I thought it would be great to use the semi-continuous Old Testament readings in church this summer (an alternate set of OT readings that are, as the name suggests, semi-continuous). Rather than talking about the bread of life for six or seven weeks, we get to talk about King David!
At first, it was great. David and Goliath. David dancing before the Lord. David’s new house and God’s promises to be with him wherever he goes. Great stories.
And then, David and Bathsheba. Nathan rebuking David for raping Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah killed. Today, it was David’s son Absalom dying after a failed rebellion against his father and David lamenting this terrible loss.
These are also great stories. They are stories worth hearing, worth talking about. But, holy buckets. They make for tough preaching and tough listening. There is so much suffering in them, and so little good news.
On this gray and rainy August morning, the story of Absalom hit me pretty hard. Moments after hearing this story, we prayed for the family of a boy (the nephew of a parishioner) who died in a car accident. There are no magic words that will take the pain away for that family. It’s a devastating loss. But I think there is at least a sliver of comfort in finding your own suffering embodied in the stories of our faith. In David’s lament for his son Absalom:
Oh, my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!
Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!
It’s grief. Raw and real. And that grief and regret are lifted up to God. They are held gently by the worshiping communities who heard them today. The grief of David, the grief of those for whom we pray, the grief we carry in our own hearts.
With so many hands lifting up that sadness, may it be just a little bit lighter for the grieving ones.