Imitation is the Highest Form...

And the bread passages just keep on coming...  But, we still must deal with David, who finds a way to dominate the daily narrative....

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

As we were saying, David now begins to reap the rewards of his own subterfuge. (Perhaps too civilized a word for the reprehensible things he has done).

Absalom’s story is part of a larger mosaic. His ‘revolt’ is fueled by David’s complicity in the rape of Absalom’s sister, Tamar, by his brother, Amnon. When the king does nothing to punish Amnon – as I have stated in the past, David is no hero - Absalom is enraged by the injustice. He wins over the people and has himself named king. David, of course, must respond. And, I find it an interesting detail of the battle’s description where it says, ‘the men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day…’

Joab. His appearance in the story reminds us of two other appearances of this particular ‘servant’ of David (Reminds me of that guy in Godfather II that does the dirty work for Michael Corleone… all Michael has to do is look in his direction, and you know that someone is going to be leaving the movie soon. No, Fredo! Don’t get in the boat with that guy!!!)  But Joab is the one charged with disposing of Uriah and a bit later, Abner, but in a way that removes any suspicion from the king. That he is the one to kill Absalom – and that David does nothing to punish Joab – leads one to suspect that David’s admonition to ‘go easy on the young man Absalom’ was accompanied by a royal nod and wink in the direction of David’s trusted hit man. If Joab is involved, David is pulling the strings.

That could also be why, when Solomon finally ascends the throne, Joab is among those who fall victim to the purge conducted by Nathan and Bathsheba (I mean, who needs Joab when you have those two working for you?)

Ephesians 4: 25 – 5:2

The key to this text is the phrase ‘imitators of God,’ which will follow us into the gospel lesson from John, where Jesus utters – in a line reminiscent of Jeremiah’s 31st chapter – ‘and they all shall be taught by God.’ This plays well into Walter Wink’s oft repeated – at least by me – notion that God is the only human. And, here is that quote, actually: ‘And this is the revelation: God is HUMAN … It is the great error of humanity to believe that it is human. We are only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human. We see glimpses of our humanness, we can only dream of what a more human existence and political order would be like, but we have not yet arrived at true humanness. Only God is human, and we are made in God’s image and likeness — which is to say, we are capable of becoming human.’ (Just Jesus: My Struggle to Become Human, p. 102)

The other word that stands out for me is the idea of sacrifice. We have spent some time in the last few weeks differentiating the righteous sacrifice of the Davidic/Temple cult system the notion that we must have sacrificial victims to satisfy some grievance or to influence the weather, and that of the positive notion of loving self-sacrifice – servanthood – where the only fatality is one’s false pride, ego, vanity, selfishness – you get the idea. Which is harder to kill? I think you know the answer to that question and that helps to explain why we always take the easy way out.

John 6: 35, 41 - 51

As mentioned above, to be ‘taught by God’ is to practice imitation, which is basically the way we learn anything. On Sunday morning, for example, we practice gathering at a table where all are welcomed so that we can go out and set our own tables…and welcome everyone, especially our ‘enemies.’ Jesus washing the feet of the disciples later in this gospel is a symbolic act in one sense, but is also the required task assigned a servant/slave before the meal. Psalm 60:8 offers a clever taunt in which “Moab is my wash basin,” and “upon Edom I toss my sandal…” Clearly, the position of foot washer is not held in high esteem. So, to turn another phrase, as imitators we are to do the dirty work, humble ourselves to perform the loving tasks that others will not do.

Bread of life. If Jesus is the bread of life, is there a bread of death? I think we know that answer, too. As human wannabes, it is the main staple of our diet. We can never have enough and oddly the more we consume, the more we want. And, this is not just from the perspective of material possession. We want control of every situation, we crave love – on our terms and in ways we recognize – we want power (which doesn’t help the love craving, does it?), we want recognition, we are starved for attention, we demand gratification and validation, and we eat everything in sight trying to get it.  So, yeah, there is a bread of death.

And, I think, that Jesus doesn’t take away our need for bread; he just offers us a bread of life, rather than a bread of death. And Jesus doesn’t take away the craving we have, he just replaces it with the craving to be drawn together in community; and, he gives us another basis – one we imitate, not subvert - for doing so.