Convicted, Confessed, Forgiven

19 October, 2014  2 Samuel 12:1-9 and Psalm 51:1-9

icon_510294One of my favorite podcasts is called Snap Judgment. If you’re not sure what a podcast is, it’s like talk radio on demand. This is a series of stories told in an hour hosted by Glen Washington. (See and hear for yourself right here.) The episode I listened to included a story told by Matt who was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan. He tells about being at a check point and watching a car careen toward him and his unit. So he watches this car head toward the check point and he lifts his gun and shoots. He can clearly see that his bullets hit the driver as blood appears on the man’s white Pashtun, or traditional dress. After the car comes to a stop, Matt turns his back, preparing for the blast. The car doesn’t explode and he rushes to it and sees that it’s an elderly man whose dead and open eyes are covered in chateracts – he was probably near blind and not aiming for them at all. Looking for information about the man, Matt finds a picture of him with his arm around what looks to be his son.

 

The interviewer interrupts Matt’s story and asks, “How did you feel?” Matt responds by saying he pushed it down and knew he’d have to deal with it later, remarking that if he were to begin to feel guilt, it would build in hesitation he couldn’t afford while at war.

Fast forward, Matt arrives home and feels like his time in Iraq and Afghanistan is unfinished, that he needs to go back. So he decides to go back and embed with his old unit as a civilian to report and write about the experiences of war. He gets into his car with his driver, Sayed, and he feels a new vulnerability not being in a military unit, surrounded by soldiers willing to die for each other. They’re driving down a familiar road to his driver, who must have driven it a thousand times, and there is a check point ahead. Sayed only seems to be speeding up. Matt can see the Afghan soldiers raise their guns, their body’s alert and tense and he yells and gets Sayed’s attention, snapping him out of his daydream and he comes to a screeching halt. The Afghan soldiers surround the car with guns pointed at their heads.

“We were really lucky to be alive,” he said, noting that he would have pulled the trigger and much sooner. Yet, what the scary incident did was instantly remind him of the elderly man he’d killed in Iraq. And for the first time, it really hit him. The weight of that consequence really sunk in and turned him inside out. He said, “I always knew what happened was a horrible thing but never really felt it. I realized how maddening the whole thing is.”

Today in our story, the prophet Nathan is that screeching halt, that weight of realization for King David.

Let’s back up a minute, though, just in case you’re wondering just what happened.

DSC03610First of all, we think of David as mighty and strong – a hero, the real deal. Ok, so you probably don’t picture him nude. But he’s King David, right? Jesus is related to him! That’s what we do to many people from the Bible stories – we make them out to be like flawless super heroes. And that’s just not the whole story. Great people do great things. Great people make terrible mistakes.

David-And-Bathsheba,-C.1537

Admittedly, a conservative take on this story, artistically speaking. It’s a family show, people.

What the prophet Nathan was addressing was this: King David saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof and thought he’d like to have her as one of his wives. He already had many wives and Bathsheba was already a wife, married to Uriah, a soldier out fighting. Well, Bathsheba gets pregnant from her encounter with King David and, in a panic to cover up their misdeeds, David summons Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, back from the war for a night as a gift, so he can enjoy the company of his wife.

Uriah, a man of great honor, doesn’t go and sleep with his wife as David hoped but instead, in solidarity with the soldiers he’s left in battle, sleeps at the foot of the king’s house with the servants, knowing he’s left his fellow soldiers sleeping out in the open field themselves. Knowing that he’ll be exposed as the father of this child and seeing that Uriah has foiled his plan, David gets plan b into action the next day and gets him drunk. Not even too much wine gets Uriah to comply with David’s lie.

So, knowing he’s going to be found out, he sends Uriah back to the war with directions to his commanding officer to not only put him at the front of the line of the hardest fighting, but then to draw the other soldiers back so that he would be killed.

Needless to say, the Lord was displeased.

david-nathanSo God sent Nathan, a prophet, to deliver a message to David through a story. Prophets hear God’s voice and so see the world from God’s perspective. So Nathan is sent to confront David’s blatant sin.

He tells a story of a rich man and poor man where the result is an obvious taking advantage of the poor man, who cared for his lamb like a daughter. Just as David’s righteous indignation gets going, we all said it together: As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. Nathan holds up a mirror and says, “you are the man.”

It was the fog of war, the necessity to shoot first and ask questions later that bore great consequences for Matt, the soldier. He called life at war maddening at the end of his story. It was the mentality of war that distorted his vision, his actions, and made him numb to feeling anything or acknowledging any consequence at all. Until he was the man in the car, innocently careening toward a check point. That’s when the weight of what he’d done turned him inside out.

For David, power corrupted him – made him deaf and blind to consequence. David forgot that his actions in this “personal matter” had consequences far reaching. Dominoes fell, and many lives were shattered and changed. Sure, he knew enough to cover his tracks, but he demonstrated no remorse or compassion. Well, not until Nathan careened into his life and told that story.

NCEA-paintingWe need Nathans, don’t we? We need truth tellers to hold up mirrors and let us take a good, long look at something we may not have seen before. And, truth be told, Nathans are hard to love. Nathans are difficult to tolerate. They are hard to keep in our lives. Which is why those truth tellers are so important. Essential. Critical.

 

Nathan shows up in David’s life to remind him who God is. We are forever forgetting about God and who God is in our lives. But it’s not memory that Nathan is after. Memory isn’t going to fix this. What’s going to fix this is confession.

Because to confess is to admit your own wrong doing. It takes looking inward and realizing the behavior, the thing you said or did, was wrong. And there is no one else to point to but you. And by pointing to your own self, it makes plain that the consequences go well beyond you, but they come as a result of you. Just as Matt realized he’d taken the life of a father, so too, David is suddenly reminded that his actions have ended a man’s life; his actions have ended a relationship; his actions have changed things considerably for Bathsheba. His actions have changed his relationship with God.

So to confess is misery. To confess is to lay it all out there. To be vulnerable to your creator. To confess is to acknowledge that you are not in control and that you are not here alone – that by simply being alive, you are in relationship to other people.

10342884_872755949409962_5694855061437032835_nYet to confess. Well, it’s freedom. Because to confess is to hang out your dirty laundry in front of God – you give it to God. And God is going to transform it. You see, to sit on it. To punch it down and not feel, to not admit: well, then you’ve always got a wound that is weeping, never fully healed. But to fully confess? It’s gonna leave a mark. It’s going to leave a scab, and soon maybe even a scar – a deep jagged one perhaps. Or a faint one. Or maybe it’ll fade so much you’ll have to consider really hard where it even was. To confess is to be healed, to be made whole. To confess is to be vulnerable before God. To confess is to admit your life and the lives of all of creation are linked. To confess means you won’t ever be the same. Because God will not leave you where God finds you. You will be washed clean.

 

The song we’ve sung at past Beer and Hymns, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Coen, riffs a little on the story of David and Bathsheeba. But it’s this line that sums it up for me:

Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.

Which is why, each and every week, we come to the table not in a lock step of victory, but staggering and begging, each and every one of us our broken hallelujahs. We confess what we’ve done and left undone and we are offered grace, forgiveness, and transformed life again and again.

Hallelujah.

 

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