Tag Archives: the cross

14: Death Warrant

14 death warrant mensatic MF

“In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” 2 Samuel 11:14-15

Evil begins slowly but surely and escalates out of control almost on its own. This murderous letter, delivered by the loyal hand of its victim, had its beginnings in sloth and boredom. For King David decided to stay at home in the Spring, instead of traditionally going off with his armies to war. Was he tired of killing perhaps? Was he weary of fighting? Bored and with nothing to do, he wanders on the palace roof and lusts after a woman he can see bathing. How easy it must be to look down on the rest of the world as your own from the top of a palace! We all know the rest of the story. Bathsheba is sent for (you don’t refuse the King), she gets pregnant; David racks his brains and does everything he can think of to get Uriah to go home and sleep with his wife so that the child will seem his and get David off the hook. But Uriah won’t play the game, and he ends up dead for his integrity. David, avoiding the killing of war, ends up committing adultery and murder.

 

Life and death are incredibly unfair often. But fairness is more of a human concept than a divine one. Our God is not as interested in fairness as he is in justice. David will be made to answer for his crimes, but others will have to live or die because of them. Free will has a high price tag attached to it. David is one of God’s favourites, a special and anointed friend of the Living God, picked out for an amazing relationship with the Lord, and yet he too was capable of being sucked into a vortex of sin.

We talk, in the Church, of falling from grace, of backsliding, we are aware that Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, and that we walk on as redeemed sinners. All is indeed paid for, but our sinful nature still overtakes us, and the need to constantly turn back to the Lord, renewing our vows and our loyalty, this is a process that we have to repeat again and again, but it is also one we can do under the new covenant in a joyful instant of remembering God’s goodness and mercy, and one we can receive without performing any penance (though I understand and respect why the Catholic Church still uses this idea). I like to think of this process as a pendulum, swinging back to the centre over and over, and the movements becoming smaller and smaller as we remember God’s heart more and more swiftly, until we appear to have stopped altogether. In reality we are turning back to God so quickly that he becomes the centre of our stillness. This is humility. It does us good to confess our sins to one another as James advises, to those we trust, and also to do so before God in the prayer of examen, so that we can turn the tide of the smaller sins before they swell into a flood of wrongdoing that threatens to overwhelm us and those we seek to harm.

We are so expert at covering our own tracks and building ourselves up in our own minds, that if we are not careful, we have spun a web of intrigue for the saving of our own faces and egos before our feet hit the floor in the morning. This service to ego and to our own pleasure-seeking is a certain choosing of death, and not just for ourselves, for the choice between life and death is one we make every moment and flows out into the lives of everyone around us. The Lord is the giver of life, and we are his children, so let us be channels of life and of love.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

13: In the Pit

13 in the pit nicksumm MF

“So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.” Genesis 37:23-24 NIV

Joseph was used to being the favourite, with his father Jacob especially. The seed of favouritism had been planted with Rachel his mother, who had been Jacob’s favourite wife. His half brothers hated him and plotted against him, partly out of envy, partly because the young Joseph hadn’t mastered the art of tact. He knew he was special, and he didn’t see much point in hiding it. He had the gift of prophecy through dreams and shared his future greatness with all and sundry.

What a shock it must have been to this confident, cheerful and naïve seventeen year-old boy, to be thrown into the pit by his nearest and dearest! To be suddenly left alone in the cold pit with no way out, ridiculed and relieved of the mantle of his father’s love. This was only the beginning of his suffering, and the suffering of his brothers by their guilt, and the pain and heartbreak for Jacob, who mourned him greatly, fooled into thinking him dead (Rachel had already died by this time).

For those of us who are blessed to grow up with loving parents, secure in all we say and do, looking forward to the future we’ve been led to believe will be marvellous, there is a deep sting in being suddenly left very much alone and helpless. When every prop and favour is taken away from us, when we find ourselves flung into a pit by the very people we were sure loved us, what is left to sustain us?

This is a journey I see a lot in those whose hearts are for God. The Church is good at nurturing the first seeds of faith, great at proclaiming things over us, repeating the prophecy from Jeremiah for the whole of Israel over us as individuals: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) and generally making us hope to be history makers and world changers, with lives full of health, blessing and prosperity, because all the bad stuff has been paid for on the cross, right? So we don’t have to suffer any more! But without negating the power of the cross, this is a childish message on its own.

We are not so good at preparing Christ’s young disciples for the prospect of hurting, brokenness or plans going awry. We don’t explain that sometimes life is crushing, and so many times I see Christians who are bewildered, angry and even side-lined because their lives have become hard. The mantle got taken away and no-one climbed into the pit with them, and no-one preached to them on Romans 8:17 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (NIV)

We can feel, at such times, that we have been left to rot. And yet, it is right at these times, when he is all we have left, that we have the choice before us of whether to trust God or not. It may take a while, years maybe, before help finally comes. We may, like Joseph, then find we’ve been sold to slavers, seemingly out of the frying pan and into the fire, the first part in a twisting tale of epic proportions. Or we may, like Jeremiah, find an Ebed-Melech, servant of the King, willing to come and gently lift us out of our cistern. Either way, God’s purposes and plans will win out in the end. But there may be a hard road yet to tread.

If we have been there, perhaps we should train ourselves and our brothers and sisters to be on the lookout for any dark dungeons, and to peer into the murk as we pass them, calling out, and remembering to carry sturdy rope with us at all times.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com