The lectionary reading appointed in the Revised Common Lectionary for the first lesson this morning includes an editorial hatchet job.

Whenever three verses are omitted from a Scripture designated for reading in public worship, my curiosity is immediately piked and I feel compelled to check it out.

Our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures this morning comes from 2 Samuel 5. As appointed in the Revised Common Lectionary, we are instructed to begin with the first five verses, then skip verses 6, 7 and 8, and conclude with verses 9 and 10.

2 Samuel 5 recounts the story of David finally stepping fully into the position of king of Israel for which he was anointed all the way back in I Samuel 16. It also records the geographical shift of power from Shiloh to Jerusalem that took place under David’s reign.

This is the beginning of a glorious forty-year reign for David. If you skip verses 6-8, as instructed in the lectionary, you may come away with the impression that the transition of power was a cake-walk.

A different impression emerges from the omitted verses in which the writer of 2 Samuel describes how Jerusalem became the geographical centre of David’s reign and his Holy City.

6The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, ‘You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back’—thinking, ‘David cannot come in here.’7Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of David.8David had said on that day, ‘Whoever wishes to strike down the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those whom David hates.’ Therefore it is said, ‘The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.’ (2 Samuel 5:6-8)

It is not hard to understand why the authors of the Revised Common Lectionary might have wanted to edit out these verses. But the author included them, and so should contemporary readers. They serve as a sobering reminder that a Holy City based in the geography of land is usually born in bloodshed and ethnic-cleansing.

The truth is that David’s rise to power was not pretty; it was not tidy; it was not without violence and tragedy for the people he displaced.The Jebusites were “the inhabitants of the land.” In order for David to establish Jerusalem as his capital, he believed the Jebusites must be displaced. Even “the lame and the blind, those whom David hates,” apparently were perceived as a threat.

This is part of the history. It is part of David’s story. When we cover up the violence of our past and pretend it was prettier than in fact it was, we do a disservice to our history and risk repeating patterns from the past that lead to pain and destruction in the future.

It is not immediately obvious what is intended by these verses. At the very least, they seem to suggest that David was seeking to establish a purified city to the glory of God, a “Holy” City, a city set apart, a city without blemish. David would have been aware of the instruction God gave to Aaron through Moses saying,

17Speak to Aaron and say: No one of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the food of his God. 18For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, 20or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.(Leviticus 21:17-20)

We need to read all of 2 Samuel 5 because it portrays a Holy City that is not the community Jesus came to establish. Jesus’ community is characterized by the presence of those vary people David seems to have sought to exclude from his city:

The blind and the lame came to Jesus in the temple, and he cured them. (Matthew 21:14)

The invitation to come to Jesus reaches out to all those who are suffering, broken and oppressed:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.(Matthew 11:28)

We do not have to wait until we are worthy. We do not have to be good enough, strong enough, smart enough or accomplished enough before there is room enough for us in the Jesus community. We need only to be humble enough and willing enough to trust in a love and a grace that reaches out to touch us right at our most broken places.

This community of the weary and the burdened of the blind and the lame is the only community that has any room for me. It is the only community that can truly claim to be built around the Jesus way of light and love.

A Holy City based in the geography of the heart will be born in love and sustained by compassion and welcome.

 

 

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