Always Another Chance

On October 22, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Always Another Chance Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Let us dwell together in peace, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. 2 Sam 11. 1-5: One evening King David rose from his bed and strolled about on […]

Always Another Chance
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Let us dwell together in peace, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

2 Sam 11. 1-5: One evening King David rose from his bed and strolled about on the roof of the his house. From the roof he saw a woman bathing; she was very beautiful. David sent people to inquire about the woman and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, and wife of Uriah the Hittite, Joab’s armor-bearer.” Then David sent messengers and took her. When she came to him, he took her to bed, at a time when she was just purified after her period; and she returned to her house. But the woman had become pregnant; she sent a message to inform David, “I am pregnant.”

Well, that’s bad news. Bathsheba, otherwise known as Mrs. Uriah, is pregnant, but her husband has been away at war. So, it ain’t his.
So David sends for Uriah to have him bring a report on the war, and after getting the report, he tells Uriah to go home and get some rest before going back to the front. Of course, he hopes Uriah and Bathsheba will have a romantic reunion, and Uriah will think the child that will come in 9 months is his.

But Uriah disobeys the king! He doesn’t feel right enjoying the comforts of home and hearth while others are fighting. So instead of going home, he sets up camp at the door of the king’s house. This completely messes up David’s plan.

David, then, goes to plan B. He sends Uriah back into battle, and arranges for him to be stranded alone in the fighting. Of course, Uriah is killed in battle.

David allows a brief time of mourning for Bathsheba, and then he marries her, thus covering his indiscretion. It now looks like he has given a home to a widow, and then within the bonds of marriage, they will have a child. Problem solved. Except, the chapter concludes with this sentence, “In the sight of the LORD, what David had done was evil.”

That leads right into chapter 12, part of which you heard this morning.

The Prophet Nathan comes to the king and spins a yarn about someone who stole a man’s cherished pet and used her in heartbreaking ways. And the king is infuriated, saying, “bring this wretch to me. He’ll pay for his cruelty.” And Nathan says, “Um, it’s you.”

This is one of the most horrific stories in scripture.
David is a war hero, a religious person, and a leader. Luke, in Acts 13, says David was lifted up to a position of authority because he was a person after God’s own heart, committed to the will of God.

Now, the pure heart didn’t keep him from having a bit of mean streak. I mean, he paid a dowry for his first wife, and the dowry was the foreskins of 200 Philistines. As Big Mama used to say, “that boy ain’t right.”

But he had been brave, standing up to Goliath.
David had been kind, marrying the widow Abigale when she was alone. Of course, David had at least 8 wives…so, you know, biblical marriage.

David had been tender, showing devotion and love to Jonathan, making a life long covenant with him, declaring in song that his love for Jonathan surpassed his love for women. Yes, David is the most clearly bisexual person in scripture…though Jesus in my view is a close second (but that’s another sermon).

David had shown his good heart…showing love, keeping promises, exhibiting courage, being generous…but David could forget his innate goodness. Even David, ancestor of Jesus, could ignore his better angels, miss the mark, and hide his inward light.

His treatment of Bathsheba and Uriah was not godly, not descent, not moral; it was reprehensible.

David was the king. Bathsheba couldn’t refuse his summons. She couldn’t refuse him anything. She didn’t have the wherewithal to withhold consent. And so when the king sends for her…She wasn’t asked what she wanted. Bathsheba is a victim of a powerful man. This wasn’t an affair. This wasn’t adultery. This was an act of violence.

Then, when Bathsheba was pregnant and that could expose David’s sexual abuse, David arranges to have Uriah murdered.

David has a good heart. But he has gotten caught up in his privilege and power; he has made idols of them. And by worshiping the false gods of class privilege and political power he has destroyed innocent lives.
When he lost his compassion, when he lost his empathy…he lost touch with his goodness. It is a terrible thing when we forget our goodness. If we don’t see it, we won’t show it.

But that’s not the end of the story. Here comes Nathan. Here comes the preacher. Here comes the moral imperative to speak truth to power. Here comes the prophet Nathan to hold the king accountable.

In a way, Nathan is clumsy with it, showing you don’t have to be brilliant or eloquent…you just have to do your best in service of justice and healing.

Nathan compares sexual assault and murder to the mistreatment of a beloved pet. It’s not a great comparison. But it did demonstrate cruelty and abuse of power, and it stirred David to outrage. And then, clumsy but courageous Nathan goes for the jugular: The monster in the story is YOU!

Nathan could have been fired as court prophet. Might have been jailed. Could have been made chaplain to the warriors on the front line. He took a risk by holding the king accountable. But to remain silent would have been to be complicit. And so the person of faith holds the most politically powerful person in the land accountable for his cruelty. May it ever be so.

This is a text of terror. A story of violence, betrayal, and murder. We need this story to keep us from making an idol of the text. We need to see human fragility and human cruelty and human ignorance as part of our sacred texts so that we will not dare make an idol of the book. And to see, that even with our innate purity, we can mistakenly choose lesser gods, and fall short of our highest ideals. We can also repent and get back on track.

There is healing in the story. The healing doesn’t justify a single terrible deed, but it does show that pain need not get the last word. The child that resulted from Bathsheba’s nightmare would become king (Solomon). She who was once powerless would become mother of the powerful. David was confronted by the prophet and presumably tried to turn back to the light and seek redemption and healing for himself.

Here’s the word of hope for us today: healing is possible.
The past is past and the future has infinite possibilities.

If we regret past mistakes, GOOD…that means we know that wasn’t our best, and we’ll never do that again.
If we fell short of our highest ideals and we regret that, GOOD…that means we’ll care more and love more from now on.
If we wish we had handled things better, GOOD…maybe next time, we will.

We can make amends.
We can start over.
We can do better.
We can be healers in our world, even if that means helping to heal some of the wounds we’ve caused.

I’m making no excuses for my misdeeds, or for yours, or for anyone else’s. What I am saying is that healing is still possible. We can learn, we can heal, we can be healers, we can rise above the pain of the past.

God gave you a pure heart…and there’s always another chance to remember that and to live in the joy of that truth.

That’s why I remind us every single week: We are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
We make mistakes. We regret our mistakes. We work to recover from our mistakes. But who we are…that’s not a mistake. We are people after God’s own heart. When we remember that, we live like it, and that’s where healing beings. And this is the good news. Amen.

The past is past and the future has infinite possibilities.
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.
God’s healing grace is at work in me.
And so it is.

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