more about this sight

"you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen"...'Walk On' by U2

WATERSHED: A voice in the wilderness. DARYL UNDERWOOD.

 

The concept of Centerpoint Christianity briefly stated is:

Christianity from the centerpoint outward.

Christianity from the climax forward.

This blog constitutes concepts for a new view of Christianity that begins with what is foundational and moves forward from that point. It is based on the assumption that we are being pulled towards something unseen and pushed from a place that once was.

What Centerpoint Christianity attempts to do is bypass some of the constraints imposed by metanarratives by using the life of Christ and particularly the climactic actions of Christ as beginning points.

It supports the conviction that God is essentially timeless. From this beginning point we endeavor to move outward from the definitive moment of the parousia (visitation) of Christ and forward to the future which functions as a type of magnet to "what can be--and is coming".

When we begin at the life of Christ and move outward as from the centerpoint of a web, rather than in a linear timeline of history, another wide picture emerges.


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Thursday
Mar132008

My Three Sons


"Fatherhood as a metaphor extends God's language about himself and enables him to escape from the dilemma in which his covenant with Israel has placed him. He cannot do otherwise than inflict the punishments he has sworn to inflict. But then what? Fatherhood is the beginning of an answer to that question”. –Jack Miles in GOD: A biography

When Jesus came part of what He was "up to was revealing, without shadow, the heart of the Father towards his people. He speaks of the relationship frequently. Although the concept of God as father was not employed often in the Old Testament, it did occur. As Jesus usage may have been employed frequented it wasn’t first time God, as the father figure, appears.

In order to understand the heart of the God as father we will look at the heart of David, a man described as after the very heart of God. That phrase, so common in its description, of David, really means that David and God had an inner connectedness that was uncommon. What I believe is this: The heart of God lay in the chest of David. It came out in many ways and on various occasions, but none so tender and powerful than in the stories where the heart is expressed in fatherhood.

David had many sons and daughters, but three stand out, actually stand apart from the others. Amnon, Absalom, and Solomon. They each have a story to tell. We will listen and learn, look and see, consider and construct. God will be revealed to us in their perspectives. From this juncture on we will use the term “father” with the understanding that the term can be understood as from either the perspective of God or David.

First Son
In scene one Amnon shows the father’s tolerance, predicament, and longsuffering. In this relationship we can understand God’s dilemma as a father to Israel. We can experience the low boil that simmers beneath the skin of God. This son's sin puts God in a bind. He is the child that complicates God's life (using David and God interchangeably as father) by his sin. He provokes the crisis in the house of David.

Amnon and Tamar
2 Samuel 13:1

Now Absalom, David's son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David's son, loved her. 2 And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. 3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David's brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. 4 And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister.” 5 Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” 6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. And when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight that I may eat from her hand.”

7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon's house and prepare food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house, where he was lying down. And she took dough and kneaded it and made cakes in his sight and baked the cakes. 9 And she took the pan and emptied it out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. 11 But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” 12 She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate [1] me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. 13 As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” 14 But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.

15 Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!”

Our offspring have a way of putting us in difficult straits. Serious straits. Children have the unique ability to do that. In this story Amnon rapes Tamar, his half sister, and we watch close to see what the father will do. Will God kill his own son for transgression? Will He banish Amnon as He did Adam and Cain following?

Or not.

And if not, why not? Hooks, they make things complex. Love is a thorn. Fatherhood pricks the finger of God and he bleeds, just like us. And God is transitioning before our eyes in the narrative story--from Creator to Deliverer to Arbiter to Father. Each role draws him into the web of relationship further and further. A Creator can enjoy his creation from afar, a Deliverer warrior can boast of His power from above, an Arbiter can make an agreement at the table that must stick, but a Father is never less than a father and is always involved, if he is good. You cannot change being father.

“Fatherhood is an absolute, not a conditional state. The father of a son cannot, in the nature of things cease to be such. If the father disinherits the son, he is the father of a disinherited son. If he slays him, he is the father of a slain son. If he denies him, he is the father of a denied son. Even if he aborts him, he is the father of an aborted son. Functionally, it is this about fatherhood that commands the image to the Lord and to the Biblical writer. But once in the Lord’s mouth, once on the page, fatherhood, one of the richest natural symbols in human experience, inevitably begins to take on a life of its own. Unconditionality is just one among its innumerable possibilities.”--Miles, et all.

This is now an irrevocable, troublesome, complicated relationship. And it is so very thorny. When David hesitates about “what to do” with Amnon we can feel “the why” of his hesitation. No father can unlove his son, no father banishes his son easily, and no father kills without flinching, his own flesh and blood. Fatherhood evokes a very intense image.

We, as we read the story, are not the only eyes upon the father (King/king). Another son is watching. And this isn't the first time his eyes have been opened and his heart has been wounded. The rebellion of Absalom was seeded long before Amnon's sin.

Second Son
A second son is around the corner. He is looking intently, observing it all. Absalom is the second son. The son who observes, learns, perceives, judges and eventually explodes in “righteous indignation”, a rage that borders on the edge of disgust. It takes on the face of justice. “If my father will not be just...I will be. I have purity, integrity, and a confidence that is clouded in my dad”. As the interrogator, young, brash, and confident, he takes the father to court. He is a jealous Job, Caiphus at night. This is a public scandal. Acquittal will not be the verdict, when he plays accuser, judge and jury. He takes matters into his own hands---he kills Amnon--and he is intent on doing the same with David, who bruised his heart in secret shame with Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, and Nathan the prophet. Absalom is the spirit of the Pharisees at Passover. They are just doing what is right and best for Israel.

Now, as a true threat to the King and the Kingdom, he must be dealt with he must be killed...or he will kill “the father”. A good friend, one like Joab, who really has something to lose if Absalom succeeds in his sedition, knows this and does not hesitate in the task. Absalom, dangles from a tree, made of wood. Joab kills him there. For Israel to live this beloved son of Israel, the one who observed the law voraciously, even as he twisted it to suit himself, must die. There in the tree he dies…Israel will die there, too.

A second story, one filled with treachery, greed, abuse of power, adultery, and murder will give us a clue as to what happened to cause this tragic tumbling of dominoes and lives. It is also, ironically, a catalyst to the birth of the union which will bring forth the hope of Israel...Solomon...and in the end, when we follow the many genealogies, Jesus.

David and Bathsheba

11:1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king's house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 16 And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died. 18 Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting. 19 And he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king, 20 then, if the king's anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21 Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also."

There is at this junction "blood on the scarecrow"...and David is the culprit. He has abused his power to the nth degree. This blood will haunt him for the rest of his life and be the reason for two of his greatest disappointments..."Absalom, Oh, Absalom, my son, my son, my son" is the first and the temple construction contract will be given to another, cleaner vessel is the second.

22 So the messenger went and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us and came out against us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. 24 Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king's servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” 25 David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”

26 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. 27 And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

It is safe to say that the LORD wasn't the only one displeased. Absalom is watching at the door. Eyes cast down. His hero is fallen. His father has power but has used it to devour his own subjects. He is a bad man to a little boy.

Nathan Rebukes David

12:1 And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, [1] and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord , the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house..."

You never forget it when you hear such things. "Evil against you out of your own house..." is unforgettable. It is safe to say that the evil was named Absalom. But he was not without an accomplice. David is the accomplice, who has helped give birth to the rebellion in his own house. He is guilty. He is undone. Blood on the scarecrow and on the hands of the father. It haunts him, Amnon, Absalom and the unnamed baby. It follows him night and day, until another child is born to him and Bathsheba. His name is Solomon and he is the rainbow after the storm. The redemption needed in the worst way. A pause before we go...

Pierce Pettis is an amazing lyricist/musician, perceptively combines the grieving heart of David, expressed in Psalm 51, into this touching song entitled, "Absalom, Absalom."

Come and smear me with the branches
Of that tree
Hyssop dipped in innocent blood
To make me clean
And let an old man's broken bones
Once more rejoice
Absalom
You were, my little boy

Absalom. Absalom
My son, my son, my son
Caught in the tangles of deceit
Hanging lifeless from that tree
Absalom, Absalom
My son. my son, my son
Caught by the tangles of your hair
The fruit of my own sins to bear Oh, Absalom

You were the laughing boy who bounced
Upon my knee
You learned to play the harp
And use the shepherd's sling
Always watching me
My impressionable son
Oh Absalom, what have I done

You were watching when I took A good man's wife
And gave the orders for his murder
Just to cover up the crime
All the vanity, cruel arrogance, and greed
Absalom
You learned it all from me

All the vanity, cruel arrogance and greed...you learned them all from me. Unforgettable. Caught by the tangles of your hair; the fruit of my own sins to bear Oh, Absalom. What a tragic scene here, hanging from the tree, Strange Fruit. Narcissus at the reflective pond-- cannot bear the reflection, the image, without weeping. There hangs the son.

These stories tell the tales we can hear and learn from. Absalom represents the son who watches how God reacts to the bind of love, boxed-in-ness, of sin at home, in the house, the House of God. He is the son of immense regret in the heart of David, and ostentatiously, in the heart of God. Why does Absalom despise David in his heart? What did David/God do? How did he perceive God? Why does Israel despise God in their heart? It is a question that lingers over the over-arching story. In David's relationships with his sons we are given a peek into the complexities of this relationship between God and Israel, God and Jesus, God and us. Now we know. Or can begin to surmise. Disappointment gives birth to rebellion. Rebellion is an outcome of disappointment and is a sin that has an accomplice. The accomplice is father.

Absalom represents Israel, banished, slain, hanging from a tree. And the father cries, would that I could take your place ...and He means it. What father doesn't weep for his son? What father banishes his son outside the city gates forsakes him, looks at him and turns away, let him die? Perhaps a king, who must, for the sake of righteousness turns His head, perhaps...no, in secret He cries, too. Weeps in fact.

The question that haunts David is: Was He responsible for this outcome? Was Absalom, and Amnon, a result of David's life? So with David, so with God, and we get a better view of another face of God in the portrait of father and sons. Was Israel and Judah, the sons of God, divided against one another, in the end exiled and put under other nations authority and rule, rebellious, because God was who He was?

When David is undone by his sin, a comfort comes...in the form of a baby.

Third son
The Third son is a Second Son to David and Bathsheba and …a second shot, a do-over. A foul on the three pointer with no time on the clock. This time the free throws will be made and the dream goes on to its climax.

Haunted and broken by the death of Absalom, David is given a surprising reprieve. Another child is born to him and Bathsheba. The first child died because of sin, the second child, is a child of grace. This son is like the second chance that has become the refrain of scripture and the swan song of mankind. It becomes our song. The "redo”, the mulligan, the Hope of Israel and as we shall soon see--the Hope of the nations as well. He will be king. His name is Solomon and he is the rainbow after the storm.

He is a son--likened unto the Son.

The third and final son is Solomon. He is the son who was given the privilege of building the temple, the house for God. He is a relief for God. The "at last" son who will console the father's weary mind and troubled heart. God declares that He will be his father and we must see this, at the least as a messianic, Son sighting. He has one son, the Son, Jesus, but Solomon's relationship with David's' images Jesus' relationship with God the Father and so Solomon is, also, God's son as well.

"I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you,22 and I will establish his kingdom. 7:13 He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent.23 7:14 I will become his father and he will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings. 7:15 But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 7:16 Your house and your kingdom will stand before me24 permanently; your dynasty25 will be permanent.’” 2 Samuel 7

God even declares that "One will come from you, David" ...to David. Solomon, son of David, will build the temple of God. It's true. And he does. But it will not stand the brunt of the worlds attack. But Jesus, the One and only Son, really at last, the "Son of David have mercy on me" son, builds the temple of God. He is the cornerstone, we are the stones. It is a temple not made with human hands. It will not be destroyed. This Temple has overcome the world.

One more thing before we move on: Why doesn't David build this house when He desires to so much? The answer is alarming, he, the father, is a man of blood. Bloody hands that can't be rinsed away. Canaan's blood, Amnon's blood, buckets of blood, everywhere. Spilled. Pontius Pilate can wash and wash and wash but the blood still cries out. The most touching scene in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has to be at the end of the brutal flogging of Jesus. Mary bends down and ties to recover, scoop up, save, the blood that is spilled "all over". It can't be done. She is in shock. Blood is everywhere like a bad dream. You can hear it shout from the earth, from the stones in Jerusalem. It is the blood of Abel, Amnon, and Absalom. And Jesus. The bloody father cannot build this temple.

But a clean vessel can. One that has been baptized, in a baptism of repentance, can. The repentant God, remade God, in the form of Jesus, is the only candidate. The Only One that can do this. This is why He is the climax, He is the center point. He submits himself to the baptism of John, which is "the baptism of repentance" (Luke 3: 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.) and emerges clean. Jesus the Son can and does build the Temple. The Son does what the Father could not do. Still under construction but the cornerstone is laid. And it will be finished on that Day.

Solomon can build the pseudo house, but Jesus, the true Son of God, anticipated Son of David, is builder of the "bayet- El". ..Temple, house of God.

Three stories in narrative, multiple lessons we can learn in no other way. Narrative theology shines right here, right now, in a way no other theology can touch. These stories can haunt us sometimes, inspire us others, but they always teach us. Every time.

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