- 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a Uriah killed in war, Bathsheba becomes David’s wife
- Psalm 51:1-12 “Have mercy on me, O God…”
- Ephesians 4:1-16 promote body growth in love
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a – Uriah is dead
When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead…..
Why was Uriah dead?
What was Uriah’s wife’s name?
Who killed Uriah?
We heard the beginning of David’s sordid story last Sunday (2 Samuel 11:1-25). Verse 1 begins, “In the spring of the year, the time when Kings go out to war, David sent Joab with his officers….they ravaged and besieged…But David remained in Jerusalem.”
Already something is amiss. We are given a clue to something being wrong with this picture. Story plots begin with something gone awry – a rupture or disjuncture, an “upsetting the equilibrium” as we call it in “the homiletical plot.”
Jack Shea points to this opening line in 2 Samuel 11 as a classic biblical storytelling beginning. “This is an opening line storytellers would kill for,” Jack told us several years ago at our seminary Pastor’s week on biblical storytelling.
We are set up for battle, but with a switch. “All the terror of war and the confusion of battle are bracketed out, making way for another kind of terror and confusion. There is a powerful silence back in Jerusalem with this king, who now seems so settled and sure that his mind – and body can wander from military action. David had ceased being a king requested by Israel who would “go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20, Walter Brueggeman, 1 & 2 Samuel, Interpretation , 273).
David is living the good and safe life lounging on his rooftop haven while sending his army out to do battle for him. David took leisure and saw what he wanted “a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful” (11:2). And the rest, as they say, is history. David was so sure of himself as God’s instrument that if he wanted something it must be God’s will.
David sent for Bathsheba and forced her into adultery. Then David connived to kill Bathsheba’s faithful husband Uriah, faithful to his wife and faithful to David even unto death.
I want to leave the biblical story behind a moment and leap to a more contemporary scene. Yes, this contemporary scene could be this very day in the USA….and the same Holy Land where David was king.
But instead I want to take us back a few years to another dreadful day: August 6, 1945. We let Henri Nouwen, one of the spiritual masters of the last part of the last century, take us back to that fateful morning 61 years ago.
Ten years after Nouwen died, one of his best works has been collected and published. It is called Peacework . In this powerful little book, Nouwen identifies three central and essential ingredients for Christians to be faithful Christian peacemakers as “prayer — resistance — community.”
Nouwen begins with the revealing words of the Psalmist:
Long enough have I been dwelling with those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for fighting (Psalm 120:6-7).
Nouwen then opens by declaring that August 6, 1945, changed everything and made peacemaking the central task of Christians in the world forever (15). He quotes President Truman justifying his decision to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima, “We thank God that [the bomb] has come to us…and we pray that he may guide us to use it in his ways and for his purposes” (31).
Every Hiroshima anniversary it is easy for me to remember how many years it has been since the world was changed forever by a self-proclaimed Christian country. The nuclear age is my age. I was 6 weeks old when Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atomic bomb unleashed on human flesh 61 years ago just after 8:00 a.m. this morning.
Nouwen punctures the lie and sin of that presidential proclamation throughout this powerful little book called Peaceworks that names “prayer, resistance and community” as the trinitarian life of Christians in a nuclear age. Listen to these inspiring words from Nouwen for Christians today:
Peacemaking is a full-time vocation that includes each member of God’s people
(17). Christians today, if they want to be Christians, have to find the courage to
make “peace” as important as “freedom.” There should be no doubt in the minds
of people who inhabit this world that Christians are peacemakers (22). The main
thesis of this book has been that this total belonging to Christ is not an escape
from the world, but the only way to be in the world as peacemakers (124).
Long before Henri Nouwen, Mark Twain tried to expose the lie of warfare for God. Mark Twain, of course, is revealing not only the danger of patriotic fervor in the country that disregards or demonizes “the enemy” making it not only easy but necessary to kill them in the name of country. He is revealing the sinful disaster of the church being the primary place for such patriotic prayer sending people out to do battle in the name of God. Listen to some excerpts from Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” (found on various web sites via Google).
Another prayer speaking directly to the bombing of Hiroshima was prayed by Rev Nobu Hanaoka, a pastor in San Francisco. He offered this prayer that never again will such weapons be unleashed upon God’s sacred creation and people, a year ago today, on the 60 th anniversary of Hiroshima, Aug 6, 2005.
O God, the Creator of this beautiful planet
and all that dwells in it,
we now pause to remember the souls
of those who perished
in the atomic bombings
and those who suffer
from radiation even now,
and join our hearts and voices together
to pray for peace everywhere.
May the deadly power of the nuclear arsenals
never be unleashed again
upon your sacred creation.
May such weapons of mass and
be forever banned
and eliminated from the face of the earth.
Forgive our silence, O God,
and enable your Church to raise
its prophetic voices
to speak against the madness
of nuclear pursuits anywhere.
Renew our commitment to be
faithful stewards of your beautiful creation
and vehicles of peace.
In the name of Christ, our Prince of Peace.
by Rev. Nobu Hanaoka
Signs of hope
Nevertheless there are signs of hope on this very day: August 6, 2006.
The love and marriage celebrated in the weddings of those among us this summer here at SMC: Danny & Ally, Sarah & Andrew, Marta & Tim, Derek & Heidi.
The public witness at a Sacred Indian Site, Bear Butte, South Dakota where Karissa & Carl are working for Mennonite Central Committee with native leaders and Christian Peacemaker Teams to stop a biker bar being built at the base of a sacred Indian site. There was a story on this in the New York Times on Friday, which quoted Carl.
Those from among us in service “in the name of Christ:” Ben and Dan & Kathryn whom we bless and send to MCC service this Sunday, Hillary who just returned from her summer service with DOOR in Denver, Claire who just returned from a semester as a Goshen College student working in the Dominican Republic.
On this 61 st anniversary of the tragic event that marks our age – the bombing of Hiroshima — we hold in tension the idolatry of warfare in the name of God with the blessing of service in the name of Christ. We do so with seeking to be faithful in diligent vigil so that we do not commit the sin of idolatry.
We do so with the Apostle Paul’s powerful admonition to the Ephesians to:
lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called……bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God….of all, who is above all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:1-6).
The Psalm for today is the familiar confessional Psalm 51. Please turn to # 818 in the back of the Hymnal. We will pray this Psalm of confession together calling upon God’s mercy, seeking forgiveness in striving for faithfulness as God’s servants in the world.