Summary: Dated 1988. Part dialogue, part conversation, between the preacher and his wife. Pain is caused by absenting ourselves from those against whom we have a grievance. Mothers understand compassion and challenge the rest of us to reconcile.
It is very appropriate that Margaret join me in bringing the message today… appropriate not only because she is a mother, but also because today’s message was inspired by both of our mothers … both hers and mine.
Several years ago my mother was sitting in her living room reading the newspaper with its usual dreary display of wars and rumors of war, with page after page of deceit, theft, muggings, and all the rest. She threw the paper down in disgust and snapped with an irritated air, "Why can’t we all just learn to love each other?" "Why can’t we all just learn to love each other?” And I, theologian that I am supposed to be, made some learned reply about the pervasiveness of human sin, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and all that … but she just shook her head and said, "Well, I don’t see why we have to have all this fighting."
Then, more recently, when I was in Louisville just a few weeks ago, I spent one evening with Margaret’s parents. We watched the national news, which treated us to accounts of fighting in Israel, bombings in Ireland, and the beginning of a revolt in Poland. And immediately after that we subjected ourselves to a real blockbuster entertainment show... a documentary about Rommel’s Africa campaign during the Second World War. Real fun evening! But not without reward … for three or four times, every time we saw a battle scene, my mother-in-law pronounced "You men are all so silly ... fighting and killing. You don’t see women doing that."
Never mind that most nations do not draft women into combat roles. And never mind that the Israeli troops do include women. Again she pronounced the verdict, and it fell on my head and on my father-in-law like the last judgment had come; "You men are all so silly."
And so on this mother’s day, Margaret and I pay tribute to our mothers and their sage advice, couched in language that every political scientist in the world would call naïve: mothers who seem to have an answer that the rest of the world cannot buy; mothers who cut through all the rhetoric and call for peace and justice and reconciliation and love. "Why can’t we all just learn to love each other?" "You men are all so silly"
The truth is, I suppose, that those who labor to give life hold it too dearly to let it go. Those who have borne life at no little cost to themselves know what its value is. Those who have spent many years nurturing and caring and bringing us along want to preserve us and to preserve our lives and our meaning. Maybe we should hear from them. Maybe we should not dismiss what mothers feel about the way the world carries on its business ... for they have earned the right to be heard. They have to be heard, for, you see, those who bring life into the world in pain care deeply about its value and want to bring peace and love.
David had been king for some years, and he was growing old. After the terrible business with Bathsheba, repentant though he had been, it seemed he had learned very little. His kingdom was not in good shape, and his household was a real shambles. Too many wives competing for his attention, and, worst of all, too many children struggling for power. Too much intrigue in the palace and too much faction-building around the country.
David’s family suffered one crisis after another, brought on through his children, but sharpened and worsened by the old man. The most distasteful episode was the rape of one of David’s daughters, Tamar, by her own half-brother, Amnon. Imagine, in the royal palace a princess violated by a prince ... and what does the king do? How does David respond? With two years of silence, two years of brooding and hoping it will all go away.
But it will not go away. There is another player on the stage. Absalom .. Absalom, the brother of Tamar; Absalom, David’s son, headstrong, impatient, arrogant, handsome, ambitious. Absalom nurses a hatred and a grudge for what has happened to Tamar, and he takes it into his own hands to punish Amnon. In a terrible moment of deceit and trickery, but one which his father David had pioneered years before, Absalom arranges for Amnon his half-brother to be killed. And word comes to King David of the death of his son. His grief is terrible, and is made even worse by the fact that he keeps it inside ... he will not give expression to his grief. In silence he stews about what to with his wayward son. For three years Absalom stays away from Jerusalem, not knowing how his father will receive him, not sure what the penalty will be. Silence, standing off.