Aug 12, 2018 • 10:00 am
The Rev. Kate Dunn, preaching.
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: “O My Son Absalom”
Text: 2 Samuel 18 (selected verses)
After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run ahead of him. Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the road into the gate; and when anyone brought a suit before the king for judgment, Absalom would call out and say, "From what city are you?" When the person said, "Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel," Absalom would say, "See, your claims are good and right; but there is no one deputed by the king to hear you." Absalom said moreover, "If only I were judge in the land! Then all who had a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give them justice." Whenever people came near to do obeisance to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of them, and kiss them. Thus Absalom did to every Israelite who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.
A messenger came to David, saying, "The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom." Then David said to all his officials who were with him at Jerusalem, "Get up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Hurry, or he will soon overtake us, and bring disaster down upon us, and attack the city with the edge of the sword." The kingís officials said to the king, "Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king decides." So the king left, followed by all his household, except ten concubines whom he left behind to look after the house.
Now Absalom and all the Israelites came to Jerusalem; Ahithophel was with him. So they pitched a tent for Absalom upon the roof; and Absalom went in to his fatherís concubines in the sight of all Israel. Then David mustered the men who were with him, and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, "Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom." And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom. So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men.
Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. A man saw it, and told Joab, ìI saw Absalom hanging in an oak.î Joab said to the man who told him, ìWhat, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.î But the man said to Joab, ìEven if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not raise my hand against the kingís son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying: For my sake protect the young man Absalom!
Joab said, "I will not waste time like this with you." He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joabís armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him. Then Joab said to a Cushite, "Go, tell the king what you have seen." The Cushite bowed before Joab, and ran. Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, "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." The king said to the Cushite, "Is it well with the young man Absalom?" The Cushite answered, "May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man." The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
Vater unser im Himmelreich (“Our Father Who Art in Heaven”) • Heinrich Scheidemann (1595–1663)
If with all your hearts from, Elijah • Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)
Then shall the righteous shine forth, from Elijah • Felix Mendelssohn
Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C major, BuxWV 137 • Dieterich Buxtehude (1637–1707)
Dieterich Buxtehude was one of the greatest composers of organ music prior to J.S. Bach. In fact, Bach admired Buxtehude so much that in 1705 he took a leave of absence from his church job in Arnstadt and walked nearly 250 miles to Lübeck to hear Buxtehude play! Instead of staying for the four weeks that he requested, however, Bach ended up staying in Lübeck for nearly three months. Needless to say, his employers in Arnstadt were not impressed at all upon his return. In the Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C major, and in many of his other large organ works, Buxtehude’s style of writing is episodic, alternating between stricter fugal sections and freer improvisatory flourishes. This style of writing is known as stylus fantasticus, or the “fantastic style,” and was the precursor to the larger-scale prelude and fugue form that was to reach its zenith in the hands of the next generation -- most especially, of course, in the music of J.S. Bach.
The solos this morning come from Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah, an English-language oratorio written in 1846 for a music festival in Birmingham, England. This piece was composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn’s Baroque predecessors Bach and Handel, whose music he loved. In 1829, Mendelssohn had organized the first performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion since the composer’s death and was instrumental in bringing this and other Bach works to widespread popularity. Elijah depicts various events in the life of the prophet, with texts drawn from the books 1 and 2 Kings. “If with all your hearts” and “Then shall the righteous shine forth” are two of the most well-known and frequently performed solos from this beloved oratorio.