Friday, July 27, 2018

Hebrew Testament text for Sunday 29 July 2018

2 Samuel 11:1-15        In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

Reflection        From the Biblical perspective, life unfolds in history in the ongoing relationship of humankind with God. God is always present and humans are always free to choose whether they turn toward or away from God.  Within this landscape, sometimes David turns toward God and sometimes he turns away. In the later case David inevitably experiences the consequences of his choices. Bathsheba’s baby dies. David’s sons adopt the misguided ways of their father; brother raping daughter, daughter becoming victim of incest, brother murdering other brother,  and son leading a coup d’etat against his father. (We think we have family issues!) David’s house is undone. His ill conceived behavior has galvanized waves of after-shock.  

As Rabbi Sachs, a British Orthodox rabbi, philosopher and theologian, succinctly states, “The future is not pre-scripted. The prophet warns – not predicts – of the future that will happen if we do not heed the danger and mend our ways. The future depends on us and the choices we make.”

The youngest of eight sons of Jesse, David rises from the status of a mere shepherd boy to great power through a series of unprecedented events. Even when jealousy turns King Saul against him, rather than kill his would-be persecutor, David chooses to respect the King and seek reconciliation.

David is a beacon of light and hope for all people. And, his series of choices to act toward the good did not preclude his succumbing to self-serving gratification and digging ever deeper into the wounds of moral turpitude. As people of God we believe we have freedom of choice and our choices have real consequences. Returning to the wisdom of Rabbi Sachs, “If the people keep faith with God and one another, no force on earth can defeat them. If they do not, no force can save them.”*  

Much as King David did,  I believe the United States ascended to the heights of great power by being a beacon of light and hope for all people; by extending compassionate aid, engaging in liberal commerce and fostering respectful diplomacy. At the risk of being exceedingly simplistic, also much like King David, I believe the United States is vulnerable to self-serving interests and is unwittingly tumbling down the black hole of moral turpitude. 

Every breaking news moment  we hear of “corruption and abominable acts,” we witness the downward spiral of entertainment, media, public figures and officials into scandalous social, sexual and political exploitations.  Every hour breeds more excuses and cover-ups of the preceding hours’ faux pas. Do we choose to tumble down this slippery slope or do we choose to turn toward good?

As people who find our identity in our “with God life,” how are our choices moving us toward God and one another? As people who live in a country singularly identified with the words inscribed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!,” How are we doing? What shall we choose?

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