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By Melody Meeter

Now we are in Ordinary Time and the Revised Common Lectionary has us listening to the story of David. This week we are directed to read portions from 1 Samuel 17 or 18: the story of David and Goliath, or the subsequent story of David’s rise to power and Saul’s opposition.

A colleague tells me that her 10 year old son loves the David and Goliath story, although a film version would have to be rated “R”. I suppose it’s a comforting story for children living among gigantic, powerful adults. But beheading! That’s what the bad guys do.

David. His is a complex character with more roles over his lifetime than Forrest Gump–or Jesus, come to think of it. Shepherd, giant killer, military commander, musician, king, murderer, adulterer, poet.

David’s power is juxtaposed against that of Jesus in this week’s gospel lesson: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4: 35-41) But David is still beloved. How many millions of Jewish and Christian boys have been named David?

Almost 30 years ago my husband, Daniel, was pastor of a congregation composed of post-World War II Dutch immigrants. One evening we received a call requesting emergency pastoral care. A congregant needed to see us at home.

This was long before I became a pastor, and in that context women’s ordination was not countenanced. However, the pastor’s wife was expected to be fully in it with her husband. Besides, we were idealistic and bad at boundaries.

In came Reike Dykstra (name changed) into our living room, where she sat down in the rocking chair. Were our young children in bed? Was her grown son with her? I don’t think she could drive.

The emergency was this: Reike had learned that her daughter, who had moved to Toronto, was living with a man. I remember nothing of that visit except her reason for coming and this picture: Reike with tears streaming down and her saying, over and over, “Mijn David, oh, mijn David. She drew out the first syllable, as in “mine Daaahveed.”

She was referring to David the Psalmist, who gave words to her grief. What was the context? Did she quote a particular Psalm? Had we read a Psalm together? I don’t know. I remember this scene because the depth of her grief shocked me; it was as if her daughter had died. Where had Reike been for the last 20 years? I can only imagine the conversation with the daughter, trying to explain why she had moved in with her boyfriend, with the Psalms as the only reference point.

I also remember this scene because in my experience this kind of passion was reserved for Jesus—Mein Jesu! It was a wonder to me that the Psalms were so woven into the imagination of her heart. She embodied the best of the Reformed tradition, with both Testaments well known and held as equally precious. There were many in that flock who loved the Psalms as Reike did, but were more worldly-wise, with more nuanced understandings of scripture.

I remember Reike as a reserved, serious woman of regal bearing, a widow, honored in her family and in that community. She was also, if I’m recalling other stories correctly, a tough cookie. Her emotional connection to scripture was of that raw sort that we can hear in “David’s Lamentation,” (William Billings–Sacred Harp). I think Reike would have loved that song.

David the king, was grieved and moved,
He went to his chamber and wept;
And as he went he wept, and said:
Would to God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son!”

Melody Meeter

Melody Meeter is a minister in the Reformed Church in America, now retired, formerly Director of Spiritual Care at NYU Langone-Brooklyn.

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