Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sin Kills Kids

Scripture for Sunday, August 12th:


This song comes in the second acts of the musical “Into the Woods.”  The characters in the musical selfishly seek after their own wishes- even when it tramples over the rights and needs of others.  At the end of the musical, when so much has gone wrong and tragedy ensues, the now-dead wife of the lead character returns to her husband to give him one last piece of advice now that he must raise their child alone-  “Tell their child the story of the Woods; actions have consequences — even for future generations.”

Actions indeed do have consequences, sometimes expected, sometimes not, for our children and our children’s children.  As we have followed the narrative arc of King David’s life this summer, we’ve reached the point where he is no longer the young shepherd boy, or the fair haired king-  he is now the grizzled, battle-scared King whose accomplishments and failings are largely behind him.  David now has many children from several different wives.  And then this tale comes- a tragic story about 3 of his children- Amnon, Tamar and Absalom.

This is a story that can rival the most outrageous of soap opera plots.  Amnon lusts after his half sister Tamar.  So he sets a trap.  He lures her in.  And against her will, he rapes her.

I’m not sure that there is a more debilitating, disgusting crime described in the bible then the one in this story.  And yet, this happens in the house of David!?!  The house of the king associated with peace and justice-  with the most glorious reign of Israel.  How could such things happen here of all places?

“actions have consequences — even for future generations.”

For the last two weeks- we’ve grappled with David’s most profound sin-  using his power and influence to have sex with Bathsheba- the wife of Uriah.  His sin is revealed to the world, and he confesses.  You would hope the tragedy could end there.  But I believe the author of 2 Samuel intentionally connects the story of David and Bathsheba with the story of the rape of Tamar.  

You see, Amnon is in many ways just repeating the sin of his father.  David and Amnon both saw a woman they desired.  Both wanted to have sex with a woman that all of society and God clearly decreed were off limits.  And then they abandoned right and wrong and forced their way.  Then they threw their victim away afterward.  Immediately after the rape, scripture says that “Amnon was seized with a very great loathing for her; indeed, his loathing was even greater than the lust he had felt for her.”

Amnon rapes her sister and throws her away just as David a generation before threw Bathsheba away.  Now granted, David later takes Bathsheba as his wife.   He pleads with God for forgiveness.  But he can’t take away the consequences of his actions.  His children have seen how David treated their mother (or step mother).  And this story lays bare that despite David’s plea for forgiveness, something in him remains broken.  Perhaps he thought he had put it all behind him-  but when he hears of his sons actions, when he hears of his daughter’s rape-  he did...nothing.  Sure- he got a little angry, but ultimately he did nothing.

David’s sins destroyed his children’s lives.  His actions with Bathsheba set the stage for Amnon’s rape of his half-sister.  His inaction further compounded Tamar’s tragedy when she found her own father wouldn’t lift a hand to protect her or care for her.  By doing nothing, the violence spun out of control as Absalom took vengeance into his own hands and killed his brother.

So what then are we to learn from David this week?  How is it that we can draw what it means to live in God’s kingdom from this tragic story?  This story serves as a warning, a sign pointer saying that if you want to live in God’s kingdom, stay away from this one.

But unfortunately, sexual violence does not stay away.  Its estimated that 20-30% of women have experienced some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime.  That likely means that some here have experienced that too.  Know this-  if you faced or are facing sexual violence, if you have had a David in your life who saw what was happening and did nothing, know that someone cares.  God loves you.  We as a congregation love you.  Seek someone out; seek me out.  I’ll meet you anywhere and work with you to find resources to right this wrong and find healing.

But if you are among those whose life has not been touched with sexual violence, (be grateful), then what can you draw from this story?  I think it highlights the grave responsibility that we as parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, those making vows at the baptism today, have toward the children in our lives.  In the second commandment, it is written that “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

I don’t think God actually punishes children for parents wrong doing, but this highlights, and the Tamar story demonstrates, the way that sin passes from one generation to the next.  

So how do we break the cycle?  If we are David, and all of us here, to a greater or lesser extent, have sinned in a way that affects children around us, how to we change the dynamics?

David sinned.  David pleaded for forgiveness.  David was forgiven by God.  But, it appears he didn’t take the last step- he did fully acknowledge and repent from his sins.

It appears rather than addressing his sexual sin head on, David buried it.  Scripture doesn’t show where he sat down with his children, confessed his sins, and showed them the tragic consequences of it.  He didn’t seem to speak to them about valuing women, about remembering to see God’s grace in each and every person.  And, when confronted by that same sin, he chose to ignore it rather than aggressively confront it.  Perhaps he was ashamed at how it reminded him of his own sin.  But folks, our kids see our sin.  Saying nothing about it doesn’t make it invisible.  We have to speak up about our shortcomings if we hope to see our children go a different way.  We have to stop pretending to be so pious in church and admit the faults that we have and are still working on.

After acknowledging our shortcomings, we then have to do something.  Work to repair the damage our sin has done on relationships.  Look to God rather than your battered or damaged family as an example of how to lead with grace and forgiveness.  Follow the humility of our Savior Jesus Christ.

And take our baptismal vows seriously.  We gather here today to baptize Jason.  Many of you may not yet know this family.  But when we baptize Jason- we acknowledge him as God’s child, and is therefore consider him one of our children too.

Come up after church and get to know this family.  Invite them to lunch.  Volunteer to babysit.  Help to entertain Jason during a service.  Volunteer to help in Sunday school to ensure we have enough adults to keep everyone safe. This congregation has rallied well around families before.  Let us do it again.

Let us make our vows to care for this child, and for all children, vows of actions as well as words.  Don’t allow there to be a Tamar in your midst without that Tamar knowing your would fiercely fight for her if she was abused.  Take action in your volunteering, in your giving, in your voting, in your advocacy, to take real steps to love and care for all of God’s children.

When we sin and fall short, our children see it.  But when we seek to strive in our faith, to live into God’s grace, children see that too.  The good news is that God will use those acts of goodness to break the cycle and show love to the thousandth generation.  But only, if we, God’s children, will listen.

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