marries Bathsheba after Uriah’s death. King David in this story is every negative trait that you could every assign to a guy: he’s a creeper, a sleazeball, a jerk. David only got the girl because he was the King. What I want to talk about tonight is why King David’s story matters.
King David’s story ties into one of the biggest separations that took place during Luther’s life between himself and the church he left. The Church of Rome believes there are two types of sin in this world. Venial sins that are sins that merit temporary punishment say a few Hail Mary’s, sprinkle some holy water and make some penance then you can be forgiven.
Catholics would contrast venial sins with mortal sins or sins that merit eternal punishment and cannot be forgiven. It’s hard to classify what the Roman church considers a mortal sin since according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church one’s you must consider one’s intentions when differentiating between venial and mortal sins. No different than the legal system treats the reckless driver who kills a person differently than someone who commits an act of premeditated murder. The Catechism of the Catholic Church for this reason cites violence against your parents being a graver sin than violence against a stranger because there is a much more deliberate thought process involved in hurting your parents (Hence the commandment: Honor your Father and Mother).
So are there certain sins that can’t be forgiven. Back to the story of King David, King David’s intentions were rotten from the very start. King David’s sins were not momentary weaknesses, but rather deliberately hatched schemes. Look at all of the Ten Commandments that King David broke “Thou shall not commit adultery” “Thou shall not kill” “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife”.
Bosses have banished employees from their presence and teachers have thrown students out of the classroom for way, way less than King David committed with Bathsheba and Uriah.
So how does God respond to King David’s crime? God sees to it that King David is the greatest king that the nation of Israel shall ever possess. For what the story of King David illustrates to me is that there is no such thing as an unforgivable or unpardonable sin.
What about the sins that can be forgiven? Do we need to make amends? Do we lose jewels off our crowns in heaven? Must we spend time in purgatory to pay for everything that we’ve done wrong? Must we spend time in a place between Heaven and Hell for all that we’ve done in this life?
Questions like this cause me to consider one of Jesus’ famous most famous encounters in the Christian Gospels with the Thief hanging alongside him on the cross as he echoed his famous words “Today you will be with me in paradise?” This Thief is an interesting character. Like King David, he was probably a jerk, he was underhanded, and he was deceptive. Purgatory would seem to exist for people like this thief. Jesus promises unto him “The Kingdom on the day of his Resurrection”. Just think this guy violated the commandment “Thou Shall Not Steal.” The Thief broke this comment so frequently that he even had the nickname of “The Thief.”
So what good are the Ten Commandments then if they don’t keep out the very people they ultimately should. The one thing that our Confirmation students know is the Ten Commandments.
They know that all sin is a violation of the First Commandment “You shall have no other gods before me.”
They know the Commandments can be broken down into two tables. The first table has to do with our relationship with God “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain” “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”; these are the first three commandments.
The second table has to do with our relationship with our neighbor and the world around us in talking about “Parents, murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness and coveting.”
These commandments exist because we are a fallen people, which God continually needs to reign in. These commandments shed guidance for the Christian Life because we can all relate on a personal level to seeing the world break before our very eyes.
We know the Eight Commandment. We have heard people say false and nasty things about us. We have gone home with our feelings hurt. We have been bothered by how little people seem to care how we feel. “Sticks and Stones might break our bones, but words do hurt us.”
We know the Ninth and Tenth Commandments as we figure that our life would be so much better if we just had a prettier girlfriend, a nicer phone, or more money to spend.
What these commandments do is not only remind us of our calling to the world around us, but they also point us towards our need for God’s grace.
Within the Gospels, Jesus encounters a woman who married five times and was now shacking up with another guy. Jesus does not condemn her; Jesus instead gives unto her a word of forgiveness. As Jesus proclaims forgiveness, his point was not that the past is irrelevant. The past was very relevant. Every broken relationship came with a significant degree of pain and hurt. What Jesus’ word of forgiveness illustrates is that the Ten Commandments were given not to save, but rather to reduce harm in a fallen world.
If the Ten Commandments don’t save us, I close tonight with a reflection on the question of “How does salvation happen?” “Does salvation happen over the course of a lifetime?” or “Does salvation happen within the course of a moment?”
When I was seminary, I had a professor named Walter Sundberg. A student asks Sundberg if he had heard of the death bed conversion of Jeffrey Dahmer. For those of you too young to know Jeffrey Dahmer, let’s just say he was a sicko. Dahmer would lure young men into his apartment: rape them, kill them, and dismember their body. Dahmer would then pleasure himself to his victim’s remains, before consuming their flesh. The courts charge Jeffrey Dahmer with fifteen counts of murder. Could God actually save such a disgusting individual? To Which Sundberg answered that if God had saved all sorts of terrible people before, just like King David and the Thief.
How salvation happens was the central question at the heart of all of Luther’s life teaching in justification by faith alone. When does salvation occur? If salvation occurs over the course of a lifetime, then Jeffrey Dahmer as one of the most deranged individuals ever to live would be in big trouble. The question about salvation and Jeffrey Dahmer brings us to the most important of our faith questions.
Roman Theology believed in Infused Justification. Infused Justification means that Salvation is a process that occurs over time. Salvation is like weight loss (slow and gradual). Where the differences lie is that Luther believed that salvation was not a process, salvation took place in an instant. It would have taken place at the moment that the Thief upon the Cross came to believe, it would have taken place the moment that Saul was blinded on the Road to Damascus, and it would have taken place on the day of your Baptism. Lutherans believe that salvation comes to us like a tornado, we cannot prepare for it; it happens then we are left to sort out the consequences. Truly, the one thing that Luther believed someone contributed to their salvation was their sin in need of saving.
When Luther wrote the Small Catechism to German families, this was the spiritual truth that he wanted them to grasp. Christ was not the new “Moses”; Christ was not the new “law-giver”. Christ did not come to place a series of religious demands on top of your school demands, and on top of your family demands. Christ came because we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed by what we have done and by what we have left undone. The Commandments remind us of this, but what the Cross reminds us of is God’s last word on the matter. Amen
 The Catechism of the Catholic Church.(CCC) The definitions of sin are lines 1852-1853, where as the difference between mortal and venial sins are lines 1854 to 1864.
 Luke 23:43
 CCC- 1987 TO 1995.