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Nathan and Lord Leveson
Once upon a time there was a young man called James, anointed to be head of an empire by his father Rupert. Now this young man wanted something very badly and he devoted his time, his energy, his skills and his wiles to promoting this thing so that perhaps it should come to pass, for he hoped it would bring him power, success and untold national influence. But things went wrong in the empire and when the young man was invited to a party where he met the leaders of the day and it was thought and there was speculation that there was a chance for him to influence matters to his advantage.
Now last week Barbara read us the story of David, an anointed King, who you remember from his rooftop saw Bathsheba bathing and was struck by her beauty. One thing, as it were, led to another. In this story too there was party; David made Uriah the Hittite drunk so that he should be merry enough to go home to sleep with his wife and so become a means of hiding David's sin. Bathsheba, you see, could then have claimed the baby as her husband’s but Uriah, for reasons of his own, did not go. This plan failing, David then arranged for Uriah to be placed in the thickest and most dangerous part of the battlefield so that he was killed.
But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David. Nathan understood that great care is needed when delivering reproofs to princes so he told a parable before identifying that he, David, was the subject of the story and the guilty party. Now I am sure that Lord Leveson is equally and amply prudent about delivering reproofs and we await them patiently.
What interests me though about the story of the two men and the two parties and the reason that I have put them together this morning is the different reactions of David and of James Murdoch to Nathan and Leveson respectively.
David says straightforwardly and clearly:
“I have sinned against the Lord”
James, when questioned about the party in particular and asked whether he had had a conversation with the Prime Minister, told us that “He couldn't remember.”
Now I struggle with that; even he, busy as he is, at as many parties as he goes to, even he you might think would know whether he mentioned the subject of the bid or not. Did David really try to get Uriah drunk so that he would go home and provide a cover for his adultery (remember David knew of the baby, because Bathsheba had told him). Well I don't know the answer and I don't say that James did or did not speak at the party and I don't think I mind either way but I do worry that he cannot remember.
We are all human, we make mistakes, as our confession tells us, we sin in thought word and deed, through negligence, through weakness and through our own deliberate fault but when David is confronted with this he admits it, he knows, as we all really know when we have done wrong, he knows that he has done wrong:
“I have sinned against the Lord” he says.
Somehow, in our society, there seems to be a canyon deep aversion to admitting when we are wrong, an aversion that in my view diminishes our public figures showing their weakness, not their strength. So often there are pages and sound bites of denials before a resignation or an admission and the exchanges in the House of Commons about the economy in particular have declined into questions of u- turns or not. But listen to what Nathan says once David comes clean as it were:
“The Lord has put away your sin”
Our God is a forgiving God, and he is an all seeing God, he knows us perfectly, he knows too that the hope of impunity is a great encouragement to iniquity.
It is well perhaps, to recall the phrasing of the warning, the preamble that we say to couples at the marriage service:
“The vows you are about to take are to be made in the presence of God, who is judge of all and knows all the secrets of our hearts.”
And both David and Nathan certainly knew that.