The Tragedy of “Too Late.”
Overview of what has happened since our last sermon. Lots:
Amnon raped Tamar, Absalom took vengeance on Amnon and killed him two years later. In the meantime, David had no words of consolation for Tamar. Absalom fled, came back and led a rebellion against David. David flew the coup, Absalom took possession of his concubines and had sex with them on the same roof where Bathsheba had caught David’s eye: a fulfillment of the prophecy of Nathan.
First, how this passage gives voice to the grief and mourning of people of faith through the centuries. We have drawn on this passage as a testament to the fact that our lives involve suffering, especially when a parent loses a child. This grief is enough to shock David into a state of mourning even though he has been estranged from this son who has actively led a campaign of rebellion against him.
This text, and the Psalm that goes with it, gives voice to the agony of a parent witnessing the consequences of their own actions play out in the lives of their children. These are David’s consequences. What has happened is David’s sin which haunts him.
Brueggemann suggests that Absalom’s suspension reflects the tensions in which the narrative itself now stands suspended. “Absalom is suspended between life and death, between the sentence of a rebel and the value of a son, between the severity of the king and the yearning of the father.”
David’s conflict between roles of father and King.
Theme (What is God doing in the text?): God walks with us in the most desperate times of our lives.
Need (What is the human need reflected in the text?): To manage the complexities of relationships and roles in our lives–especially when our responsibilities seem to conflict.
We can identify with this, can’t we. I think that for many of us, parenting young children is God’s way of growing us in this regard.
That image of Absalom being “caught between heaven and Earth”
Image (What is the dominant image for the sermon?): Caught between heaven and earth.
We can identify with that image, can’t we? I can recall times when I’ve been busy doing something, and Wesley is just begging and pleading with me to come back to his room and play with him, or go outside and explore with him. And I’m actually struggling with the decision to keep doing whatever unimportant task I’ve set my mind on or to go and participate in this treasured time of childhood with my son, which won’t last forever.
We are caught between heaven and earth. We are vulnerable.
We can sympathize with David and Absalom in this encounter. Their relationship has been marred. David had the opportunity to receive his son as a son, but all he did was interact with him as his King. Do you notice how he refers to Absalom? “the Young Man Abasalom.” The narrator refers to “The King” receiving him and kissing him in the text that Benny read.
Not, “his father reached out and blessed him,” but “The King.” David is trying to navigate the waters as a King and as a Father. He doesn’t want to appear weak and he doesn’t want to appear hard hearted to the people who all seem to love Absalom. He is focused more on his appearances than on his own relationship with his son.
Many of us ministers have a difficult time navigating the role of minister with our spouses. It’s hard to be our spouse’s minister. I’m thankful that our District Superintendant is also a wonderful minister, and that my spouse has someone to turn to in that regard. That’s not to say I utterly fail as a minister to her, our relationships are complex.
He doesn’t recognize his relationship for what it is until it is too late, when he cries out from the depths of his pain and grief. “My son, Absalom!”
A quote by the main character Mori: "Death ends a life, not a relationship."