Yesterday I contined with the David story.
David’s been, as one parishioner noted, “a cad.” His moral choices have been questionable and have undermined confidence in his leadership. His son has decided to take matters into his own hands. He’s a rebel. He’s not the first son to rebel against his dad.
Not only that, Absalom had twenty thousand Israelites supporting him. Now that the Israelites have vanquished their enemies, they are turning on their own. This number is meant to convey total war. Civil war.
Absalom has one adviser who is honest, reliable, and close to David. Yet, he’s also the traitor to David. The other is shrewd, self-promoting and slimy. When the first is absent, the second moves in and gives Absalom bad advice. Absalom becomes trapped. The other, realizing that this will not end well, commits a sort of seppuku: an honor suicide.
In spite of David’s orders, when Absalom is trapped, Joab kills Absalom. The rebellion is crushed. He’s completed what David commanded him, while also, perhaps rightfully, questioning David’s military judgment. Can’t have any hint of future rebellion. The slaughter must be total. Think Scarface.
It’s not a simple story about a military action. This is not how the military works, not the military we know. It’s not how nation states work, except, perhaps, subconsciously.
It’s more like the Mafia. David is the don; Joab is a boss or captain. We’re in a world where pride, honor and face are important commodities. They are worth dying and killing for. If you want to understand this story – watch mafia fills.
When David finds out his son is killed, however, he asks himself if his position is worth it. He is confronted with the consequences of his own narcissism and power. Violence is impossible to control.
David asks why?
I imagine that several of you are asking “why” noting several tragedies that have become icons for our national condition: the shooting of four young women; the homicide of eight people in the accident on the Taconic. It’s easy to want to give God some advice here, but what we have to remember is that we know God through our freedom to make choices; and we have here two people who were enslaved to their rage; or to alcohol. When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” he is offering a metaphor, a symbol that is supposed to remind us that in him, we are free. The alternative is a world where we are simply puppets in God’s grand plan. But such a world would be dull and ugly.
Now there are constituent parts to this. I will divide it into three parts – just for simplicity’s sake. The first is gratitude – a remembering of the good things we’ve done and experienced. The second is joy – experiencing the pleasures of this life now. The third is hope that tomorrow is going to get better. At different points in our lives we will find that the balance between gratitude, joy and hope will change. But those are your emotional tools, constituent elements of what we call “love.”
But to access those tools, to open the toolbox, you’ll need a key. And that key is the bread of life. When Jesus says “the bread of life” he invites us to stay connected, to be present for each other. This means, in practice, the work of calling, gathering, even partying, working on the common task.
The murderer and the mother were both isolated. The man couldn’t get a date; he probably spent most of his time on the computer. He probably found social skills hard, and couldn’t get out of the despair and resentment that would kill him. The mother was so isolated that nobody knew of her addiction and loneliness. With such separation, it’s easy to make decisions that will get people killed.
Paradoxically, our current system of cooperation makes us both more interdependent, and isolated.
David, being at the top, is in an isolated position. It’s part of the nature of being on top. But he realized how deeply his connection to his son meant and wept when he lost what was most dear to him – not his status, but his son. That is a hard lesson to learn.
I am the bread of life, Jesus says. The community understood that only gathering together, or sharing each other s stories, of sharing gratitude, joy and hope, would they have any way of surviving into the future. It would not be easy. The end of time would not happen as soon as many had hoped. But it was enough to know that their lives were worthy, and that they didn’t need to be isolated or forgotten.
We’re connected, Jesus says. You have part of me in you. You will always have my love. Don’t ever feel I am so far away. I am as close as your family, your friends, and even the strangers you live so near but barely know. You are not alone. I am the bread of life.