Fright Nights ~ Tamar

Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Samuel 13:9-19

I attended an anti-bullying seminar while in high school.  The t-shirts for the event were black with a very crude (what we now call) emoticon on the front.  What was intended to be a smiley face was a pain-stricken yellow circle with weary eyes and a zipper for a mouth.  The zipper was closed but the face looked anxious to speak.  The caption for the shirt read, “Silence isn’t golden.”

How true that is.

Unfortunate events occur all around us and when they do we greet a pivotal point: address it or ignore it.  Give it voice or by our apathy essentially affirm or promote the continuance of the event.

Which would you choose instinctively?  Which would you choose after reflection?  How can we transform the “after reflection” choice into the “instinctive” choice?

(Can you guess which one I think should be our response?)

I live in the hope that one day our instinctive choice will be the gospel choice, which is to give voice, bear witness, raise awareness, and heal.  God in Christ Jesus calls us to be the change!

I will admit it is quite a challenge at times to give voice, bear witness, raise awareness, heal, and be the change in day-to-day circumstances.  Perhaps it is even more difficult when we are confronted with an unfortunate circumstance in Scripture.

– segue to this week’s passage –

When we encounter difficult Scripture passages we meet the same pivotal point: address it or ignore it.  And as it was with my anti-bullying seminar, silence isn’t golden.

– I promise…we’re almost to this week’s text –

Difficult Scripture passages make us uncomfortable, rub us the wrong way, and may lead us to only read the Scripture passages that make us feel happy, hopeful, comfortable, and secure.  Leader Keck et al., The New Interpreter Bible Commentary editors, lift up the royal rape of Tamar as a text that is shied away from because of its horrific nature.  While identifying our hesitancy towards this text Keck et al. simultaneously identify that this hesitancy does a disservice to the text.  Shying away from this text limits – or even denies – how God’s Spirit can speak to us through this text.  Shying away from this text also does a disservice to the communities of faith of which we are a part because this behavior can distance us – our empathy and our relationships – from our community members that identify with or share a tragic kinship with this story and others like it.

Keck et al. write, “In reading this story, we are forced to recognize our own experience in this ancient tale.  There is an empowerment that comes from recognizing that this story names present realities as well as those long past.  If such stories are read as part of our biblical tradition, similar stories can be faced in our own lives, in the lives of our family and friends, and in the life of our communities” (The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary: II Samuel 1306).

In other words, when we don’t preach, read, or study texts like the royal rape of Tamar we perpetuate the violence of the text through our silence.  But, writes Keck et al., “if the church can be the place of such reading and such voicing, then there is hope that the church might provide a community prepared to take action against continued patterns of violence against women (and I believe other groups that have been victimized) in our culture and to stand in caring support of those who have already been victimized” (The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary: II Samuel 1306).

(deep breathe to let things marinate)

Silence isn’t golden.  So let’s end our hesitancy.  Let’s get uncomfortable with Scriptures.  Let’s be unsettled, be attentive to how we feel, and respond!  Let’s get in touch with our empathy, seek out relationships, and build community.

Prayer: O God, sow within me your seed of constant vigilance to study what you would have me study, read what you would have me read, and speak as you would have me speak.  Lead me to the uncomfortable places and be my companion.  Open wide my ears, eyes, and heart.  Amen.

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