2 Samuel 11:26-12:13 | Ephesians 4:1-16 | John 6: 24-35
When I was a little girl, growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I was told that because I was a girl, my survival and happiness depended upon my appearance, my ability to follow directions, and my willingness to please men.
As a middle class white girl, I was told to go to college so that I could carry on a conversation with my future husband when he arrived home from work.
I was told I should aspire to arranging flowers for the church altar, raising well behaved children, keeping a tidy house, and living within my husband’s budget.
While I was waiting to land a man, or if I didn’t want to marry, or was never proposed to, I could be nurse, a secretary, or a teacher. As a Catholic, I could be a nun and do those jobs for free, for Jesus, as the bride of Christ, and receive a roof over my head and three square meals. With beauty, luck, or connections, I could maybe “marry up.”
For years, the story of Bathsheba seemed quite normal. I never questioned the way she was treated. I saw how wrong it was for David to stage Uriah’s death. I never questioned the officer who followed David’s orders. I even envied Bathsheba’s beauty that won her a privileged life with a rich man.
It was a terrible version of the Cinderella story. Yet because it was scripture, and women around me and on television were all treated like this, or worse, it simply reinforced in my eyes, men’s power, privilege and right to possess.
When I was invited on Facebook to speak out if I had ever experienced sexual abuse or harassment, I did not hesitate to say “Me, too.” What shocked me were the many girlfriends and neighbors I knew who had silently carried their stories as personal shame, and who now, over the next few days, added their “Me, too.”
So today, on Bathsheba’s behalf, I want to say, “Me, too.” And, “no more.”
David once was a brave shepherd boy who sang to his sheep in the fields by day and protected them from wolves by night. But now, he is king, and it has corrupted him. David saw the beautiful and naked Bathsheba, and lusted for her. He had money and power which he used to work the system to his advantage, to get Uriah “out of the way” so he could have his way- with her. It was all legal.
When Nathan the prophet calls out David as the bad guy, David repents and says, “I have sinned against God.” True repentance. But Nathan brings a word of comfort. God has taken away David’s sin. And David will not die, he will be punished. How? His other wives will be taken in adultery in public. How merciful of God.
Well, isn’t that peachy for David? And for all the people who have read this story and thought, “Murder is wrong, sexual sin is wrong. But God will forgive you. Even King David can’t stop his wandering eye.”
But here is the problem for me.
Bathsheba is objectified as a sexual object. Her feelings of loss are minimized. Her place on the planet is defined by her role in men’s sexual use of her. David’s other wives will be used as surrogates for David’s punishment by being violated physically and emotionally in public. There is nothing in this bible passage that supports the human dignity of women.
This story created a powerful message about life and power, men and wealth, and women are suffering. Many have accepted the definition of themselves as sex objects, in order to gain money, fame, jobs, promotions, a roof over their heads.
Our children have heard these stories and have grown up to live out the implicit lies, thinking they are following the will of God. Our little girls and boys need to hear us say, “No more.” We are called to be better than this. In fact, Jesus would have it no other way.
We know this because Jesus showed us how to do it.
The world Jesus came to included a system in which women were treated as disposable chattel, deprived of security, education and equal rights. Women were not to be taught the scriptures. Rabbi Eliezer said, “Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman.” Yet Rabbi Jesus allowed Mary to sit at his feet and learn from him. When Martha protested that Mary should keep her place and help in the work, Jesus stood for Mary. He said she had the right to choose, and that she had chosen the better thing.
A man and a woman were caught in adultery, and the law says they both must die, but the leaders let the man go, and brought only the woman to Jesus. “The law says she should be stoned to death. What do you say?” Jesus didn’t say anything at all. He just drew in the sand… And then he said, “If anyone is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” One by one the accusers left.
Jesus met an outcast, Samaritan, woman who went to the well when no one else did because no one accepted her. Yet Jesus strikes up a conversation with her and she eventually convinces the whole town to come on out and meet Jesus.
In Jesus’s day, a man could turn out his wife on the street when he tired of her, and Jesus demanded that a woman be given a writ of divorce so that she could start over as a free woman.
Jesus was not a man of the old framework. He saw through and critiqued the aberrations of his day, even when they occurred in the sacred scriptures. He uncovered the lies about women and foreigners. He made women into subjects, persons, again. He was a Nathan to the Davids of his time.
Today, we see brave women, people of color, indigenous people, and youth stepping up, speaking out, calling out the abuse they have suffered by men like David. People are speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves: the foreigner, the animals, the fields, oceans and skies. People are challenging the aberrations of this country’s “business as usual” and saying “No more!”
This is the work of the gospel. We are the evangelists and preachers, the prophets and teachers. We are collectively and individually dismantling the lies that would keep us and every living thing on this planet objectified and in the grip of hell. How do we stay focused on our true identity in Christ? As members of the body of Christ? Seeing with eyes that are enlightened by the mind of Christ? Remaining courageous in the face of such great odds?
This week, reread these scriptures prayerfully every day. Let the words sink in and heal you, change you, mold you into the body of Christ in ever greater measure, letting the grip of the old life melt away by the renewal of your spirit. Let these words encourage you to define yourself. For we are, like Jesus, one with God, and no one’s object. And when you do this, remember us who worship with you this evening, and hold us, and know we are all with you. When you sit down to a meal, remember this Eucharist, the promises we recall, and the incredible gifts of this planet: the fruit of the earth and work of human hands.
Let us pray:
O Great Spirit, Divine God, Christ, Allah, One of Many Names and Faces:
Create in us a clean heart, oh God, and a steadfast spirit.
Let your loving will be our food and let it be our joy to be your hands and feet on this earth, to complete your work in the fullness of time, just as Jesus did.