Monday, 6 February 2012

The challenge of David - part 4

You will be pleased to hear that I think this may be the final part of my current series of reflections!

All of this thinking about David has led me to also reflect on Jesus’ life and in what ways he might be seen as David’s successor, an identity he is given in at least some of the Gospels.

Geographically, Jesus and David both grew up far away from the corrupting influences of armies and palaces of the centres of power, and David, a shepherd and Jesus a carpenter, were hardly those at the centre of political and financial power. It is there, at the outskirts of society that both grow in wisdom and learn to listen to God. It is there, too, that both experienced intense moments of receiving the gift of God’s spirit, David, anointed in the fields by Samuel, Jesus, baptised in the desert by John.

Both came into contact with sin and both, eventually, made their way to the centres of power, but their chosen routes and responses were very different. Perhaps it is these different choices which show how Jesus became truly the king after God’s own heart that David had been unable to be.

Like David in the cave on the hillside, Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, in the face of violence and danger to his own life, understood God’s call to non-violence. David and Jesus both told their followers to put down their swords. It was a vocation to peaceful, non-violent resistance from which David was tempted to stray by the trappings of wealth and power, but to which Jesus remained faithful to the point of death.

Like David, Jesus encountered both sexual sin, and financial crimes: but while David lamented his adultery while continuing to justify his vast wealth, Jesus shows himself forgiving and understanding with those who have committed sexual sins (for example, the woman caught in adultery in John 8) whilst he reserves his harshest condemnation for those who oppress others, who refuse to share their riches, and who live a hypocritical life condemning the sins of others whilst justifying their own immoral lifestyles.

While geographically Jesus followed David to Jerusalem, to the centre of power, and by some at least was heralded for kingship, ideologically Jesus rejected this place at the centre. He refused to collaborate with those currently in power, but nor did he agree to become a political opposition leader in a power struggle; rather he rejected the prevalent model of domination and authority, maintained by armies and aggression.

I think the stories that immediately follow Jesus entry into Jerusalem on palm Sunday in the different gospels are hugely significant in demonstrating Jesus’ response to entering the centre of power. In both Matthew and Marks’ gospels, immediately after his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus leaves again to spend the evening outside the city in Bethany, symbolic of his rejection of this place at the centre of power; and while in Luke it does not say he leaves, his reaction to arriving in the city is lamentation.

The first story John tells after Jesus arrival in Jerusalem, that of two Greeks asking to meet Jesus, perhaps adds a further dimension to our understanding of Jesus relationship with this centre of power. Perhaps if Jesus is going to come to the centre of power, he is determined that so is everyone else: the centre of power cannot be a place of exclusivity, but a place of welcome for all. Only in opening the power centres of our communities to be places to which everyone has access, and which do not define themselves by those who are in and those who are out, can we create a true kingdom of God.

Maybe the message of David’s life, and of Jesus’, is how hard it is to listen to the voice of God from the centres of wealth and power: to really hear what God is saying, maybe we have to choose to stay on the edge: which is a huge challenge, because how do I, as a Brit, as one of the richest few percent of people on earth, and very much from the centres of financial and political power, continue to live on the edge and hear God’s voice. Perhaps there are some very difficult choices to be made ...

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