What a strange combination of biblical stories we have this morning. If ever there was a
case to be made that the lectionary does not choose stories that go together or on a
theme – this might be it.
I have this rule that I made for myself a long time ago, that I will preach on the reading
that I find most difficult. My reasoning is, that if I am really struggling with one of the
readings, then maybe someone else it too.
And for me, this morning I am talking about the reading that we heard first from 2
Samuel. I just kept wondering why we would tell this story at all? And why, when the powers that
be, chose what would go in and what would not – did they choose to leave this one in?
I want to do two things with this reading, first I want to address the reading itself and
then I want to talk about why I think it has some relevance for us today.
This is not a great story for David – and it’s probably a difficult one for many to read or
In the past, I think for almost all of my growing up, I have heard this story of David and
Bathsheba told with a particular view of David or maybe of men and women and their
particular roles and responsibilities. I heard this story unpacked in a way that held David
as some poor guy who could not be in control, because Bathsheba was so pretty. It was
told in a way that tried to lead toward a very dangerous understanding that Bathsheba,
somehow had power and David had none.
It tried to lay blame on Bathsheba based solely on the description of her as being very
beautiful. This is a particular understanding that still plagues women today and can serve to
undermine their/our agency and power and can seek to control the clothes that we wear
or how we wear our hair, and the list goes on. And it’s a narrative that some Christians
still hold as true – though I do not.
To be clear, it is David in this story who has all of the control and all of the power. All of
it. David is a king. He is in fact the most powerful person in this story. He, David, has
control over all of the people in this story, there is no one who is able to say no to his
To tell this story any other way is to mis-tell it and mis-understand the power that is at
play here and the way that it is mis-used.
Ok, so that was what I have to say specifically about the reading, but here is why I think
it might be helpful for us.
This story about David, Bathsheba and Uriah, has me thinking about how we tell our
stories. What perspectives we choose when we tell them, who we tell them to and why.
Who has the power in the stories that we tell? Who are the important characters?
There is no way to tell the story of David as King without telling the difficult parts too.
These hard and uncomfortable parts of the story are important. If we follow David’s
story all the way through, we learn that he is punished for his behaviour and that in the
end, Bathsheba and David will conceive Solomon who will succeed his father as King.
Bathsheba will become the first Queen Mother in the Judean culture which will continue
through to its end. (1)
And none of that excuses David’s behaviour or his misuse or abuse of power or what
happened to Bathsheba or her husband Uriah. But you can’t get to the ending of the
story without telling the first part.
In the same way, we the church and I’m using ‘church’ pretty broadly here, have to tell
our whole story when we tell it. We are moving slowly, towards actions of reconciliation because of what we are
learning and re-learning about our story and ‘our’ actions in connection with residential
schools. I am intentionally using ‘we’ and ‘our’ because we are a part of this institution
and many of us are people who have benefitted from policies and culture that were a
part of creating those schools.
We ordain women and put women in positions power and authority in the church. But
we didn’t always, we still don’t always. We include the LGBTQ2S+ community in our church and even have Queer leaders, but we didn’t always and in some places, we are still fighting that battle.
My point is this, we have to tell our whole story – not just the parts that are nice and
easy, not just the parts that we like best. Brene Brown writes the following about telling our stories:
When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.
I know this is true. I may have learned it as a researcher but I live this truth as a
daughter, a partner, a leader, a sister, a mother, and a friend. When we push down hurt
or pretend that struggle doesn’t exist, the hurt and struggle own us.
I’ve learned that writing a brave new ending in our personal lives means:
1. We can’t smooth over hurt feelings in our families. It’s too easy for stockpiled
hurt to turn into rage, resentment, and isolation. We must talk about it. Even
when we don’t want to. Even when we’re tired.
2. We can’t pretend our family histories of addiction and mental health issues don’t
exist if our hope is to write a new story and pass that legacy of emotional honesty
and health down to our children.
3. We must own our failures and mistakes so that we can learn and grow. It’s hard
but I’ve seen how it becomes part of a family and organizational cultures and
unleashes innovation and creativity. It doesn’t feel comfortable, but courage
Owning our stories is standing in our truth. It’s transformative in our personal and
professional lives AND it’s also critical in our community lives. But we don’t think
about history as our collective story (2)
These things are true for us as individuals and for our families and it is true for the
church as well. History is our collective story. We have to own our stories, our history,
so that we can move towards who we want to be, and we don’t get there without being
honest about who we have been and how we have been.
I think this is one of the things that the story of David and Bathsheba can teach us. That
we must tell our whole story as a church and as people – look it in the face and then
choose where we want to go next.
You are about to head into a new search process for a Vicar. Listening sessions have
been scheduled for the next few weeks by the wardens and by Chris, so that they can
hear from you what is important to you about that position and the person who next fills
it. This Cathedral is an amazing place, with incredible people and a long history – a lot of it
beautiful, some of it is hard and it’s connected to the wider story of the Diocese and the
Anglican Church… and it goes on.
As you look at the story of this place and you think about what we have learned and
what we are learning, you have an opportunity to think about who you want to be and
where you want to go. What is important to you? Who is important to you?
Knowing that the Vicar is the person primarily responsible for pastoral care in this place,
what do you hope for in connection to that?
What have Helen and Ellen taught you about this role and how it can be lived? Both of
those women are strong, feminists who not only connected pastorally but sought to
bring in diverse voices of other women and particularly women of colour to this
Cathedral community in their preaching and in their teaching.
They taught us about language and lens.
Their story is connected to our own. The last time I preached here, I talked about grief and its very real place within our story right now. And I know that then you received the news that I am also leaving – and that was hard
for some of you. Maybe some of you felt betrayed by that or the way that it was announced. And if that is the case, I am sorry. And I hope that you will reach out to me to talk about it and to hear why it was important to me and to St. Brigid’s for it to be announced that way.
Maybe your story is connected to the Cathedral’s important place in holding up the ministry and voice of women.
Maybe it’s connected to incredible music ministry here, to the choir, to Rupert’s leadership.
Maybe it’s connected to the Cathedrals’ advocacy for the LGBTQ2S+ community and to
marriage equality. Maybe it’s not connected to any of those things but something else entirely.
I want to invite you, this morning to think about your story and where and how it intersects with the Cathedral’s story. What brought you here, why you stay, what you hope for in the future here. I want to invite you not to gloss over the hard parts, if there are any. Notice what’s important to you about it and why.
We tell our stories because they are important and we learn to own our stories so that
we can choose how we want to go forward.
1 Wilda Gafney, Womanist Midrash: a reintroduction to the women of the Torah and the throne. 2017 Westminster,
John Knox Press. Louisville, Kentucky. (p.221)