Notes from www.billbrucewords.com
Trinity on Church UC, Kitchener
Sunday, July 08, 2018
Text: 2 Samuel 5
The ‘Big Idea’ today was about our myths of ‘the old neighbourhood’, or ‘where I come from’. You know, ‘we walked 2 miles to school, uphill both ways in the snow’. ‘We were so poor we had to take turns at the table, without enough chairs.’ ‘Wow – you had chairs? We didn’t!’ We tell the stories of starting out in our adult lives, at work or in marriages – selectively, telling truth in myths.
This summer, we’re hearing the stories of David, selectively in the revised common lectionary and at greater length at this church. We began with early legends of the child musician and shepherd, anointed in preference to his big buff brothers, fighting lions and bears and Goliath with a slingshot. We hear the truth in myths to introduce his later success as king, before his failing mortality.
We tell the truths in myths, of our origins and of our future dreams, but we live at home in between memory and hope, in real time struggles. The grandchild looks at old albums with her grandmother, and asks her: ‘Is it true, granny, that in the olden days everything was black and white?’ The present is never that simple, lived forward and told backward. 1980’s punk star Lena Lovich sang:
Home is where the heart is,
Home is close control
Home is good clean living –
Let’s go to your place!
Truths are told in myths about origins and destinies. The middle stretches of stories defy that form. We hear today that ‘all the tribes at Hebron’ came to draft David to be king. But we know that Saul was killed trying to deceive David and Joab, and Abner backs Ishbosheth as successor, holding real power. David is running a gang in the hills, hardly loyal or obedient.
Imagine any political campaign and convention to find a new political leader:
‘We are your flesh and blood,
and you’ve been leading us already,
so you should be our king David.’
As if! It was never so easy, and it is never so easy. David had to fight for it.
David had years before Saul died, and then years in Hebron, not entirely in charge. Imagine David as leader of her majesty’s not so loyal opposition, the government in waiting, then minority government with regional support, or even an armed faction in a civil war, only later a majority, ruling south and north. We miss all the cues and clues in the text, if we ignore geography and history.
Was David popular? Among what populations and tribes, and how could he build a coalition for a wider alliance? Did he appeal to a lowest common denominator, or ask us to ‘rise above’ gang colours to better ideals? David starts as a dissident, a rebel, on the run from Saul who is slipping into tyranny. Even here, at Hebron, his influence is limited to Judah’s southern reaches.
David was ambitious, his dynasty ‘rags to riches to rags in 3 generations.’ For 7 years he is based in Hebron, but with more new allies from Israel in the north, he begins his rule over a ‘united kingdom’ for 33 years more by taking Jerusalem, a neutral city between Judah and Israel, belonging to neigther.
The Jebusites, called ‘the people in the land’ in this, resisted David’s rise, 1000 year before Jesus. This text was locked in after the exile, 500 years before Jesus, as a minority of returnees proposed to build a second temple, despite the resistance of the majority of ‘the people in the land’, never exiled. Jebusites ran the well-defended city, with some vulnerability: a single water source by a wall.
Just as the Philistines with Goliath ‘trash talked’ the troops of Israel a couple of weeks ago, so the taunts of Jebusite defenders of Jerusalem sound like slang: ‘The blind and the lame won’t enter this city’. ‘David, you’re as scary as my grandmother! She’s blind and lame too!’ David trash talks back: ‘Oh yeah?’ ‘My grandmother will beat your city – even if she’s blind and lame!’
The language of feisty athletes at a football field, a basketball court, or a boxing arena can be pretty rude, bigoted against aged or physically disabled folks. It’s not actually directed at the weak, but as an insult against opponents of proportionate strength. Context is everything in quoting such aphorisms. Defenders say their ‘B Team’ can hold off David, who says water-boys can win.
Apparently David’s troops led by Joab and Abner stormed the wall at the water source, if not up through the water pipe exactly. Those taunted as ‘the blind and the lame’ with no hope of victory did, in fact, get to live in the city, and the saying became a colloquialism about their just deserts despite initial disadvantage and challenging obstacles.
The United Church national General Council meets in Oshawa in a couple of weeks, and you will hear (if we make the news at all this time) about our crazy politics in the national media. We will likely be accused of being blind and lame, foolishly challenging Canadian support for the current Israeli regime. What anti-Semites would propose ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ against Israel?
We’re not against Israel. However, we do often say that the incursions into Palestinian lands to expand Jewish ‘settlements’ behind ‘the wall’ are wrong. The ‘blind and the lame’, Palestinians penned in refugee camps for 50 years, are taunted by the Jewish Defence Forces, in Gaza and around Hebron, more in this season than in recent years since Intifadah days.
Our bulletin today offered maps. One showed the ‘Swiss cheese’ proposals of the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995 for ‘Hebron District Redeployment’. Another showed an ‘Arab Studies Society Land Research Centre’ map of the same area in 2018, with far more Jewish ‘settlement’, protected by ‘The Wall’. Trump’s America supports Netanyahu’s Israel, as Harper’s Canada did. Will Trudeau?
News releases on the United Church of Canada website last Friday reported heavy construction vehicles with police escorts ready to bulldoze and relocate villages of Khan Al Ahmar and Susiya, already with a history of a couple of prior relocations. Their next pastures will adjoin a garbage dump. In relation to the Fourth Geneva Convention, these actions are ‘illegal’ in occupied territory.
Another news release before this weekend originated from the Presbyterian Church of Canada. Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers are stonewalled at Israeli airports, and then sent to burdened third countries such as Uganda. Rhetorically, I asked what kind of bigotry would deny asylum without hearing, citing lack of local resources to house the seekers. The answer is ‘us, too’.
When you hear this stuff in coming weeks, if the United Church’s national gathering gets any press at all, don’t deny you ever heard it in your local church or that none of us agrees with the national leadership. I know many of us voted for Mr. Ford, as we did for Mr. Harper, for many reasons. Most of us can’t draw a sketch map of biblical Israel, let alone today’s state. We disagree.
We tell our truths in myth, of our own origins, as we did and do about David. We are an immigrant people, part of settler culture in Canada, aging WASP’s. We share our dreams and hopes of our ultimate visions of a reign of God. Meanwhile, we live in between those homes, in a world that defies description in terms of true myth and true dreams. Who and what will we unite behind?
You’re invited this summer to tell stories together, about how your story, and our story, and God’s story fit together. We’ve posted the first half dozen examples of ‘Story-Telling’ about Trinity on Church, as we imagine telling our story in the year 2020, with 20:20 hindsight, as an ‘elevator speech’ about our church and why we participate and invite others to join us.
Sure, we remember and tell our truths in origin myths of Methodist settlers and city-builders in Kitchener. We dream about inclusive and diverse church community in some far-distant future. Meanwhile, between those true myths and true dreams and visions, we tell stories like this one of David building alliances. What word do you have for our hearts, O God, give us ears to hear!