Feet of Clay

Over the summer, we’ve been following with some interruptions the unfolding saga of ancient Israel’s political transition from devolved tribal confederation to centralized monarchy. This is primarily, a story of the contour and vicissitude of power. It’s a saga to enthrall – from murderous ambition and dynastic power struggle to domestic violence, family dysfunction, pain, and personal tragedy galore.

What interests me about this history, recorded by a group of scribes known as the Deuteronomists is its timeless relevance to the exercise of power and authority in our contemporary age. We still struggle with the push and pull between centralized and devolved government – whether in the tussle between federal and state or as we are seeing increasingly being played out – between state and municipality.

Shakespeares’ immemorial line put into the mouth of Richard IV: Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown -certainly is a mantra that must have kept David awake many a night – as with increasing intensity he experienced the unfolding of Nathan’s dire prophecy of a chain of violence that would never leave him, nor his house, in peace. Yet, I’m left wondering however if this sentiment ever crossed Solomon’s mind? Coming full circle Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown is certainly a mantra that Joe Biden is no longer a stranger to. But back to Solomon.

In the second chapter of the first book of the Kings we read that David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David, having reigned an astonishing 40 years – 7 years at Hebron and then after he conquered Jerusalem a further 30.

The weakness in authoritarian regimes lies in the unpredictability of succession. As the once strong leader begins to fail, in the absence of constitutional processes governing the strict line of succession, factionalism thrives. In David’s last years, anxiety increased about who would succeed him as those who had once been the king’s fixers – his right-hand men – vied to influence the succession. The death of Absalom left his brother Adonijah next in the line of succession. But following some pretty murky machinations by Solomon’s mother Bathsheba, David passes his throne to Solomon. Before his death, David advises Solomon on how to clear the field by killing the opposition’s ringleaders. This not only clears his way to the throne, but also settles some of his father’s old scores, -the hand of retribution from beyond the grave – as it were.

Adonijah appears to accept being passed over but then gives Solomon an unexpected excuse to move against him when he manipulates Bathsheba into petitioning Solomon to give him Abishag for his wife. Abishag, you will recall, was the young woman chosen to warm the old king’s feet in his failing years. For Adonijah to claim her seems to indicate a roundabout way of asserting his rights to his father’s inheritance.

Solomon is angered by his mother allowing herself to become Adonijah’s tool to get to him. Gripped by fratricidal rage – Solomon orders Adonijah struck down and killed before moving swiftly against the opposition ringleaders. Joab, once the commander of the army, seeks sanctuary by grasping the horns of the altar.

Solomon nevertheless has Joab struck down in the heart of the Holy of Holies. He then deposes Abiathar as high priest, exiling him to his home village. Zadok, a passionate supporter of Solomon now becomes high priest, and the way is cleared for what happens next.

The Deuteronomic attitude towards Solomon is perplexing. Despite his blood strewn path to the throne, they seem to want to give Solomon a pass. On the one hand he is presented as the embodiment of humility requesting not power and riches before God, but wisdom. God throws in power and riches as part of the package and entrusts Solomon with the task of building a permanent resting place for the Lord in the Jerusalem temple.

Yet this is the same man who had a string of foreign wives, who on ascending to the throne hightails it off to Gibeon where he sacrifices 1000 burnt offering to the pagan gods of the high places. This is the man who adopts foreign ways and worships foreign gods. This is the man who taxed the people into ruin and indentured the male population in the task of temple construction. This is the great and wise king who is promised long life but only lives to 60 – the most explicit sign for the Deuteronomist of God’s ill favor. This is the great king who destroys his father’s legacy – leaving the United Kingdom of David divided into north and south after his death and because of his extravagant misrule.

Like his father before him, Solomon is a complex figure.  Yet Solomon seems not to possess any of his father’s love of the Lord and willingness to acknowledge his sin. The final judgment of the Deuteronomists on Solomon is mixed, but his popular image – as the personification of wisdom in subsequent tradition – is on the balance of historical evidence – completely undeserved.

Based on the absence of hard archeological evidence, some historians of the period doubt whether Solomon ever existed. Certainly, much modern opinion is that the great Davidic kingdom as presented by the Deuteronomists was anything but great. Scholars divide over dating the Deuteronomic history – some seeing it as completed in the reign of Josiah mid 5th-century BCE. Others even later as a product of the monumental root and branch editing of the Hebrew Scriptures during the 4th-century Babylonian Exile. Yet, whenever compiled – the Deuteronomic history creates an imagined golden age against which to explain Israel’s subsequent decline and seeming abandonment by the Lord.

The value of the Deuteronomistic history lies not in its historical accuracy or veracity but in its theme of timeless truths. That the nature of power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That human society left to its own devices rests on the principle that power is there to be abused.

The history of the United Kingdom of Israel echoes in the tensions in our own time. Our society is grinding under the weight of increasingly huge disparities of wealth between the 1% and the rest. Under the pressure of unrestrained corporate greed, we turn a blind eye to the compounding of individual and national debt. Western democracies are increasingly retreating in the face of a resurgence of authoritarian-nationalisms that exploit our uncertainty and fear in a time of rapid change.

From Samuel, through David, to Solomon and beyond, we see God’s glory encased in vessels of clay. Solomon is the proverbial everyman; he is you and me.  Like him, we too are creatures of our time and shaped by our culture. The continuing church scandals only too painfully reminds us that even our religious institutions – while pointing us to a reality beyond ourselves – are at the same time evidence of the all too corruptible and fallible nature of institutional life.

Like Solomon, we aspire to love God, but mostly we follow our own counsels. We long to give our full allegiance making Christian faith the unifying story around which our lives take shape, yet mostly, we march to the drumbeat of lesser stories that promise us more but deliver less.

The extraordinary thing is how we nevertheless give allegiance again and again to stories that if we did but remember last time spelled disaster. History may not exactly repeat itself but from Saigon to Kabul, South Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq – it certainly has a remarkable rhyming quality.

The legacy of the Deuteronomic History is a reminder that we live in a moral universe in which actions have consequences. Our sense of a moral universe flows out of the covenant YHWH made with Israel and which has now been fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This remains the only story with the power to shape our times in the direction we truly long for. Like David and Solomon, we too are the earthen vessels with feet of clay – struggling to reflect the divine vision for creation.

The earth dries and burns. The ice melts and the seas rise. The oceans fill with our waste and rising temperatures fan hurricanes and typhoons of unprecedented scale and frequency. New viruses jump species barriers brutally exposing the fragility and injustice of our societies Our inability to put self-interest aside and collaborate in pursuit of the common good, whether domestically or on the international stage continues to obscure the reality that we are all in this together and no one is protected unless everyone is safe. Living hour by hour, day by day as the dire events of the collapse of Afghanistan unfold before us; as our politicians rush to get down and dirty in the mire of the blame game  – can we not hear God calling us to be better than we currently are – and to do better than we previously have done?

Like Solomon and his people we sit on the cusp of divine judgement – for in the moral universe consequences most certainly follow actions.

The Bread of Action part 2

For many months the first wave of pandemic lockdown prevented us not simply from coming to church, but from coming to church for a particular purpose – namely to celebrate the Eucharist together. As we returned last summer to experience a new outdoor setting for worship, I had a sense that we returned with a heightened sense of our need for the Eucharist – a need discovered during its absence from our lives.

Sunday worship was no longer the gathering of the community at which we celebrated the Eucharist together by way of a default. Instead, worship had become a need to gather as a community in order to celebrate the Eucharist together by choice.  At first sight this might seem a fine distinction but on closer inspection it is a distinction of some significance.

As Episcopalians we are a Eucharistic community – meaning the Eucharist lies at the center of our worship life. This gives our worship life a different feel and flavor from that of our Protestant neighbors. While we share the primacy of Eucharistic worship with our Roman Catholic neighbors – differences of history and culture place Episcopalians in that odd place known historically as the via media or middle way. Our theological outlook – shaped by the Reformation – we nevertheless preserve the historic ministry of bishop, priest and deacon together with the sacramental understanding and worship practices of the ancient Apostolic and Catholic faith. This can be a confusing place to be – often leaving us feeling in the US context neither fish nor fowl and misunderstood or dismissed by both. All this leads to the question – why does the Eucharist lie at the heart of our worship lives – and what does this mean?

Referring to today’s gospel from John, the short answer is because Jesus said: For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink and whoever eats and drinks them will remain in me and I in them.

But this is not much help for many of us, I suspect. Such language can only deepen the quandary. What on earth can this language – which taken at face value suggests cannibalistic overtones – mean for us?

In her novel The River Flannery O’Connor intriguingly observes:

In the land of the nearly blind, you need to draw really big caricatures.

Flannery O’Connor The River

Can this be a possible explanation for Jesus’ teaching in chapter 6 of John’s Gospel?

Jesus spoke about himself in the Passover language of bread and wine. The crowds who flocked to hear him, including his disciples well understood this reference but were a little surprised at Jesus’ bodily identification with the Passover elements of bread and wine. The crunch comes when he moves beyond mere Passover images into a shockingly new imagery – of the eating of his body as bread and the drinking of his blood as wine. There were many, John tells us, including some disciples who could not take this teaching – thinking him probably delusional. Many seem to have left him at this point.

Chapter 6 contains three I am statements, each statement more controversial than the last:

  1. I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never go hungry.
  2. I am the bread of life, come down from heaven.
  3. I am the living bread, and this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Just when the disciples must have been signaling to Jesus to dial it back a bit, he declares:

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink and whoever eats and drinks them will remain in me and I in them.

In the land of the nearly blind, you need to draw really big caricatures.

His disciples complain that Jesus’ teaching is too hard to follow – it is too difficult to accept – they protest. It’s not difficult for us to see that it’s the overtones of cannibalism that trouble them as well as the blasphemous identification with the Moses and the elements of Passover. In a vulnerable moment, Jesus asks them if they too will leave him? There now follows one of those magic moments when Peter breaks through the limits of imagination to tell Jesus:

Lord, to whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life! 

Behind this characteristic Johannine declaration, we can hear Peter saying: Lord, we don’t really understand any of this, but coming this far with you we have nowhere else to go.

It’s interesting that it’s only John’s gospel that records this extended bread of life teaching of Jesus. We are so familiar with John’s presentation of Jesus’ bread of life teaching that we miss that John had a particular need to present this material. It all makes sense when we remember that John is teaching against a background of a growing movement of Jesus denial – that is denial of the importance of Jesus himself in preference to a Spirit inspired personal connection with God that does an end run around Jesus the historical figure.

This Jesus denial group  came to be known in Christian history as the Gnostics. They eventually split from the Johannine community making way for the assimilation of the remnants of John’s community into the wider church – bringing with them their preserved Jesus, the bread of the life of the world, teaching. It’s this teaching – unique to John that becomes the basis of the Apostolic Church’s eucharistic theology.

We can understand the tension in John’s community very much in contemporary terms. It’s the same tension which today we encounter between those of us who claim to be Christian and the many others who say they are spiritual but not religious – or with those who say you don’t have to go to church to be Christian. John’s answer to this contention is to emphasize that without a communal incorporation into Jesus as the bread of life – the life of the world, there is nowhere else to go.

Being spiritual but religious is better than not being spiritual at all. Those who recognize a higher spiritual plane are a force for good in the world. But being spiritual on your own is not the same as being a member of a community called Christian. Being Christian is to be Jesus-centered and an active participant in a community that celebrates Eucharist together.

The bread of eternal life is my flesh which I give [to be consumed] for the life of the world. Do this always to re-member me.

In the Eucharist, as we celebrate the bread from heaven given for the life of the world we also in the same moment make our ethical commitment to the life of this world. The spiritual bread of the Eucharist is also the physical bread of food, shelter, and justice– made available in the everyday world through our actions of service and truth witnessing.

The great Episcopal lay theologian, William Stringfellow who lived the latter part of his life on Block Island and was a towering figure and friend to many in this diocese, wrote of celebrating the Eucharist:

As a transcendent event, [collecting] all that has already happened in this world from the beginning of time and prophesies all that is to come until the end of time.

Keeper of the Word PP 125<<

Here, Stringfellow is articulating the cosmic significance of the Eucharist as an action of taking the flow of time – past and future – and folding them into the present moment – when and where:

The [Eucharist] is also a contemporary event, involving these particular persons gathered in this specific place and in this peculiar way               

While keeping Flannery O’Connor’s wry observation in mind, William Stringfellow most clearly offers us the answer to the earlier question about why Episcopalians are a Eucharistic people – placing an open and welcoming celebration of the Eucharist at the heart of our communal life.

Stringfellow uses a dramatic term for celebrating the Eucharist. He calls it a political event.

The very example of salvation, it is the festival of life that foretells the fulfillment and maturity of all of life for all of time and in this time. The liturgy is social action because it is the characteristic style of life for human beings in this world.

Keeper of the Word

The Bread of Action

As a child, I remember buying bread at the grocery. I remember it came as whole loaves, either white or brown. That’s all I remember about bread until at some point a third option became available – sliced. The arrival of a slicing machine in the grocery meant that in our house bread now came presliced in a plastic wrapper.

The significance of pre-sliced bread has found its way into the language. A common saying in both New Zealand and the UK to describe something wonderful is to say: it’s the best thing since sliced bread! Maybe it’s a saying used by Americans as well. Being a denizen of all three cultures, it’s increasingly difficult for me to keep straight in which of the three cultures a certain aphorism originates.

I remember bread as the staple of my childhood, for bread was not the specialty item to be savored and delighted over that those of us living in Providence find at Seven Stars Bakery. Bread was bread, white or brown, sliced or not. Used as toast or to make a sandwich or a bread pudding –a great favorite of visits to my maternal grandmother.

I also remember a time when eating bread had little downside. The purity of the grain and the metabolism of youth allowed me to consume bread without regard to quantity or consequence. This is alas, is no longer so. The processed nature of much wheat used in making bread is making bread toxic and I now strictly monitor my wheat intake. The slowing of my body’s metabolism also means that bread is now a source of unwanted carbs, and unwanted carbs are the enemy of my aging male waistline.

Bread is the staple food in all cultures where wheat is the staple grain. In wheat growing societies, dependence on bread as the staple food has led such societies to view Bread as a symbol of divine generosity – an embodiment of God’s care and concern for human beings. Our own collective religious memory contains countless instances and references to bread as a sign of God’s presence, God’s communication with and involvement in human affairs.

For several weeks the gospel readings have been following Jesus’ bread teachings in chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. Jesus following his feeding of the 5000, expands on his theology of bread. The crowds flock in increasing numbers to hear him – but Jesus suspects awed – not simply by the signs and wonders he performs but by the promise of a full stomach.

We recall that hunger was the commonplace experience for the masses of displaced peasantry that flocked to hear Jesus. 1st Century Palestine was undergoing a revolution in agricultural production – with land being increasingly vested in powerful landowners who – like big agribusiness in our own time – were intent on monopolizing resources. Independent peasant farmers were being squeezed out; reduced into itinerant day laborers. This is a story as old as time, and one alarmingly familiar to us as we view with a sense of increasing alarm the monopolistic trajectory of economic developments in our own day.

The crowds don’t like it when Jesus pushes them to move beyond limited expectations. In this morning’s passage they’re beginning to grumble – and worse. In presenting himself as the bread come down from heaven, Jesus evokes a collective memory of the manna that fed their ancestors in the wastes of Sinai. But his use of bread as a metaphor for spiritual food – God’s living bread – falls on deaf ears. If he’d read his Maslow he might have realized that it is a tall order telling people about spiritual nourishment, when their bellies need filling.

Bread is one of the central metaphors of the Christian Faith. We pray: Give us this day our daily bread – extending bread as a metaphor for all of life’s basic needs. Daily bread encompasses not only something to eat, but also somewhere to live, something meaningful to do, and someone to love and be loved by. While we long for the bread from heaven that feeds our spiritual hunger we also must work to provide bread to feed the hungry.

Yet, our expectations are so limited. Dom Helda Camara, a liberation theologian and bishop of the Brazilian diocese of Recife from 1964 to 1985, is famously reported to have said:

When I give the poor bread, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no bread, they call me a communist.

For most of us, feeding the hungry is consigned to the category of personal charitable action – give a little hand out here, write a check to this charity there. How many of us are also deeply committed to the kind of political questioning that recognizes poverty as a product of our political-economic systems? Even fewer of us recognize what to ensure enough bread for the hungry – I’m using bread here as a metaphor for addressing multiple poverties – will cost us in terms of the resources we currently claim for ourselves. Afterall, tax cuts pay for themselves, but investment in infrastructure only adds to the national debt.

In the Eucharist, Jesus gives himself as the bread from heaven that feeds the life of the world – not a heavenly world, but a real world in time and space. Each Sunday in my introduction I remind us that the Eucharist is both a local –that is, here and now event – as well as a cosmic -beyond time and space event. The celebration of the Eucharist bears certain characteristics which the great Episcopal lay theologian, William Stringfellow identified:

As a transcendent event, the [Eucharist] collects all that has already happened in this world from the beginning of time and prophesies all that is to come until the end of time. But the [Eucharist] is also a contemporary event, involving these particular persons gathered in this specific place and in this peculiar way               

A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow. 1994 

As the central aspect of Christian worship, at the Eucharist real bread – the staple of life – becomes the bread from heaven that feeds our spiritual hunger. As spiritual bread it feeds and sustains us – who like Jesus’ hearers – are everyday challenged to move beyond our convenient and limited expectations to transform the bread of heaven into the staples of life.

In the Eucharist celebrating the bread from heaven given for the life of the world is also in the same moment making our ethical commitment to the life of the world. The spiritual bread of the Eucharist is also the physical bread of food and shelter – made available in the everyday world through our actions of service and truth witnessing.

Like the crowds that came to hear Jesus, what are our expectations as members of a community whose central action in the world is the celebration of Eucharist?

The bread from heaven, which satisfies our spiritual hunger in the celebration of the Eucharist is our community meal. Is our community a place where we can not only expect to eat the bread of heaven but also ensure that all can eat the bread of life?

Our mission is to pray, worship, and proclaim the Gospel in order to promote justice, and peace.This is what Stringfellow means by Eucharist as a political event.

The very example of salvation, it is the festival of life that foretells the fulfillment and maturity of all of life for all of time and in this time. The liturgy is social action because it is the characteristic style of life for human beings in this world

A Keeper of the Word Pp 125-6

The Perils of Getting What you Want

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely. The story of David and Bathsheba is a tale of the corruption of power.

I don’t know about you, but I’m both addicted and repelled by dramas that center on the abuse of power. To start with there’s Billions. In fact, I had to stop watching Billions because it reveals a side to our society that deeply disturbs me. I know- it’s only TV.

Most recently, I’ve started another saga of power and its corruptions – Succession. I’m still on season one, because while I began watching during the winter, I had to take a break and only recently have I summoned the courage to venture back.

Succession – if you don’t know about it – is a dynastic story of nastiness in the extreme. The tantalizing question is – is it a fictionalized tale of Trump family nastiness? Maybe? Or is it a tale of Murdoch everyday ruthless rich folk? Succession’s power to addict and disturb lies in the portrayal of depravity that flows from the abuse and corruption of power. These are themes that for many of us struggling with the reality of life in 21st-century America are all too close to home for comfort.

Al and I have taken up the habit of watching Succession as the first thing on our evening viewing schedule after the PBS 6 O’clock NewsHour. The reason is that it’s easier to sleep if we get it out of the way earlier so that we can move onto more benign viewing as bedtime nears.

Now, I love the tales of the rich and famous as much as anyone – esp. when they are couched as cautionary tales. But what challenges me about dramas like Billions or Succession is not the dramatic portrayal of the ruthless violence of those who exercise absolute power and the pathetic mimicry of those in the cascading echelons under them. This is not like watching Wolf Hall, which accurately portrays Henry VIII’s capricious abuse of power in a premodern England – where the distance of time can provide a buffer for the emotions. The difficulty for me with Succession and its ilk is that it is the portrayal of a world that is all too recognizable as the kind of world we are currently living in. This immediacy between screen and reality provides no avenue for safe emotional escape.

What I want, I get! So warns the patriarch, Logan Roy; a statement expressing the ruthlessness lying at the heart of the drama. This is the statement of a man who has failed to leave the ruthless stage of infant development behind. His arrested development and would be pathetic if the consequences for those around him were not so dire. It’s also chilling, because our present world is controlled by men – mostly men – who are made in Logan Roy’s image. Their failure to leave infantile ruthlessness behind in the service of emotional development has dire consequences that none of us can escape from in today’s America; not to mention the growing number of ruthless dictators in today’s wider world.

Today we heard the continuation of the story of David and Bathsheba. Last week we heard about David’s primal infatuation with Bathsheba as she performs her evening ablutions on the roof of her house. What I want, I get -thought David. And so he got.

He had Bathsheba brought to his house where he lay with her and she conceived. Bathsheba is later to be the mother of the legendary Solomon. But for now, the child of this ill begotten coupling must die as punishment. The question is – punishment for what?

Lay with her is how the Deuteronomist writers record this incident. Tradition has tended to romanticize David and Bathsheba as a tale of love at first sight. David’s other marriages – pay heed evangelicals – we’re not talking about a paragon of monogamy here – were political alliances. So, it’s possible that this is – at least for David – a love match. Afterall, he ends up making an honest woman of her. Now there’s a phrase!

Alternatively, tradition has portrayed this story as a tale of feminine seduction. After all, if Bathsheba had exercised greater modesty, she would not have excited David’s sexual passions. It’s a short step from here to believing that she intentionally bathed beneath the king’s window with the intention to ensnare him.

Remember however that David had all the power and then some. This makes moot the question, could Bathsheba have come willingly?

You cannot act voluntarily when you have no choice not to act. So, whatever the dynamics of their encounter – and we can only speculate – the facts on the ground indicate that this is a legal rape – as defined by sexual intercourse where one party has no capacity to refuse consent. It’s not the sex that’s wrong here – although some may question this – it’s the abuse of power that matters.

Last week we heard about David’s machinations to engineer Uriah’s death. Here the story takes on something of the quality of a comedy of errors. David encourages Uriah to sleep with his wife. Mindful of his need to maintain ritual purity before battle, Uriah avoids the trap. In the end David resorts through his chief henchman Joab, to having Uriah murdered in the line of battle.

Enters Nathan upon the scene. This is the first we’ve heard of Nathan. He strides into the king’s house carrying a message from God – ready and willing to speak truth to power.

Although prophets are mentioned from time to time before this, what we might term the office of the prophet arises only conterminously with the shift from tribal to monarchical government in ancient Israel. Samuel is the transitional figure in this shift, and Nathan is the first to appear in this new enhanced prophetic role. 

Remember that Israel is identified by its covenant with God. Even after the shift to monarchy -there is still only one King in Israel and YHWH is his name. The establishment of the monarchy created a secondary covenant between God and the king which lay down the lines of power sharing. David as king is essentially God’s regent overseeing the correct enforcement of the Covenant between Israel and God. Like our own Constitution, the Covenant defined the lawful exercise of power. The king is God’s regent, and the prophet becomes God’s spokesman – in our terms a kind of one-man Supreme Court.

The essential point for us to grasp is that Israel’s Covenant with God conveyed an understanding that humans live in a moral universe in which consequences follow actions. This is esp. important in its application to the exercise of kingly power. David’s increasingly centralized power made him vulnerable to his corruption in the exercise of power. He has now reached the point where to quote a contemporary analogy, if he committed murder on 5th Ave, there was no one to stop him.

David and Bathsheba is not the main storyline at this stage. The primary story is David and Uriah.

The core of Nathan’s – and hence God’s accusation against David is not adultery. The David – Bathsheba story has only a tangential relationship to the primary story which at this stage is David and Uriah. The core of the accusation Nathan cunningly crafts to entrap David in his own words – is that David has offended against the moral universe not through adultery but through murder. For Nathan and thus we read for God, David’s actions are a criminal abuse of power for which he is called to account. In that awful moment of realization – David is reduced to the confession of his sin.

David is no Donald Trump or Rupert Murdoch. A later story illustrates this point. Elijah confronts King Ahab -the husband of the infamous Jezebel -for a similar abuse of power in the murder of Naboth for the purpose of confiscating his vineyard. When confronted with his crime Ahab’s response is: Ahh so you have found me, my enemy! A truly Trumpian response and worthy of Succession’s legendary Logan Roy.

The Story of David is the story of greatness. But his greatness does not reside in his absolute power. It resides in these six words: I have sinned against the Lord. Words that reestablish the correct lines of power sharing between king and God.

Nevertheless, in Israel’s moral universe consequences follow actions. Nathan declares that David has now set in motion a chain of violence that would never leave him, nor his house, in peace.

What kind of moral universe does contemporary America live in, I wonder? When will we see that personal consequences follow political actions? When will the powerful be confronted by their deeds and brought to the realisation that their ruthlessness is a sin against the Lord?

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