Jul 25, 2021
This is one of those euphemisms, those feel-good terms, that creates distance, and spins the meaning till there is nearly nothing left.
An acceptable loss in the business world is also called waste.
An acceptable loss in the military is also called acceptable casualties. BUT there is nothing casual about injury and death. If we were to besiege a city and send our warriors into the line of fire how many deaths would be an acceptable loss? For those of us more apt to justify some war I imagine that the reason, the meaning, behind such a campaign would make all the difference. For instance, my sibling lives in Guam and July 21st is the annual festival of Liberation Day when CHamoru people of Guam celebrate their liberation 77 years ago from atrocities under Axis occupation in WWII and they remember our 6,000 injured and 1,700 soldiers who died fighting.
Their names are written and known on a memorial. There is a compelling why behind those warriors death’s and injuries that for many offers meaning.
Now imagine with me a scenario that is — I hope— very different. The question before us is still: ‘If we were to besiege a city and send our warriors into the line of fire, how many deaths would be acceptable’? This time though the reason— the meaning— behind the campaign is different. This time our sibling lives in the glory days of ancient Israel (and Judah). This time our sibling and we are told all of Israel— except the ruler—are sent out back across the Jordan, far beyond the land even they understood to be theirs (all the way to Rabbah or modern day Amman, Jordan) to lay siege to a city they are not liberating but attempting to ravage. This is the story we heard read from 2 Samuel. And yes this time our sibling and others with him also die. Why?
Because of the king who did not deserve their pledge of allegiance. Because to the self-important one who ruled with power over to see and take to as he desires, their deaths served his own self-indulgent appetite. The privileged powerful of this world care more for their own comfort than our siblings lives. Uriah the Hittite and those who died by his side and by his sword were deemed by some an acceptable loss.
We read in 2 Samuel 11:27(b) that “the thing that [the ruler] had done displeased the Lord.” Displeased? Aw Hell no. That is euphemism designed to make us feel a bit better about the good ole golden boy, create some distance and spin the meaning. The word is raw-ah like the sound of the roaring lion sin that lurked at the door for Cain before he murdered his sibling Abel in Genesis. The thing— seeing and taking and raping Bathsheba who was married to Uriah, ordering Uriah eat, drink, and be merry w/his spouse in order to cover up that sin and when that did not work, sending Uriah with the message to be murdered by military proxy which is then covered up by a massacre— that thing is an attempt to break apart God’s creation and render it good for nothing. That’s evil.
While this story has its share of drama making its rounds in film and will make its round again in next week’s sermon. Stay tuned. And yet, the truth of this story often threads through our stories in a legion of sssubtler ways. The privileged powerful of this world often care more for their own comfort than our siblings lives. Than perhaps our lives.
What is then like to be Uriah the Hittite? To make our way as faithfully as we can with a home and a lovely spouse and a decent enough job within a relatively thriving nation. Sticking it to the man now and then, but to us it is all mostly status quo.”
And yet the status quo is not designed for a Hittite. In a manner of speaking, some of us will always be a Hittite — one who is not really included or celebrated— maybe it’s how we are abled, or the color of your skin, or the way we present ourselves with integrity, or something else that is a part of who we are that we cannot change and on our better days would not change. And ultimately the structure and systems of the status quo is not designed to be good for us. No, they are designed for the use and to the reliant to the abuse of those with more privilege and power. So we are cast out or aside. We are discarded as if we are waste. As if we have no value or worth. Or as if our death would free up resources for the rich and their whims. The powers and principalities of this present whiteness would have us believe that we are nothing of consequence — just an acceptable loss on a business ledger.
That too has a name: evil. My siblings : the sssbutle ssslithery sssomethings attempting to get us believe that we are nothing…those ssstormy ssstories ssspinning in the chaos attempting to break apart what has been called very good. That ain’t of God.
Be liberated from those lies. We matter. Our lives are precious.
For those of us who are Uriah the Hittite. Are we victims of evil? Absolutely. And victimhood is not our only identity. Be liberated from that lie too.
To deep dark formless void, speak a word. To the powers and principalities of this world, speak a word. To the lies slithering in our selves, speak a word. Say his name. Uriah. YH- riah. The meaning is YHWH is my flame/ God my light. And this too is who we are. With YHWH as our flame— no matter the hell— nothing can destroy our spark. Evil can destroy our body, our mind, and maybe even our spirit, but it cannot destroy who we are. In the end, the kind of ravaging power evil may have cannot prevail against liberating power of our crucified creator. The war is won with love and the captive victims are free. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, God is our light. Remember who we are Uriah, we are named “God is my light,” and from the very first day we are invited to participate in re-creation. We are co-creators. We need not conform to the structures and systems that privilege the powerful and their whims. The reign of God coming into being is not the current status-quo. To one who reigns seated on the throne— to our God in Jesus Christ— not a one of us— not a one of us— is an acceptable loss.
Our world— at least one of us —needs to hear and see this truth. Spread the spark into the world and may it burn like a refiner’s fire. Speak a word. Live it out in your life. In my holy imagination this is the epitaph of Uriah “God is my flame” the Hittite: “No one is an acceptable loss.”