Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Concerning Solomon's building of the Temple, two thoughts come to mind. First, we can recall why his father, king David was not allowed to build the house of the Lord. 'You are a man of war, you shed blood'. Solomon's character was formed by his father: when he was not in war, David instilled into Solomon his love for beauty, justice, and the love of the Covenant. That is why he could become free from the 'shadow part' of his father's life. Solomon asked for 'a discerning and wise soul', which he found more important than worldly power.
In today's reading, we learn how the Temple was built. The order and beauty is itself a model of the human soul which is capable of creating peace and beauty in the world – with the same intensity as we are capable of wars and destruction.
'And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any too of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.'
There was neither hammer nor axe; this is a significant detail. 'War-technology' is kept away from God's house. Hammer and axe, representatives of the skills and 'techne', which serve the production of weapons, symbolically, cannot enter the house of God. What a sense of the Sacred! (Sacred = the meaning of Life, the source of life.) That is whey, our churches, are powerhouses of remembering our task towards this Sacred... The need to purify our consciousness from all, particularly the 'war-technologies' penetrating our lives so deeply, destructive forces. On the other hand, the precise, numeric details for the building remind us that the real high-tech is our churches, and not the war-planes and satellite driven bombs!
The growth of the early church into a peaceful community is a manifestation of the above logic of following the Sacred. There is growth: 'We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity fo every one of you all toward each other aboundeth.' The focus is also on the Temple, here. Building up God's spiritual-physical temple, the Christian community. Violence, revenge towards a hostile environment does not belong to them; it belongs to God. This separation was key in the flourishing ethos of non-violence. This is the unique founding charisma of Christianity; Christ's personal presence. A great lesson for our Eucharistic communities! No need for words for what follows from it.
Transcending the age in which we live in (2 Samuel 16,1-9; Matthew 12,22-end), Thursday after third Sunday after trinity, Evening Prayer, BCP lectionary
As by know we have got used to it, business is as usual in the second book of Samuel. War and revolt upon revolt, bloodshed upon bloodshed. This time, it is King David’s son, Absalom, who openly wants to seize the throne. Everyone is on the son’s side, David is on the run. In one place, someone openly insults him and his company. ‘…, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David…And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: the Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son.’
Usually, in a situation like this, the man is killed on the spot. Not that there is no volunteer immediately who wants ‘to go over and take off his head.’ This the socio-cultural milieu of violence in which David is entrapped in all his life.
However, what follows is one of the most striking scene of the Old Testament. David is the only one who perceives that this situation cries for God’s grace in order to raise his soul above this tide of unbearable violence. A similar situation to our culture.
David’s reaction shows that there is hope! It is possible to see beyond the ‘iron curtain’ of our age. It is possible to decrease the violence, aggression and mistrust accumulated on the shores of our present. ‘Let him alone, let him curse.’
And what follows is the most fascinating scene, how David remains detached from the ongoing ‘rage’ of his curser. Symbolically, and this is a miracle of a kind of exodus, David is able to go through the disturbed soul of the age, in the rage of Shimei made fully visible. ‘And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill’s side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust.’ Note how David ‘transcends’ beyond the level of his age. This ‘no’ to the spirit of the age is possible!
Matthew’s gospel, from the perspective of the New Testament, returns to the theme. Our first reading is an important background in understanding one of the most intriguing sayings of Jesus. ‘Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men…Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.’
In view of David’s ‘transcending’ (to go beyond) the cruelty of his age, we can read the statement as this. If one does not make an effort to decrease the violence and ‘illnesses’ accumulated in society, he says no to the life offered by the Spirit. This saying, not accidentally, took place, when Jesus was healing people, liberating them from the destructive demons of the age; and the Pharisees did not welcome this positive change.
In the Holy Spirit, it is possible to raise above the negative gravity of our times. It is our call.
The ‘heart-beat’ of praying with the Eucharist (2 Samuel 15,13-end; 1 John 5) Thursday after third Sunday after Trinity/ Morning Prayers, Book of Common Prayer lectionary
King David realises that in their relationship with his son, Absalom, something went wrong. He ‘did not show his face’ to him in time. These moments of turning away were the moments when mistrust, jealousy and rivalry was built up - in both hearts. Now, it is time for a painful recognition, that these were fatally missed moments. David cries on the sacred mountain. ‘And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot.’
Symbolically, David’s praying on the mount of Olives, is our praying in front of the ‘Eucharist’. When we pray in Christ’s sacramental presence, our past becomes visible. We can see the missed opportunities of our true humanity.
Saint John, in his letter, offers this honest contemplation. What was missed by sin; our sins. Through the Eucharistic adoration, God reveals these mistakes. Without words, without a loud voice - he speaks to our conscience, even more, our love. That is why it is worth reading 1 John 5 as the ‘heart-beats’ of praying in the Eucharistic presence. It reveals our past. It reveals the dangers of wrong directions in our lives. (‘There is a sin unto death… All unrighteousness is sin: and there is sin not unto death. We know that whoseoever is born of God sinneth not.’) It also reveals, most importantly, our positive options, among them the ones which we must take – now.
‘And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.’
A Face to turn to (2 Samuel 13,38-14,24; 1 John 4,7-end) Wednesday after Third Sunday after Trinity Sunday / Book of Common Prayer lectionary
‘And the king said unto Joab, Behold now… go therefore, bring the young man Absalom again. So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. And the king said, Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face. So Absalom returned to his own house, and saw not the king’s face.’
The earthly king turns away his face; God does not. This very same painful human situation. Now king David turns away his face from Absalom, his own son. As if his own permanent refusal by King Saul, would not offer a lesson. This refusal prompted David to contemplate God’s face continuously. And now he fails in the same way. What surrounded Saul was the tempest of mistrust, jealousy, permanent war-campaigns, and power-games. We can see how David yearned for a genuine nourishment and acceptance by God, and now, he fails. His face is not shown to his son. The same mistrust will lead soon Absalom’s betrayal, and open revolt against him.
John, in his letter, invites us to break this cycle, and return to the spirit of the praying David. ‘Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God: and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God.’
When we see the ‘facelessness’ of our world, its (our!) problems - do we turn to Christ as the Face of God? What prayers do we pray, ‘what psalms do we write’ in the spirit of David? If we accept a faceless world, God will become faceless and voiceless for us. The world, our culture, hijacked by the demons of consumption and ‘economic growth’, will never reflect our true face, our true self. Let us seek God’s life-giving Face in Christ!
Tuesday after Third Sunday after Trinity (2 Samuel 11; 1 John 3,13-4,6) / Matins, Book of Common Prayer
There is so much to ponder on this passage. In it, the corruption of the human heart and pain of wars are involved. The focus should not be David’s ‘personal’ failure (seducing Uriah’s wife and actually murdering the husband by sending him to certain death in war). Instead, we should focus on the relationship between the failing human heart and human’s wars.
‘And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David went and enquired after the woman…and sent messengers and too her, and she came in unto him, and he lay with her.’ And Beth-Sheba ‘conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with a child.’
It is worth seeing, how more and more David’s heart (‘the human heart’) is entangled in the growing darkness of external and internal events. He summons Uriah, the husband, back from war – quite probably, to make him sleep with his wife. In that case, her pregnancy from David cold be hided, as if nothing had happened. Darkness is swallowing up David’s vanishing integrity… The final victory of this internal night is the very night, when Uriah refuses to visit his wife. What happens in David’s heart during the ‘night’ is his ultimate failure. ‘And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, saying… Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.’ Then suffering, and death follows. The death of Uriah, other soldiers, and that of the besieged citizens.
These unknown wars remain present in our history. With their forgotten victims and the sorrows they caused, are behind our present ‘failing’ collective moments. One should see, how in the pain of global warming these forgotten war-sufferings, with the nameless victims, are surfacing.
‘Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war… And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king’s servants be dead…’
From a higher perspective upon this seduction-drama, it is not accidental that the corruption of an individual heart is paired with the miseries of external history, war. (Is not history an extended human heart, and their relationship is that of a cause and effect?)
Bath-Sheba mourns when she learns of her husband’s death. This mourning is ‘weak’, insufficient, and fragile. Yet it is our only way out from the cycle of our collective sins. This personal mourning, taking place in an individual heart, also ‘frames’ history. Its intention is in contrast to the negative dynamic, through which David’s connects to our collective History.
John’s letter is a genuine healing perspective.
‘He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.’
This permanent discernment of the issues of the heart and history is the only way of creating peace in our (moral) life and the world.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..