Aug 5, 2012
Proper 13
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Sermon: “The Rest of the Story”

The Church’s notion of sin, like that of Israel before it, is peculiar. It is derived, not from speculation about the universal or general state of humanity, but rather from a peculiar, quite specific account of what God is up to in the world. What God is up to is named as covenant, Torah, or, for Christians, Jesus. If we attempt to begin in Genesis, with Adam and Eve and their alleged ‘fall,’ we will be mistaken, as Niebuhr was, in thinking of sin as some innate, indelible glitch in human nature.”

“The Best of William Willimon: Acting up in Jesus’ Name” Rev. Dr. William Willimon

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, …
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, …
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?
Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter.

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, I, 1922

This text from Second Samuel is troubling. You may have thought that the text describing the beheading of John the Baptist from a couple of weeks ago was a sordid tale, but it has nothing on this one.

One could argue that this periscope contains every element of salvation history as recorded in the whole of the bible. It raises questions about the nature of God, the nature of humankind, and it raises questions about the nature of scripture.

As a kind of background to looking at these questions, we need to examine at what Paul Harvey always called, “The rest of the story.” This episode is a part of a whole drama that has played out on the stage of Israel’s history. If we draw conclusions from only this scene, it would be the same as walking into a theater in the middle of a movie and leaving ten minutes later thinking we had a handle on the whole story.

The story in 2 Samuel has been developing over many years. David, King of Israel, was the product of God’s divine care for Israel. Beginning as a lowly shepherd boy, he eventually became King of Israel. But not on his own.

David was a devout and committed believer in God and became a hero in Israel because of his love for God and passion for the people of God. God took him from shepherd of sheep to Shepherd of Israel and David was a model of what it meant to love and serve the Lord with, “… all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” [Mark 12:30]

Eventually David the country boy was David the King. He wanted for nothing and had access to everything. He calls to mind the words from that old Frank Sinatra song, “I’ve got the world on a string I’m sitting on a rainbow Got the string around my finger What a world, what a life…” Everything seems to be going well, that is until las week when David, as the text tells us, covets, steals, and murders.

20120804-223508.jpg

Like most folks who have nearly absolute power and vast wealth, the scheme seems to have worked. It appears that a silk purse has been made from a sow’s ear. David brings Uriah’s wife to his house and she has a son. It looks as though David, at least, will live happily ever after.

It is tempting to forget that this story is about human nature, and the presence of sin in our lives. In this story, we are reminded that even our greatest hero’s are flawed.

It is tempting to forget that this story is part of a larger story that spans other stories. It is tempting to see it as another account of how absolute power corrupts, absolutely.

And were this story not a scripture, it would make for a nice moral tale…fiction that lifts up the near destruction, and modest restoration of the central character.

Timothy Wilkinson follows this course in the “Eternal Throne Chronicles” series of historical novels; yet the story of David provides the framework for more than fiction. David’s public and personal troubles infringe upon one another, and as the narrative builds, the boundaries between his two worlds become increasingly blurred. Hard as he tries, David cannot keep his private hell from seeping into his public life. The convergence of this seepage takes place in the rebellion of his son, Absalom. In the end, Joab, the same general who killed Uriah (or set him up to be killed), kills Absalom. Again, the murder accords with the king’s role as head of state. Even more than before, David is devastated by grief. His grief is so overwhelming to him that Joab has to summon David back to his public role as king.

Like so many of us, David tries to separate his personal and professional lives, his religious self from his public self. As it eventually does for so many of us, it threatens to tear him apart and destroy both of the worlds he inhabits. Sound familiar? But this is not “Dark Night Rises” and David is not Batman. It is scripture.

As human beings in relationship with the living and demanding God of the Bible, we cannot divide our selves and our loyalties. We cannot be Christians on Sunday and non-Christians during the work week. Our God does not accept the compartmentalization of our religious and secular selves. Even if we give money for the mission trip, sing in the choir, and bring lunches to shut-ins, if we take advantage of the weak and abuse our power at work, we despise the word of our Lord. 

The good news is: God is always calling us back to integration, to be whole and undivided selves, united within ourselves in our commitment to God. United with God’s purposes in the world.

See this story really does get at those questions I raised earlier. It reminds us that human beings are imperfect, and that despite this fact, God chooses to work for good through fallible people like you and I and King David. Scripture, we are reminded here is not a collection of short snippets of truth that always make sense when the are torn from the whole. This story would only be a tragedy if we never read of David’s rise and with him, God’s people. It would make no sense if the David story ended here and we never learned of his second son, Solomon. Scripture is authoritative and true, but only as we take it as a whole. In the end, this story reminds us that only God is autonomous; and fortunately for Israel and for us, God intends to redeem all of creation and with it, each of us. Or is it the other way? God intends to redeem each of us, and with us, the rest of creation? Either way, that is the rest of the story.

Advertisements