Bread from heaven

Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Psalm 34:1-8

Ephesians 4:25 — 5:2

John 6:37-51

Year B — the summer of bread. It seems like we read the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel for months in the summer of Year B. To me, the sixth chapter of John reads like the minutes taken during a bitter debate: Only those who eat my flesh have life; the flesh counts for nothing, only the Spirit matters. Back and forth it goes.

It is striking about this week’s readings, from both Deuteronomy and John, that the food comes to us without human involvement. All the regulations about food, about sacrifice and offering and eating, in Deuteronomy, Leviticus and elsewhere, recognize the human factor. The first of the produce of your fields, bring to the holy place and set it before God and then have a good time. Continue reading “Bread from heaven”

More Transfiguration

I had never noticed before now that the account of the Transfiguration in the Second Letter of Peter does not mention Moses and Elijah. Did the Transfiguration exist independently before Mark got ahold of it? And if so, what purpose did it serve.

2 Peter is addressed to those who have lost confidence in the imminent parousia of Jesus (following Duane Watson in the NIB). Epicureans believed that God was so perfect as to be absolutely unmoved by this world: God’s providence and judgment of this world were unthinkable. They considered the Stoics’ ideas of providence and the dissolution of the world in fire to be “cleverly devised myths.” Continue reading “More Transfiguration”


Exodus 34:29-35

Psalm 99

2 Peter 1:13-21

Luke 9:28-36

In Mark’s Gospel, the account of the transfiguration follows culminates a section that follows on the feeding of the 4000. Mark arranges a big chunk of the first half of his gospel (before the transfiguration and turn to Jerusalem) around the device of sea crossing/3 miracles/instruction/feeding. The sea crossings and feedings are reminiscent of Moses, while the healings are reminiscent of Elijah/Elisha. Mark is using material from one or several early groups organized around a wide open table fellowship. People like the woman with the flow of blood, Jairus’ daughter, the man with the legion, the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter and the deaf man are crossing dangerous social boundaries to discover themselves miraculously fed in a new wilderness. They are the new Israel, formed by Moses and re-formed by Elijah/Elisha to include the unclean, and some of these groups (perhaps formed after Jesus’ resurrection — cf. that he is not in the boat with the disciples the second time across the sea, but appears as a ghost) include even Gentiles.

Mark uses this traditional material (see Burton Mack, A Myth of Innocence), but wants to claim for his own community the right to succeed these groups. Continue reading “Transfiguration”

Here we go.

So, I’ve finally caved to the pressure of our web-servant (not really) to start a blog. My intention is to use this space to reflect on the propers assigned for the coming Sunday as a way of sermon preparation. Once in each week’s postings, I’ll include a link to the Lectionary Page (once I get that part of it figured out).

This week’s Gospel is the crossing of the sea (walking on the sea) recorded in Mark’s Gospel (Chapter 6). It is a rich pericope. Most troubling, we are told that Jesus “intends to pass them [the struggling disciples] by.” I understand this section of Mark’s Gospel — end of chapter 4 through chapter 8 — to be organized around a set of miracles recorded twice (Paul Achtmeier is responsible for this discovery): Sea Crossing/3 Healings, instruction/Feeding in the Wilderness. The sea crossing and feeding in the wilderness suggest Moses, while the healings suggest Elijah and Elisha (raising widow’s sons = raising Jairus’ daughter, healing the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter).

In the first instance of sea crossing, Jesus is in the boat with the disciples. Those healed (the man with the Legion — destroying Rome’s army as a herd of pigs plunges into the sea! – Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the flow of blood) are all Judeans, returned to table fellowship by being healed (Jesus even tells those with Jairus’ daughter to give her something to eat). The feeding of the 5000 plus women and children in the wilderness signals a new Israel being formed by Jesus made up of all the undesirables who have to make a dangerous crossing to arrive in this new community.

In this week’s reading Jesus is not in the boat with the disciples. When they see him walking on the sea, they think they are seeing a ghost. This suggests a post-resurrection appearance. In the healings between the walking on the water and the feeding of the 4000, Jesus heals the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman, a Gentile, after an argument about dogs and bread. The storm at sea is possibly an early church fight about table fellowship with Gentiles, and even (the resurrected) Jesus takes convincing. When he comes to them, he intends to pass them by. If we spend all our time arguing, because we don’t understand about the loaves and our hearts are hardened, Jesus will pass us by.

What does this say to us as Israel and Hezbollah go at it hammer and tongs? What does it say to us as the Anglican Communion turns on itself with talons bared? What is it about the loaves that we don’t get? Tune in Sunday.