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Lectionary Living

What you don't know

7/11: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 and Psalm 24  •  Amos 7:7-15 and Psalm 85:8-13  •  Ephesians 1:3-14  •  Mark 6:14-29


While today's gospel story tells a clear tale of humans (at our worst), the lectionary version of the story in 2 Samuel leaves out so much that the reader has trouble making sense of it. On the way to Jerusalem, the ark of God in tow, David and all the house of Israel were dancing, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals (v. 5). By the time they reached Jerusalem, David was dancing alone: with all his might, but alone (v. 14). What happened?


Well, a lot happened, in the omitted verses. Briefly, Uzzah, responsible along with his brother for driving the cart carrying the ark, died when he touched it. David was angry with God for this and for a while, would not have anything more to do with it. Then he changed his mind, deciding to bring it on to Jerusalem.


Getting it the rest of the way seems to have been quite a process, and this is where the lectionary reading picks back up. After six paces, a big sacrifice was offered – and no wonder, as all must have been terrified to touch it. When they finally reach Jerusalem, David dances, but this time, alone. It is almost as though he is trying too hard. The excitement of the beginning of the journey is gone and cannot be rekindled. The realities of the trip and its consequences are fresh on everyone's minds. The scripture does record that there were shouts and the sound of trumpets: a people glad to have a job done.


Michal, daughter of Saul and one of David's wives, watched David's dance from her window with contempt, despising him in her heart (v. 16). Predictably, (2 Samuel 5:20-23, also excluded in the lectionary reading) the couple fight later about it. She points out that his almost-nude dance lacked dignity; he counters that her dad may have been more dignified but that he, David, was God's choice. Her absolutely wilting sarcasm, and his equally intense response, are vintage material immediately recognizable to any couple in conflict. The insistence that each see it the other's way is classic. While the story involves royalty, the tension routed through the triangle of wife, husband, and father-in-law is all too ordinary, all too common. Often, the outcome is distancing or cutoff between the spouses, which seems to have happened here (v. 23). 


While cutoff and distancing bring relief, they also bring a loss of perspective. Michal's world would shrink without David. And David lost the insight of his wife, who had been the sister of his best friend, and daughter of the latest king, with significant insider knowledge.


When families choose distancing and cutoff rather than mature, open connections and the ability to see a broad range of views, the resulting chaos is all too predictable. In David's case, more difficult times are ahead. In today's gospel, difficulties have already arrived. The scripture gives the back story on John the Baptist's beheading: Herod's marriage to his brother's wife and John's calling him out on it. We are also told the more recent events: the daughter, the drinking, the dance, the deal. All of these facts are necessary to understand what happened. The writer of Mark's gospel – never one to give more detail than necessary – provides the whole story here. Whether with Herod's family or one's own, understanding the bigger picture is the beginning of wisdom. Work on self begins at home.



Morning: What do I not know? What parts of my family history would be important to uncover? How can I connect to other family members to find out more?

Evening: What do I know about my family's challenges? How can I learn from them?

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.      

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