We begin every Sunday pretty much the same way: with a prayer called the Collect of the Day. It’s a prayer said to collect us: to gather us in prayer around one needful gift from God to us – and in that prayer today, we call on the mercy of God, asking God to cleanse and defend us. It’d be nice to think mercy comes without fallout – can be a kind of Get Out of Jail Free Card. But tradition tells us it isn’t. Instead mercy comes to cleanse us and defend us by exposing the truth about us. And truth said in love hurts before it heals.
Today, returning to the Second Book of Samuel, the prophet Nathan comes to King David to rebuke him for a terrible wrong he’s done to a man who depended on him. If you’ll recall, David took from Uriah his one true love: his wife Bathsheba, a deed announcing itself any day now with a child on the way. To solve that incoming problem, David sent Uriah into battle to die without sufficient protection. And today, in the wake of his sins, Bathsheba grieves the death of Uriah.
Up till now, this story spares no words for David having second thoughts. When we meet up with him today, he’s too full of his own power to know he’s done anything wrong. From the outside in, we know there must be a reckoning. And to that end, the prophet Nathan approaches David with a parable about a rich man who wants to meet his obligations: a nice person, ready to welcome the traveler on the road with a warm meal, but who does so without cost to himself. Rather than choose any lamb from among his own abundant flock, he sacrifices the one and only lamb held dear by someone else, a poor man without recourse or means of self-defense. Read more