Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
9 Aug. 2015 Proper 14 Year B: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51
It wasn't the apple hanging on the tree that got us in
trouble in the Garden of Eden:
“It was the pair on the ground.”1
We say Adam & Eve ate the apple in the garden, although the Bible does not specify the fruit.
We associate apples with health: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Apples remind us of school: We give them to teachers. Today an apple helps us acknowledge the start of a new school year, which, in a few minutes, we will ask God to bless.
We say a child is “the apple of our eye” & someone “is a good apple.”
We also speak of a person as “a bad apple”. Our very human condition of dysfunction started not with the apple hanging on the tree but with the pair of humans on the ground. We know pairs of feet on the ground still keep us hanging in suspense, keeps us dangling between heaven & earth2. Think of the hacking & security breaches that have recently headlined the news.
In the article “Experts Go To Extremes To Stay Secure At Black Hat Conference”, USA Today reports that experts at last week's security conference in Las Vegas protected their own security by using pen & paper instead of laptops, paid with cash instead of credit cards, had face-to-face meetings instead of talking by cell phone.3 We're talking about 9,000 people at a conference: “security executives, hackers, academics, government & law enforcement staffers.”4
Right after that conference, the newspaper report says, about 16,000 were expected at a more hacker-oriented conference: 25,000 people at 2 conferences outnumber the 20,000 men who die our first lesson today.
The 20,000 soldiers die fighting in support of King David's rebel son, Absalom, who has hacked into his dad's administrative support system & come close to overthrowing the king. Absalom's name means “the father is peace.”5
The whole story is a mess of intrigue & human sin. I suggest you read it for yourself. I will clarify6: Absalom is David's first son, born to one of his wives before he married Bathsheba. Absalom's half-brother, Amnon, whose name means “faithful”7, is anything but faithful to family values: He raped his half-sister, Tamar, Absalom's full-sister.8 For 2 years, Absalom plots & then kills Amnon & gets exiled for 3 years. His father, King David, recalls him to the kingdom but has nothing to do with him for 2 years. Absalom broods over this & plots to overthrow his dad.
Absalom's pride kills him9 – that head of hair of which he is so proud & which he had weighed each year10 – “is his undoing,” as the Jewish Study Bible notes.
Both Absalom & his father, David, are culpable in this disaster. Both are guilty of murder. One Bible commentary11 points out that Absalom pays for his sins & those of his dad, noting the irony of his being trapped by his own hair like the ram caught in the thicket in Genesis 22:13 that saves Abraham from having to sacrifice his son Isaac.
David has sacrificed his son, Absalom,
to end the rebellion in his kingdom.
At the end of this lesson we hear the poignant cry of this king whose son has died fighting against him. It reminds us of what we hear at the start of today's lesson when David emphasizes to his commanders to “deal gently” with his son. The Jewish Study Bible quotes him: “Deal gently with my boy Absalom....”12 We hear the king's resistance to killing his son, his resistance to drawing the sword to kill him.
What a contrast we have between life & death in our scriptures. In our Gospel, Jesus says: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me...” We are drawn to Jesus by faith. As one Bible notes, This gift of faith “is neither coercive nor mechanical.”13 The Greek word in the Bible for “drawn” is one that implies some resistance, such as drawing a sword from the scabbard14 or drawing in a fish you catch in the Flint River.
Resistance is in our nature. We hear resistance in the reaction Jesus gets today from the people who know him: He says something that draws on their hearts & they look at earth-bound facts to resist this new perspective.
Like the people with Jesus, like the people Paul writes to in Ephesus, we live suspended between heaven & earth. Paul's guidelines that we read today help us have a more heavenly perspective in our human interactions:
“Put away falsehood; be angry but do not sin;
forgive each other; be imitators of God as beloved children
& live in love like Jesus has loved us.”
As God's beloved children, we are wise to remember to live open to learning. Learning never stops. We are always students of life.
May we always be hungry to learn,
hungry for God's love, hungry to share God's love,
hungry to share Jesus,
“the bread of life” that feeds our hunger.
Barclay, William. The Gospel of John: Volume 1. Revised Edition. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Greene , Mel. The Greatest Joke Book Ever. New York: Harper. Avon Books, Inc. 1999.
Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Ed.: Merrill C. Tenney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
http://www.sermons4kids.com/. “Heavenly Bread”. Accessed: 3 Aug. 2015.
http://www.sermons4kids.com/living_bread.htm. “The Living Bread”. Accessed: 3 Aug. 2015.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Klein, Ralph W. “Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33”. Accessed: 2 Aug. 2015. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2530.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 22 July 2015.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Peterson, Brian. “Commentary on Ephesians 4:25-5:2”. Accessed: 2 Aug. 2015. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2547.
Satterlee, Bishop Craig A. “Commentary on John 6:35, 41-51”. Accessed: 2 Aug. 2015. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2551.
USA Today.08.04.14. “Experts Go To Extremes To Stay Secure At Black Hat Conference”. Section B. McLean, VA: A Division of Gannett Co., Inc. 2015.
1 Greene , Mel. The Greatest Joke Book Ever. New York: Harper. Avon Books, Inc. 1999. P. 312.
2 Note: Concept of hanging between heaven & earth is from Harper's Bible Commentary. P. 300.
3 USA Today.08.04.14. “Experts Go To Extremes To Stay Secure At Black Hat Conference”. Section B. P. 5B.
5 Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Ed.: Merrill C. Tenney. P. 2.
6 Note: Information from Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. Pp.7-8, 27.
7 Ibid. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. P.27.
9 Jewish Study Bible. P. 651.
11 Ibid. Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 300.
12 Ibid. Jewish Study Bible.
13 Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989. P. 1295.
14 Barclay, William. The Gospel of John: Volume 1. Revised Edition. P. 220.