Poor old Uzzah!

11 Jul 2021 by Gail Hinton in: Sermons

Welcome to the Church

Welcome to everyone listening in or reading this service online today. As we face yet another week of lock down remember that although we are physically separated we are still the gathered people of God in spirit.

This mornings Call to Worship is based on Psalm 24.

Call to worship

The Lord comes to his own world.
though his own will fail to see him.
Everything already belongs to him
and the people of every nation.
From sea to sea he created it;
All living things are is joy. 

Lift your tired heads!
Open your weary eyes!
The King of glory comes among us;
he enters the gate of our humanity.

Who is this king of glory?
The Lord who stoops to conquer,
The Lord of Shepherds and humble humans,
This is the King of glory!

(Based on an adaption of Psalm 24 by Bruce D. Prewer)

Hymn: Tis 181. Sing out earth and skies

Prayers of Adoration and Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness

Lord when we consider the works of your hands;
the beauty of the world in which we live,
we are awed by your majesty.

You are so far beyond our thoughts
and you have the world at your feet,
yet you long to be our holy friend,
you want our company because you
cherish everything that you have made.

We will lift our tired heads
and open our weary eyes
to see you come among us in glory. 

And let us continue with our prayer of confession… 

Gracious God,
We come before you boldly,
because you came among us,
because you understand our humanness.

We only dare face you and keep our poise in your presence,
because you accept us as we are,
because you make us whole,
because you make us worthy.

When our hands and words harm others set us straight again.

When our motives are less than pure,
teach us how to be motivated by love.

When we are seduced by our own wills and desires,
lure us back to you with your words of truth and life.

We all look for meaning in the wrong places at times,
Forgive us when we forget to remember you Lord,
for you are the King of glory.


Brothers and sisters in Christ,
If we confess our wrongdoing,
God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins
And cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
‘Your sins are forgiven.’

And we respond together
Thanks be to God

Hymn: Amazing Grace my Chains are Gone

Bible Readings

2 Samuel 6:1-19

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.

David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he 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 for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.


Mark 6:14-29

John the Baptist Beheaded

14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Sermon: Poor old Uzzah!

The readings we have heard today are terrible stories. The narrative about the horrific death of John the Baptist I will speak about briefly next week; today I will focus on the reading from 2 Samuel. I have included the verses the lectionary leaves out because difficult stories should be heard because…. they make us think. (The Lectionary by the way is basically the best bits of the Bible arranged in a three- year cycle, so that worshippers get to hear a wide range of the Scriptures every week.) This particular story about God striking Uzzah dead just because he reaches out to stop the Ark toppling over always makes me question the God, I think I know.

The writers in With Love to the World, which is a commentary on the weekly lectionary readings, suggest that the “Bible generally depicts God as holy and good but not necessarily safe”. The ancient Israelites knew that to see the Lord could lead to death; remember how Moses had to cover his shining face after seeing God so that the people would not be afraid or how God passes by Moses so that he only catches a glimpse of God’s splendour! Only God’s backside not the frontside apparently. When the Ark of the Covenant arrives at its final resting place within the Temple that David’s son will build, it is placed into an inner sanctum called the holy of holies. This inner sanctum was separated from the temple with a heavy curtain and the holy relics were covered with a veil just in case the holiness of God should shine forth and strike the priest dead. Sometime after the destruction of the first Temple, the one built by Solomon David’s son, the Ark of the Covenant goes missing never to be mentioned again in the Old Testament scriptures, a fact by the way that has sparked our modern-day imaginations; remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? Throughout Israel’s history right up until the destruction of the Second Temple in 66AD, only priests could enter the holy of holies, on one day of the year at the festival of Yom Kippur. This holy day is a day of repentance, purification, and the forgiveness of sins for the entire nation of Israel.

It is puzzling for us a 21st century thinkers to get our heads around God’s presence being confined, held, and concentrated within a wooden box. What is going on here and what is the Ark of the Covenant in the first place you may well ask. The Ark of the covenant was made by Moses to house the “tablets of the law”, the covenant agreement between God and God’s people (see Deuteronomy 10:1-5). Hebrews tells us it also contained a golden pot of manna, the food the Israelites ate as they wandered the wilderness, and Aaron’s flowering rod, a kind of cane or walking stick (Hebrews 9:4). This miraculous budding of dead wood indicated which tribe God had chosen to perform the priestly duties and religious rites of ancient Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is clearly a big deal because it holds within in it the people’s story, the story of their relationship with God.

There are some really cool, interesting side stories about the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. At one stage it is captured by the Philistines who decide the best place for it to sit is right beside their own god Dagon in Dagon’s Temple. Well that all ends in disaster, the Philistines wake one morning to see the statue of Dagon fallen flat on his face in front of the Ark, its head and hands severed (1 Samuel 5:1-5). Scary stuff, right? So of course, they want it out of there, they ask a neighbouring Israelite village to come collect it and as it enters the village the rejoicing multitude drop dead after setting their gaze upon it (1 Samuel 6:19-21). With my 21st century thinking firing and my basic understanding of human psychology I do wonder if poor old Uzzah, aware of the Ark’s history simply falls dead due to sheer fright and terror, realising in a split second the danger of his well-intentioned action. That’s the way I deal with this difficult story however it is only a theory, somethings we have to keep in the mystery box or perhaps for a moment in the afterlife when we can have a chat with Uzzah to get his side of the story.

The best thing about today’s difficult story is the way it forces us to reconsider the God we think we know. Like the ancient Israelites and King David do we also tend to put God in a box? Do we only engage with God for an hour of a Sunday within the walls of our church buildings as if they too are a Temple that contains God’s holy presence? When we read the stories of King David and his desire to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to new capital Jerusalem there are hints in the scriptures that suggest that this action may be more about national pride and keeping control over God rather than honouring God. God tells David I have always been with you:

‘I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone,’ (2 Samuel 7:8-9). That’s with or without the presence of the Ark of the Covenant mind you.

The Psalmist tells us that God is always with us, as close to us as our own breath and the Apostle Paul speaks of God who is much closer to us than we think for in “him we live and move and have our being” (Psalm 34:38; Acts 17:28). The idea of God being so close to us is both wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful when we are traveling along well with God, wonderful when we desperately need God to walk right beside us in difficult times, those time when we need someone close by to hold our hand in the valleys of darkness; terrifying when we are unwilling to let God be at the centre of our lives and terrifying when we want to go our own way and act according to our own will and desires.  Is it easier and safer to keep God boxed in, compartmentalised to only certain parts of lives or certain days of the week, or particular times of day?

When we hear these difficult stories, we approach them with much more than our 21st century thinking we approach them with the knowledge and understanding of the God we know revealed in Jesus Christ. The God we know broke out of the box about two thousand years ago and became one of us, a human being. Remember the holy of holies in the Jerusalem temple and the curtain that protected the priest and the people from God’s splendour? At the moment Jesus died upon the cross, Matthew tells us that the ‘curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart’ (Matthew 27:51). Matthew tells us about this so that we understand the difference Jesus makes; in Jesus we can reach out to God without fear despite the fact that in him the’ fullness of God resides’ (Colossians 2:9). We have access to God’s splendour and no longer need to fear the awesomeness of God. A couple of weeks ago we heard the story of the bleeding woman, a nobody, an unclean outcast who reaches out to touch the hem of Jesus robe, she is fearful of his reaction and must nearly die of fright when turns to her… but then he calls her daughter, and her life is never the same. At the end of John’s gospel, we hear another story about someone reaching out to Jesus. When Thomas sees the resurrected Jesus, Jesus broken out of the grave, he cannot believe the good news, however instead of Jesus reprimanding him for his lack of belief, Thomas receives an invitation to reach out and touch the scars of crucifixion that mark Jesus body.

We too have received the invitation to reach out and know Jesus as our Lord and our God. I am guessing that is why you have taken the time to read or listen to today’s sermon; perhaps though you are simply curious about the whole Jesus thing. So here is a word of warning, yes Jesus is all holy, loving, and good but he is also dangerous because when you commit to him as your Lord and your God, your life will never be the same again. Jesus’ invitation to follow him and believe in his message is serious business because it claims us at the depths of our very being.

Today as we worship in isolation and partake in communion in a covid safe lock down appropriate manner, let us remember Jesus, the one who grants us access to God by being God in the flesh, approachable, understanding, forgiving and with us evermore in Spirit. Take some time to think about why you have chosen to follow him, what is it about Jesus that makes all the difference to your life and then if you feel you are ready, recommit yourself once again to the only one who can grace us with life in abundance (John 10:10).

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,


Hymn: Jesus Remember Me

Prayer for the people

Oh Lord Jesus our minds are overloaded and whirling. Our ears hear constant reports of things not working quite as we expected, of suffering and more and more Covid cases, more suffering and inequity across the globe. We can so easily feel the fear and lose our trust in you. The contrast between knowing you and feeling your inner peace yet knowing such disharmony exists in the world, threatens to throw us off balance.

Oh Lord Jesus, thank you we can hear your voice if we just stop and listen for a while. Make us still and quiet to hear you, for you are not far removed from us. Give us discernment to find your voice and the peace you give, not to escape from reality but to give us calm and perspective. Give us the same tranquillity that you had when you were in the heat of the storm.

While some countries are making great inroads in their vaccination programs, others are struggling with supply and distribution, and in our country, we are struggling with much negativity and criticism which crushes optimism. And crushes our spirit.

Yet we see many people working tirelessly in small and thankless ways, making differences in communities but arising from love for their neighbours. WE ask Lord Jesus that you help all teachers involved in education and training in this stressful time of reduced face to face contact. Help teachers to teach, help parents to cope with their kids at home with patience and help the kids to learn despite the stresses and challenges.

Please Lord Jesus, slow the spread of this current Delta variant, comfort the families of those who’ve lost loved ones and those who have long term effects after recovering. Thank you that we live in the age of enlightenment with modern medical science. Give wisdom to our state and federal leaders as there is difference of opinion even within the science and considerable judgment is needed for them to guide us safely. Guide medical staff and energise them we pray.

We thank you Jesus that you are here, as close to us as our own breath. Please bring good out of the evil that we see and give us hope. We thank you Jesus that through your power and presence we can not only have hope but conquer fear and negativity. Which is what this world needs.

Would you pour out your Spirit and enable a new season of discipleship, Christian growth and healthy church life here at Carlingford? In the months ahead we pray for this. Help each of us to see commitment to you as a way out of an ordinary life, a way out of stress, disappointment and turmoil, a way out of anxiety---Lord Jesus lifts us out of the ordinary we ask you please, as we commit to walking just a bit closer to you every day.

We pray these things in Your name Amen.

Let us now pray the Lord's Prayer...

Offering Prayer and Blessing

Offering Prayer

We bless you, Lord God, creator of the world;
from you every good and perfect gift comes.

Accept our offerings as first fruits of our love and gratitude,
and enable us to give ourselves wholly
in the life of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Be strong and full of good courage, do not be afraid;
for it is the Lord who goes with you.

Your God will not fail you or forsake you.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the communion of the Holy spirit
be with you all evermore.


Next week: 18 July 2021
Theme: "All Access Pass"
Reading: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, Ephesians 2:2-11
Lectionary Readings:
2 Sam 6:1-5, 12b-19, Ps 24,
Eph 1: 3-14, Mk 6:14-29