Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sermon for August 9, 2015 by the Rev. Karen Joy Kelly

Sermon Year B Proper 14
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51

And thus, God’s retribution toward David continues.
David, having accepted responsibility for the wrong that he had done, was faced with God’s consequences. His first loss was the loss of the child, carried by Bathsheba.
And now, we skip six chapters to the death of Absalom, following the death of Ammon, David’s firstborn. Now we know that three of David’s children are dead … one at birth, the other two in the course of events that followed.
We actually glide over the story that was the beginning of the end of both Ammon and Absalom. Interestingly, it is the story that ensues that is probably most responsible for these brutal deaths and is also the stuff of which best-selling novels are made. These appear to be parts of the Bible that are or could be life like … the parts that make the Bible alive … and parts that show the underbelly side of human behavior.
Certainly women residing in a domestic violence shelter would understand some of it.
You see, this part of David’s story begins with the beautiful Tamar. She is the daughter of David by one wife. And she is the blood sister of Absalom. The plot thickens when Ammon, son of another of David’s many wives enters the scene.
Ammon is pining away for his step-sister Tamar. He has fallen in love with her. His friend and cousin Jonadab (David’s brother’s son) noticed him pining away and asked the reason. Jonadab then conspires to convince David to send his daughter Tamar to “nurse” Ammon back to health. During this time, Absalom raped his half-sister and then his love turned to hate and he threw her out of his room.
Tamar would bear the mark of shame for the remainder of her life. Absalom was devastated at his sister’s tragedy. David was angry but did nothing to punish Ammon, his first son, for his brutal action.
For two years, Absalom plotted revenge. At a special feast for David’s sons, Absalom had Ammon killed.
David, upon hearing the news, commanded that all return to his kingdom except Absalom. Absalom then went into hiding for three years. Then, upon hearing the words of the woman of Takoa (a fortune teller, at David’s servant Joab’s insistence), David consented to Absalom’s return to Jerusalem, but not to David’s presence. Absalom, during this time became father to three sons and a daughter he named Tamar, after his beloved sister.
Absalom, after 5 more years, asked his neighbor Joab to intercede for him to his father David. After Absalom burned down Joab’s barley field, Joab took the hint and visited the king. Reconciliation took place.
Then, as they say, the plot thickened once again!
Absalom was given a horse, a chariot, and an army of 50 men. He camped outside the gates and insisted that those entering the city give their allegiance to him, hence winning the loyalty and power to raise an even larger army. He returned to Hebron, where he had previously lived, with David’s blessing while all the time plotting a conspiracy to become king.
Eventually, David was outnumbered and he left Jerusalem … but left the ark behind as a symbol of his ultimate return, trusting that God would be with him.
War ensued. David asked that his troops protect Absalom. Plot and intrigue through agents and spies continued throughout the war.
One day, as Absalom was riding his mule, his head got stuck in the branch of a mighty oak. The mule continued … leaving Absalom in this most precarious position. He was discovered by Joab, who ran three spears through him and then had 10 of his men finish him off. Revenge, once again, even against King David’s wishes.
David divided his armies into three camps and re-took Jerusalem, all the while hoping that his son Absalom would be spared. He was then given the news of Absalom’s death.#
Sometimes reading portions of the Bible, without reading behind and ahead can give us a very different perspective.
Was this all about Absalom’s vengeance against his father, David, who did nothing to protect Tamar, the vulnerable and shamed sister? Was Joab’s vengeance because of Absalom’s burning of his barley field? Why is it that in our day, we deny the telling of that portion of the story that sets up the beginning reasons for the war that ensued? Was Absalom an agent of God and part of the overall “airing of family laundry” as God had promised?
What are we to think of a father who allows his son to get away with rape of his daughter and another with murder?
Is it any wonder that the response to today’s OT reading is Psalm 130 … “Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord, Lord, hear my voice!” One of David’s most urgent pleas.
Our Epistle this morning offers us another means of settling grievances …
  1. Speak the truth
  2. Be angry, but do not sin
  3. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t make room for the devil
  4. Let no evil come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, so that your words may give grace to those who hear
  5. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit
  6. Put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander … be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as you have been forgiven
  7. Be mindful of Christ’s offering and sacrifice to God
And our Gospel reminds us; once again that Jesus is the bread of life. Isn’t it interesting that both David and Jesus were born in Bethlehem … which means city of bread. Jesus declares to us that he is the living bread that came down from heaven …

Both are God’s chosen … one who was fully human and one who was fully human AND divine at the same time. This morning David reminds us ever so much of our human tendencies and Jesus reminds us that he is our hope and our salvation.
According to The Reverend Jane Herring, Hospice chaplain, “We have been made new by the forgiveness of Christ. Ugly behavior comes from within us, not only from traumatic events we have been uable to resolve within our own hearts but from the depths of our primal fears of abandonment, our fears that God cannot really love us. We are forgiven and by the grace of God we can extend forgiveness to the world around us.
As we mature in Christ’s forgiveness of us, our growth is made evident in the way we live, the words we say, and the actions we take. Our lives become manifestations of this forgiveness. We speak in ways that support faith in ourselves and others. Our actions become expressions of Christ’s love.1
I pray that we all think upon these things whenever we come forward this morning remembering that it is the bread of life, which we will receive that helps us. That it is the bread that gives us the strength to overcome our human tendencies and weaknesses as we struggle through our day to day trials. It is the outward and visible sign that God loves us and forgives us. It is the remembrance that we have embodied Christ by accepting this bread. We are now new once again and expected to follow God’s commands as we relate to and with one another. We will find the strength, not through our own efforts, but only through the love of Jesus Christ. May we always be able to stand strong against the enemy and love one another as we are loved by God.

1Herring, Jane, Disciplines 2015, A book of daily devotions, Upper Room Books, Nashville, TN, 2014, p. 230

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