Saturday, October 25, 2014

Stuck on David

It's easy to get stuck on David.

Of course, the David of whom I speak is King David, and it's easy to get stuck on him for so many reasons.  First of all, the scriptures describe him as someone it would be easy to get stuck on:  ruddy and handsome, strong and confident, both athletic and musical.  He slays Goliath with a slingshot and one smooth stone; he tames the moody King Saul with his music.

Then again, there are so many stories about David in the Old Testament, so many I don't remember them all.  I remember doing a whirlwind tour of the Bible one summer (the goal was 90 Days) and being surprised that there were a few stories about David's intrigues before and after he became King that I either didn't know or had forgotten. There was one in particular I don't remember ever hearing before.  David is on the run from Absalom when a man starts cursing him and throwing rocks at him.  David's men want to kill him, but David stops them, saying, of all things, that the man is preaching God's word to him.  It seemed like an incredibly expansive view at the time.  But, that's David for you.

How can you not get stuck on David?  Half of 1st Samuel and almost all of 2nd Samuel is his story.  And when we get to the New Testament and the stories about Jesus, we are still stuck on David.  After all, didn't the prophets promise that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the City of David?

So, last week, when I prepared to preach on the story of David and Bathsheba, I couldn't help it:  I was stuck on David.  Of course, it was his story:  David's sin, the prophet's confrontation, David's contrition and repentance.  "Create in me a clean heart" is not just David's song:  it is our song, too.  So of course, I couldn't help it:  all of the main points of my sermon were about sin and blindness, and the people who confront us when we have gone astray.  The points of my sermon were all about who are our Nathans, who holds the mirror up to our eyes, and about how God makes our hearts new, again and again.

I was stuck on David.

Perhaps that is how it has to be.  David is one of the Main Characters of Scripture after all.  We are meant to see things through his eyes.  His image fills up the whole mirror, like Abraham,or Moses,  Jesus or the Apostle Paul.

And yet, even while I was writing my sermon, and getting the points I was supposed to get (sin, confession, repentance, forgiveness), I couldn't help feeling this little niggling feeling in the back of my mind:  What about Bathsheba?  What about Uriah?  This is not their story, but they are in it.  They are minor characters.  Do they matter?

It is so easy to focus on the story from David's point of view that we forget about Bathsheba and Uriah.  But it seemed to me (suddenly) that if we do this we are committing the same sin that David committed.  Because he forgot about Bathsheba and Uriah too.  Or at least, he forgot they were actual people, beloved by God as he was, with lives that mattered.  David had begun to regard them as convenient or inconvenient, depending on the circumstances, and forgotten that they were beloved of God as he was.

I have often taught this story to confirmation students and have cleverly asked them to identify how many of the ten commandments David broke.  We can make a case that David broke almost all of them, and so we have a helpful review of the commandments.  But although clever, perhaps that tactic was not quite enough.  Perhaps the larger lesson is this:  the point of the commandments was not so much keeping David righteous as it was keeping Uriah and Bathsheba safe.  The commandments are all about Other People, and especially about those Minor Characters, the ones it is so easy to forget.

It is easy to get stuck on David, but there is always something in scripture, some subversive undercurrent, that whispers to me that there are other stories, too.   In my imagination  I see them:  Jephthah's daughter,  the widow of Zarephath, Uriah the Hittite.  People with no names, but for whom God's heart breaks.

1 comment:

LoieJ said...

Perhaps the essence of all sin is thinking our needs and desires are more important than the needs of others.