Over a week ago, NBA basketball star LeBron “King” James found himself in hot water after breaking a rule. While hanging out with Prince William and Duchess Kate, LeBron violated British royal protocol by wrapping his arm around Kate’s back. The bodies of the members of the British Royal family are national treasures, and palace officials work to make sure that particular customs are adhered to.
Today I would like to reflect on the Advent Lectionary selection, 2nd Samuel 7:1-11, 16 (NRSV). Because the personal is political, and vice versa, I purposefully chose what I believed to be the most difficult text to deal with during this season of repentance. The chapter itself brings a lot of baggage, and so if you do not understand the context (historical & theological), it becomes more about King David and his reign rather than the actual kin(g)dom of God. The prophet Nathan is approached by David and is asked whether or not David is the one to build YHWH’s temple. Nathan at first approves of the project, but then that night, God speaks to Nathan, and tells him, hold up homey, I have other plans. Verse 6 says, “I [YHWH] have not lived in a house since the day I brought the people of Israel from, Egypt, to this day but I have been moving in a tent and a tabernacle.”
Right away, YHWH is reminding Nathan the prophet and King David that the central story for Israel is THE Exodus. The story of God liberating the Hebrew people from the wrath of Pharaoh is the foundational narrative by which we understand God’s sovereignty. God’s freedom is a freedom for others, a releasing of the captives whose bodies are suffering affliction. The human body is of utmost importance to YHWH because in it is located the imago Dei, as well as the primary means by which God receives worship (READ: LOVE). Therefore, White Supremacist systems that value the value of one group of people over People of Color, especially Black men, are in direct opposition to the Kin(g)dom of God.
Because God has blessed humanity with embodied spiritual existence, ALL of our actions do matter. The books of 1st and 2nd Samuel are good reminders. When the Israelites reject the prophet Samuel as kyriarch Samuel first reminds them that YHWH was the divinity who reigned over them since delivering their ancestors from Egyptian oppression (1st Samuel 8:), and that with this new political structure Israel desired, there would be consequences: “He will take your male and female slaves” “He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers” “he will take your sons to be his horsemen” (1st Samuel 8:10-18). In each example that the prophet Samuel gives, he refers to the future king’s lordship over Israel’s children’s bodies. Israel’s monarch will become Pharaoh: “And in that day, you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
David is not allowed to build YHWH’s temple because he had too much bloodshed on his hands (1st Kings 8). What God does promise him however is that God “will raise up your offspring after [David], who shall come from [David’s] body” and YHWH then promises to establish that progeny’s kingdom. David’s throne will be made to rule forever (2nd Samuel 7:16). Now, it would be quite easy to spiritualize this promise, but we must not ignore the theological significance of the human body here. God’s shares God’s divine power with us human beings so that we may reign with God. The kin(g)dom of God is not some otherworldly reality in the great by and by; the kingdom of God takes place whenever the Holy Spirit is active and working within and between human bodies. The question is, what does the kin(g)dom of God look like in the here and now?
The Israelites failed to believe the words of the judge/prophet Samuel, and by the time King David rose to power in Hebron, it was too late. King David’s sexual assault set in motion events where the reign of God became absent. The murder of Uriah, the death of Bathsheba’s newborn child, and number of political conspiracies and military battles that were waged against David’s household. One must ask herself, “Where exactly is God’s kin-dom found during the days of King David?” Okay, really where was God’s reign found during Israel’s monarchies?
Might I suggest that God reigns and continues to rule through the prophets? Nathan, Samuel, Huldah, and Deborah and a number of YHWH’s prophets stood as God’s voice, re-telling the Exodus story and God’s liberating activity when it comes to human affairs. Israel could exist with a king. Israel could be perfectly fine without the military dictators in some instances that we read about in Judges. Israel could be Israel even while in exile. Why? Because God chose to execute God’s rule through the prophets.
Notice what Nathan says about YHWH, that Ya has been moving through tent and tabernacle. God prefers to be on the move, marching with suffering humanity in their struggles for justice. In the Gospel of John, chapter 1:14, the original greek means that YHWH set up God’s tabernacle in Jesus’ royal flesh. And where did the Logos take up residence? Christ was not to be found among the powerful, but the outcast, the sick, and his fellow first century Judeans who were being colonized and terrorized by the Roman Empire. In the wake of the #Ferguson movement, where are the prophets? The kingmakers of the world (the racist media) are vying to make Al Sharpton king once more so that they can control the narrative. Yet it is clear that there is no need for an earthly ruler when all of humanity has the potential to have the reign of God in their hearts. The Spirit of Jesus is working in the midst the women and men organizing and updating their fellow human beings on Twitter, marching the streets to #ShutItDown, to end the current anti-Christ system of police brutality and mass incarceration.
There is no need to look for messiahs to save the poor. Human beings can and must do it themselves.”- James Cone, Malcolm & Martin & America: A Dream or a Nightmare?, page 315
This has been my contribution to the Theology of Ferguson #StayWokeAdvent lectionary reflections.