To be Tenderhearted, a very human struggle...
A reflection on the readings from Proper 12B: Second Book of Samuel 11:1-17 and Ephesians 3
In the four chapters between last week’s reading in 2nd Samuel and this week – there were a lot of battles, sometimes called the “Davidic Wars” – which tout David’s skill as a military leader and his rising authority as King.
Now this morning we hear the story of David, the beloved king, who having developed a rather high opinion of himself, acts with arrogance and self-entitlement – he orders another man’s wife to be brought to him. And not just any one, Bathsheba is the wife of the Uriah, a loyal warrior in David’s army. Of course Bathsheba has no choice, if she wants to keep her life she must obey the king, and so she goes to him…and we all know what that means…she ends up pregnant with David’s child.
To cover his indiscretion David first attempts to convince Uriah to leave his military post and sleep with Bathsheba, so that Uriah might be fooled into thinking that the child is his. But Uriah is a good man, loyal to his duty, and refuses to break the protocol of a warrior. David then conspires to have Uriah killed and he takes Bathsheba as his wife.
David pays dearly for this egregious act of arrogance – betrayal of Uriah - a loyal friend and soldier; betrayal of a married woman – an act that might have cost Bathsheba her life too. Tragically even the child dies. Although David’s first wife, Michal tried to warn David that he was becoming too arrogant, he ignored her. (2nd Samuel 6:20).
The lectionary will skip the next seven chapters, but in them David is held accountable by the prophet Nathan, and by God, for his behavior. Suddenly cognizant of how his actions have harmed others, David becomes aware of the depth of his sin. David is humbled, makes amends, and tries to repair the damage done, to heal the brokenness he has caused. The letter to the Ephesians picks up on the theme of human struggle – it deals with the struggles we humans face as we strive to live in healthy relationships with one another and with God.
It is unclear who the actual author of the letter to the Ephesians is – some think Paul, others think a student of Paul. There is also some debate over who the letter was intended for – some think the church in Ephesus, others think it was intended for a number of churches – primarily Gentile communities wrestling with the tradition and history of Judaism and Israel – thus the primary theme of the letter is it’s effort to bring unity between the cultural and religious practices of Jews and Gentiles and form them into Christian practices of worship and faith. The first two chapters of the book set the stage for how this author understands the unity of the church – grounded in the resurrection of Jesus – the unity of the church must be centered in reconciliation with love and grace.
Chapter three, which we heard this morning is a prayer, lifting the messiness of humanity up to God and asking God’s grace to enable us to work toward reconciliation of the broken places in our lives, and the world, through the grace of God’s love. The prayer uses some soaring language which should just stand for what it is - indicative of a prayer from the 1st century that was aligning itself with the ancient prayers of Israel. The brokenness of David and the lives he shattered remind us of the broken places in our lives. This prayer is a call for healing the broken places throughout time.
Chapter four, which will be read next week and the week after, offers some good instruction on how to do this – how to work toward healing the broken places, how to live with love and grace.
Listen carefully and you will hear these words:
“lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil….2831Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
Perhaps the image of the cauldron, the burning flame for the 2012 Olympics in London will offer us an image of a modern day call for unity – 204 individual copper sleeves of flame rising up in unison to form one grand torch. So, each of us is called to rise to the occasion, and with tender hearts seek to heal the broken places of our lives and world.
Sally A. Brown, Workingpreacher.org
The New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible
The Second Book of Samuel – John William Weavers
The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians – Victor Paul Furnish