Preaching this morning is Brian Crisp. A former chairman of Pullen’s Missions & Outreach Council, Brian has just completed the first year of his studies as a PhD candidate at Vanderbilt University.
Text: 2 Samuel 11:1-15
It is not uncommon for me to ask my colleagues walking the hallowed halls of that august divinity school rather poignant questions such as, “Really, in the cinematic adaptations, who do you think played the better David?” Most of the time such interrogations are met with bewilderment and silence. Yet, those of you in this congregation know that, although embracing the full frivolity of the moment, these questions are posited with purpose. Most of the time.
Hollywood has constantly turned to the Hebrew scriptures for inspiration, and in doing such, has never fallen short of celluloid reproductions of the ancient monarch. The King of Israel has been fleshed out in mediums from animation to lavish melodramas. The Italians, although going for a rather unknown actor to play David, did convince Orson Welles to roam the Israeli countryside portraying an avant-garde Saul in the stark David e Golia. Glossing over any relationship with Jonathan, The Story of David features Jeff Chandler in a pioneer-inspired portrayal that mirrored Chandler’s more famous role as Cochise in the 1950 western, Broken Arrow. Atticus Fitch, I mean Gregory Peck, kept his resolve but lost the legal jargon to dramatize the monarch in the blockbuster love story, David and Bathsheba. The 1980’s, adhering to its nature, produced an over-the-top indulgent epic King David that featured a young Richard Gere scantily clad in an ahistorical ephod dancing for over five minutes before the Ark of the Covenant. Because I am amused so much with this scene, I often open the YouTube clip, mute the volume, and play other music from my library as the soundtrack. This works rather well with “I’ve Got the Horse Right Here” from Guys and Dolls, a musical selection that emphasizes the ancient Israelite’s proclivity for raising amazing horses. Particularly, I love it with “Dancing Machine” by the Jacksons or Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” Although Gere’s gyrations could not save the film from box office disaster, they can provide moments of levity, and the movie’s trailer continues to catch my attention. Over muted trumpeters and roaring chariots, a narrator firmly proclaims the rightful status of Israel’s ancient ruler: “David, a name for a hero. The lover of Bathsheba. The slayer of Goliath. The rebel. The fighter. The King.”
This is the David we like to remember: a hero, a rebel, a fighter, a king, a lover of Bathsheba. I would imagine that many of us have memories of hearing the story of David and Bathsheba in Sunday school as we sat around felt boards decorated with pristine characters overly clothed and white washed into a sanitized romantic relationship where hand holding seemed scandalous. Although Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward are a little less sanitized in their portrayals, Bathsheba is given a stunning necklace as David proclaims her virtuous, and in a great moment of melodrama, Bathsheba praises her king’s nobility. And scene. Fade to black.
The more fortunate amongst us, if lucky, have heard the word “adultery” associated with this story. Perusing the multiple educational resources for this passage, one of the major denominational publishing houses in a lesson provided for elementary-age children titled, “Even David Sinned,” suggested the children dramatize the story of David and Bathsheba. Upon reading that recommendation, I texted Nancy Petty and asked “Really? Really?”