I’ve Got Good News and Bad News

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 — Week of Proper 15, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 980)

Psalms 119:145-176 (morning) // 128, 129, 130 (evening)

2 Samuel 18:19-33

Acts 23:23-35

Mark 12:13-27

Our first reading today starts off with a race between good news and bad news. The good news is that King David has defeated the enemies who were threatening his power. The bad news is that one of his “enemies” was his own son, Absalom, and David’s military commander Joab has killed Absalom by thrusting three spears through his heart. Two men race to deliver tidings of the military victory to David, but the devastating news of Absalom’s death is hot on their heels.

They discover that in war, there is no good news. Ahimaaz thinks he has some, and so does the Cushite: “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” But David only has ears for one piece of information: “Is it well with the young man Absalom?”

The Cushite tries to deliver the news about Absalom in a way that reminds David of his triumphant victory. He expresses the hope that all of David’s enemies, “all who rise up to do you harm,” will end up like Absalom. David, however, can only weep and wish that he himself had died in his son’s place.

How do we receive news about the various wars that our world is waging? Reports from the War on Terror or the War on Drugs are a lot like the tidings born by Ahimaaz and the Cushite: The bad news eclipses the good. We hear about a superior show of arms here and there, but for every “victory,” someone, like David, has lost their child.

Christians have disagreed for many centuries over how to define “just” wars, and whether we should participate in military battles at all. Perhaps today’s Scripture can lead us toward consensus on at least one aspect of this issue: how we should respond to news from the world’s battlefields. Like David, our capacity to celebrate a “win” should be overwhelmed by the reality of our losses in the human family.

Good tidings? But someone, somewhere, has lost their daughter or son. This is the news that should pierce us to the heart.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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