Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Proper 15B (13 Pentecost 2018) Readings & Commentaries


The writer to the Ephesians also exhorts his hearers to wisdom, in this case, the ability to recognize good from evil.  The writer knows the context for encouraging this wisdom:  the worshipping community. 

1st Reading (Track 1):  1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
King David is dead, and he has chosen Solomon, his son with Bathsheba, to be his successor, although Solomon had to fight several of his elder brothers to keep it (the story is told in the remainder of chapter two).  Solomon, encountering God in a dream, asks for wisdom and receives it, although verse 14 adds a conditional “if,” which foreshadows things to come.

2:10 David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established. 3:3 Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

Psalm 111 (Track 1)
Psalm 111 praises God for the faithful deeds he has done in bringing Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land and blessing them with a covenant.  The last verse makes this psalm an appropriate response to our first reading.

1     Hallelujah!
       I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, *
              in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.
2     Great are the deeds of the Lord! *
              they are studied by all who delight in them.
3     His work is full of majesty and splendor, *
              and his righteousness endures for ever.
4     He makes his marvelous works to be remembered; *
              the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
5     He gives food to those who fear him; *
              he is ever mindful of his covenant.
6     He has shown his people the power of his works *
              in giving them the lands of the nations.
7     The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice; *
              all his commandments are sure.
8     They stand fast for ever and ever, *
              because they are done in truth and equity.
9     He sent redemption to his people;
       he commanded his covenant for ever; *
              holy and awesome is his Name.
10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; *
              those who act accordingly have a good understanding;
              his praise endures for ever.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Proverbs 9:1-6
The figure of Lady Wisdom is important to the ancient Hebrew literature called “Wisdom.”  She is understanding and righteousness personified.  Here she invites all in need of wisdom (“the simple”) to a festal banquet, a metaphor for learning and following her ways.  In the history of Christian interpretation this text has been thought to foreshadow the Eucharist.  Indeed, it is the Old Testament reading on Maundy Thursday in the Eastern Church.

9:1 Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars. 2 She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town, 4 “You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense she says, 5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

Psalm 34:9-14 (Track 2)
Overall, Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving.  The “fear” of God is a much misunderstood concept in the Bible, particularly in the Hebrew Scriptures.  There are three elements to this rich term:  awe and reverence, the turning from evil, and the choice of obedience to the ways of God.  This passage very much echoes the words of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs.

9     Fear the Lord, you that are his saints *
              for those who fear him lack nothing.
10  The young lions lack and suffer hunger, *
              but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.
11  Come, children, and listen to me; *
              I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12  Who among you loves life *
              and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?
13  Keep your tongue from evil-speaking *
              and your lips from lying words.
14  Turn from evil and do good; *
              seek peace and pursue it.

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 5:15-20
The writer to the Ephesians also exhorts his hearers to wisdom, in this case, the ability to recognize good from evil.  The writer knows the context for encouraging this wisdom:  the worshipping community.  Note the paradox: “the days are evil” but give thanks at all times.  Such realism and hope are a necessary point/counter-point in the Christian life.

5:15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel Reading:  John 6:51-58
Jesus has caused grumbling with his talk about being bread that comes down from heaven.  Now he takes it a step further. This bread is his flesh. This causes an open dispute to break out.  The crowd thinks he is being ridiculous.  But he presses on, carrying the metaphor to its breaking point.  “The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

6:51 Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational and personal study use with this attribution.  For bulletin inserts using the above, go to our website.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Proper 14B (12 Pentecost 2018) Readings & Commentaries



1st Reading (Track 1):  2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Chapters 13-18 of 2 Samuel report on internal strife within the family of King David.  Chapters 13 & 14 tell of David’s eldest son Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar.  Tamar’s full brother Absalom takes his revenge by killing his brother.  Absalom flees and lives in exile for three years, after which David’s general, Joab, attempts a reconciliation between king and son. Absalom returns to Jerusalem but David refuses to see him. Chapters 15-17 tell of Absalom’s revolt against his father and for a time he rules in Jerusalem.  Eventually a battle ensues.  David strictly instructs that his son not be killed, and the story continues below.

18:5 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. 6 So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword. 9 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. 15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him. 31 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.” 32 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.” 33  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!”

Psalm 130 (Track 1)
Psalm 130 is a psalm of lament. The writer cries out to God from the depths of distress, begging God to hear the cry and provide relief.

1     Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
       Lord, hear my voice; *
              let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
2     If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *
              O Lord, who could stand?
3     For there is forgiveness with you; *
              therefore you shall be feared.
4     I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
              in his word is my hope.
5     My soul waits for the Lord,
       more than watchmen for the morning, *
              more than watchmen for the morning.
6     O Israel, wait for the Lord, *
              for with the Lord there is mercy;
7     With him there is plenteous redemption, *
              and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

1st Reading (Track 2):  1 Kings 19:4-8
The prophet Elijah is on the run.  He has won a great contest against the prophets of Baal, but those prophets were in the favor of Queen Jezebel and she has put a price on Elijah’s head.  He is running for his life.  Despite his wish to die, he is saved miraculously and given sustenance to endure a forty-day journey to Mount Horeb.  The number forty is an important biblical number, popping up regularly, signaling the thoroughness of the test.

19:4 Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die:  “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

Psalm 34:1-8 (Track 2)
Psalm 34 is a thanksgiving for deliverance.  The title in Hebrews says, “Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”

1     I will bless the Lord at all times; *
              his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
2     I will glory in the Lord; *
              let the humble hear and rejoice.
3     Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord; *
              let us exalt his Name together.
4     I sought the Lord, and he answered me *
              and delivered me out of all my terror.
5     Look upon him and be radiant, *
              and let not your faces be ashamed.
6     I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me *
              and saved me from all my troubles.
7     The angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, *
              and he will deliver them.
8     Taste and see that the Lord is good; *
              happy are they who trust in him!

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 4:25—5:2
As we continue reading through Ephesians, the writer describes what it means to live a Christian life.  All this flows from Baptism (“with which you were marked with a seal”).  Just as in Baptism we died and rose in imitation of Christ, so our lives ought to be a constant imitation of his life of love.  The final verse is one of the options in The Book of Common Prayer for the offertory sentence at the Eucharist (p. 343 & p. 376).

4:25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Gospel Reading:  John 6:35, 41-51

6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Proper 13B (11 Pentecost 2018) Readings & Commentaries


The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 has taken place and Jesus has tried to take the disciples away for some rest.  The crowds follow and press in on him.  He chides them for being satisfied with food rather than the work of God.  They ask for a sign,

1st Reading (Track 1):  2 Samuel 11:26—12:13a
King David has exercised royal power in taking Bathsheba as his wife, after arranging for the death of her husband, Uriah.  God has pledged his steadfast love for David, nevertheless David’s sin must be known.  The prophet Nathan tells a parable to trap David into acknowledgement of what he has done.  God remains faithful to David, but there will be consequences—public family strife that will now dominate David’s story through the time of his death.

11:26 When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. 27 When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. 12:1 But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the Lord:  I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. 12 For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “Now the LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die.”

Psalm 51:1-13 (Track 1)
Psalm 51 is perhaps the most well known of the psalms of lament and repentance.  It begins with an acknowledgement that all men and women are sinners, who neither seek God nor remain faithful to his ways.  The Hebrew introduction to this psalm is, “A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

1     The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” *
              All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;
              there is none who is good, not one.
2     The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all, *
              to see if there is any who is wise,
              if there is one who seeks after God.
3     Everyone has proved faithless;
       all alike have turned bad; *
              there is none who does good; no, not one.
4     Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers *
              who eat up my people like bread
              and do not call upon the Lord?
5     See how they tremble with fear, *
              because God is in the company of the righteous.
6     Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted, *
              but the Lord is their refuge.
7     Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion! *
              When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
              Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Exodus 16:1-4, 9-15
The Israelites have begun their journey to the promised land, but are already experiencing a crisis of “life support.” The grumbling begins!  God provides for their need with a fine bread, manna, in the morning, and quail in the evening.

16:1 The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.” 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’” 13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

Psalm 78:23-29 (Track 2)
Psalm 78 is one of the historical psalms; this section recalls the gift of manna and quails in the wilderness.

23   So God commanded the clouds above *
              and opened the doors of heaven.
24   He rained down manna upon them to eat *
              and gave them grain from heaven.
25   So mortals ate the bread of angels; *
              he provided for them food enough.
26   He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens *
              and led out the south wind by his might.
27   He rained down flesh upon them like dust *
              and wing├ęd birds like the sand of the sea.
28   He let it fall in the midst of their camp *
              and round about their dwellings.
29   So they ate and were well filled, *
              for he gave them what they craved.

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 4:1-16
Here is perhaps the primary purpose of this letter:  the commitment to unity among all those called by God.  The poetic verses 4-6 may have been part of an early baptismal liturgy, and, indeed, they are part of our rite of baptism still (BCP, p. 299).  Then comes the consequence of this unity, that all God’s people share in the gift of Christ and of his continuing ministry.  All the saints are to be equipped for the “work of ministry,” whose ultimate purpose is to build up the body of Christ for its work on earth.

4:1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Gospel Reading:  John 6:24-35
The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 has taken place and Jesus has tried to take the disciples away for some rest.  The crowds follow and press in on him.  He chides them for being satisfied with food rather than the work of God.  They ask for a sign, something as clear as the manna received by the Israelites during their sojourn in the desert.  Jesus speaks of the true bread that is the gift of God.  When they press him to give them this bread, he makes the stunning statement:  “I am the bread of life.”

6:24 On the next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Proper 12B (Pentecost 10, 2018) Readings & Commentaries


This feeding of the multitude is one of the few that exist in all four gospels, stressing its importance to the early followers of Jesus.  The Gospel writer John has his own spin on this story.

The 10th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12B)

1st Reading (Track 1):  2 Samuel 11:1-15
This story (the first half of which we have this week, and the second half next week) is of the abuse of power and the corruption power can bring. David chooses not to go out to war with his army, itself a very strange thing.  He then takes a woman he spies on a nearby rooftop.  She is given no agency because she has none.  David takes her even though she is “unclean.”  She must do the king’s bidding.  David sends for Uriah and at first attempts to create a situation where Uriah can believe he is the father (“wash your feet” here is a euphemism for sexual intercourse).  But Uriah refuses as he is “on duty.”  The king then conspires to murder him, one of his faithful soldiers.

11:1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3 David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. 5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” 6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, 13 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. 14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

Psalm 14 (Track 1)
Psalm 14 laments the condition of the human race; all of God’s people fall short.  (Even King David, as above).  Yet God’s concern remains.  He seeks the wise and the just, and provides refuge for those in need.  And God will in the end be found in Jerusalem, on Mount Zion, and restore his people.

1     The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” *
              All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;
              there is none who is good, not one.
2     The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all, *
              to see if there is any who is wise,
              if there is one who seeks after God.
3     Everyone has proved faithless;
       all alike have turned bad; *
              there is none who does good; no, not one.
4     Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers *
              who eat up my people like bread
              and do not call upon the Lord?
5     See how they tremble with fear, *
              because God is in the company of the righteous.
6     Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted, *
              but the Lord is their refuge.
7     Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion! *
              When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
              Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

1st Reading (Track 2):  2 Kings 4:42-44
The section of 2 Kings from 4:1—8:6 tells the story of the prophet Elisha’s many miracles.  The first of them occur in the context of a great famine.  Elisha provides oil and meal to a Shunammite woman and raises her son from death (4:8-37).  Immediately prior to the following reading, the company of prophets sits down for a pot of stew, but discovers it is poison.  Some flour from Elisha makes it edible again (4:38-41).  Today’s reading is clearly the ancestor of this morning’s Gospel reading.

4:42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God:  twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” 44 He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

Psalm 145:10-19 (Track2)
Psalm 145 is a psalm extolling the character of the God of Israel.  In Hebrew it is an acrostic poem, each new verse beginning with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The portion of the psalm we are using this morning emphasizes God’s reign over all creation and his care for all his creatures.

10   All your works praise you, O Lord, *
              and your faithful servants bless you.
11   They make known the glory of your kingdom *
              and speak of your power;
12   That the peoples may know of your power *
              and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13   Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; *
              your dominion endures throughout all ages.
14   The Lord is faithful in all his words *
              and merciful in all his deeds.
15   The Lord upholds all those who fall; *
              he lifts up those who are bowed down.
16   The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, *
              and you give them their food in due season.
17   You open wide your hand *
              and satisfy the needs of every living creature.
18   The Lord is righteous in all his ways *
              and loving in all his works.
19   The Lord is near to those who call upon him, *
              to all who call upon him faithfully.

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 3:14-21
The writer of this letter breaks into prayer, that the saints (i.e., all God’s people) should be strengthened in the Spirit and have a heart where Christ dwells, producing the love that cannot be measured.  The final two verses are a doxology (a verse of praise), which in our Prayer Book is one of the options for ending Morning or Evening Prayer (see p. 10 & p. 126).

3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel Reading:  John 6:1-21
We begin five weeks of reading through chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, whose predominant image is bread.  It begins with the familiar story of the feeding of the five thousand.  This story is one of the few that exist in all four gospels, stressing its importance to the early followers of Jesus.  The Gospel writer John has his own spin on this story.  Jesus is concerned about the disciples underestimating his power.  The crowd is overly practical. They seem to say, “What’s in it for me?”  Jesus flees this kind of thinking.  The passage ends with the storm at sea and Jesus walking on the water with the message, “Do not be afraid.”

6:1 Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use with this attribution.