Have you ever spent an incredible amount of time, too much time, really, searching for something, only to find it in exactly the place where you always leave it and for some reason you just didn’t see?
It’s one thing when it’s your keys, and it’s another thing when it’s a life choice that someone makes because they are totally deceived, either by themselves or others, into thinking they are absolutely right, or have absolutely done nothing wrong.
In the readings today we have versions of all of this. Though, the Ephesians reading I think is one where the lectionary people are enabling the making of a poor choice.
Let me explain.
This week the lectionary cuts of the reading from 2nd Samuel in the middle of a verse. The chapter doesn’t end with David declaring “I have sinned against the Lord.” No no. The verse goes on and concludes with Nathan saying to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.”
That, my friends, is a remarkably difficult thing to preach on. The idea of God sacrificing a child in atonement for sins. So, instead of including that difficult verse, the lectionary omits it entirely from the cycle of readings.
And! The lectionary people also give us Ephesians 4:1-16, a beautiful verse, filled with lofty words and ideas. A verse which gives everyone a place withing this crazy world and unites us under God’s love.
It’s beautiful. It’s all true. It’s a lot more fun to unpack.
And it’s a cop-out. Offered to allow us Pastor types the opportunity to avoid preaching on a text that is really hard.
But friends. We can do hard things.
In fact, we must do hard things.
We can’t just go through our lives refusing to see anything other than the things we want to see. Nor can we go through our lives not having the conversations we don’t want to have.
Actually. That isn’t true. Some of us can. Some of us are born white and privileged. We can avoid a lot of things that we don’t want to deal with.
We can avoid racism. We can avoid “politics in church.” We can avoid the major repercussions of a global pandemic.
But just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
Take David, for example.
David, for a quick refresher: was the last born son of a wealthy land owner and sheep farmer. David was a shepherd, who from an early age spent a lot of time in the outdoors with the sheep. God saw David, said oh, this one is nice, let’s make him king (even though God had repeatedly insisted that Israel really shouldn’t have a king). Also, Israel also already has a king, Saul. David becomes a war hero, he and Saul become friends, Saul realizes David is a threat to his power. Saul tries to have David slaughtered in battle, this fails, and ultimately David becomes King after the death of Saul and several of his sons.
David conquerors a lot of land as King. Becomes wealthy, has a lot of wives and sons, brings peace to Israel. Then he gets bored. Stays home from war, does several things he’s not supposed to do, including raping Bathsheba, trying to trick her husband, Uriah, into thinking the baby Bathsheba is carrying is his instead of David’s, and when that plan fails, has Uriah slaughtered in battle.
That brings us up to today, when Bathsheba was given 7 days to mourn her husband before being taken into the Royal household as David’s 8th wife.
The thing that I think it’s important to talk about with this today is that David has no idea he has done anything wrong. And in David’s defense, he probably honestly had no idea he had done anything wrong. He’d lived a charmed life, and privileged life, he’d likely never been told no, or that he was wrong before. Not that he hadn’t been wrong before.
But he had never faced repercussions for his actions. He’d never had to.
The modern correlation that I can think of is that Stanford swimmer, Brock Turner, who raped an unconscious woman and got 6 months in jail for it. He’d never been in trouble, the judge who gave him the lenient sentence, said he didn’t want this to ruin Turner’s life. That Judge, by the way, lost his job.
David had never been forced to recon with his own ramifications before.
Nathan figured out a way to reach David.
David hears, acknowledges he is wrong.
And then the reading that we have cuts off.
It cuts off like simply acknowledging the harm is enough.
What this says is: saying I’m sorry is enough. But it is not. When you harm someone it is not enough to say “my bad” and then move on like nothing happened. You have to actually change; prove that you are actually sorry.
Now, I do not like the insinuation that God killed this baby to punish David. I don’t like it for a lot of reasons. But pretty high on the list is that this baby’s death is ANOTHER blow to Bathsheba, who is having a really difficult year.
Bathsheba is not a pawn in the story of God teaching David humility. The baby is not killed for atonement.
I don’t know the reason for any of the parts of this story, but I know God. I know God as the brown skinned carpenter who in this Gospel reading sees that the people are blinded by their physical needs, their hunger. And so instead of getting angry at the people, Jesus works with them to see that he is not really here to offer food but a different way of life. And also feeds them with real food.
That’s the God I know. That’s the God I follow, and that’s the God who is using human prophets, like Nathan, to work throughout the Old Testament. To reach us humans when we repeatedly just don’t get it.
But I also know that I’m not God. And I shouldn’t offer my understanding as the Gospel truth.
I’ve spent a lot of time with texts like these and have wrapped my mind around it by believing that humans attempting to make sense of God, or to give meaning to terrible tragedies, is why there are stories like these and Scripture. I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea of God’s plan and everything happens for a reason, which are two logical takeaways from this reading if we decided that God was punishing David, and only David, for his transgressions.
David really should have known that he was wrong. He didn’t. He should have known he was wrong in literally everything he did in last week’s reading. He didn’t hold himself accountable, the people around him enabled him in his behavior and self deception.
This is the moral of this story for me. That God will find a way to reach us when we need to change. We will be offered opportunities. It’s up to us if we take them. And, we need to take responsibility for our actions, decisions, and the ramifications.
Our homework this week, maybe for far longer than a week, is to consider what it means to take accountability for our actions. And, what we need for an apology to be genuine. What do we need to offer, and what do we need to receive.
Accountability. What does it mean. What does it look like.
Nice and light!