The works of God

2 August 2015
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 13B (RCL)
2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
Psalm 51:1-13
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

The theme of “work” seems oddly out of place in a discourse about bread. And it is introduced in one of John’s seeming non sequiturs. As the people come seeking Jesus, he chides them for seeking him only because they ate their fill of the loaves and then tells them to work for the bread that endures (or remains — the Greek is menein). They respond by asking, “What must we be doing in order to be working the works of God?” Working for bread makes perfect sense, but connecting it to the works of God is a bit of a jump. Jesus replies that the work of God is to trust the one God has sent. Continue reading “The works of God”

A new covenant

26 July 2105
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 12B (RCL)
2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

Is it good to be king? In a disarmingly simple story, 2 Samuel shows us everything wrong with monarchy. The passage begins, “In the spring of the year, when kings go out to war.” War is the liturgy of the royal cult. But David stays at home, and enjoys the leisure of an afternoon nap while his generals are out at war. After bringing the ark into Jerusalem and distributing food (including the meat of sacrifice) to everyone in Israel, man and woman, and thereby claiming all women as his own, David enacts this claim. And to finish off the story, David sends by Uriah’s own hand orders to Joab to have Uriah killed. Uriah respects the royal authority enough not to read the letter he is carrying. He is faithful where David is deceitful.

Jesus, on the other hand, escapes up the mountain when he perceives the people want to come and make him king by force. Continue reading “A new covenant”

The house of God

19 July 2015
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 11B (RCL)
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Gaaa! Sometimes lectionaries chop the Bible up in inexcusable ways. In the reading from Mark, we jump over the feeding of the five thousand and the second sea crossing (Jesus walking on the water). Mark has arranged the bulk of the material in his Gospel (outside the Passion Narrative) in two major blocks, each bookended by a sea crossing and a feeding in the wilderness. This pairing, of course, reminds us of Moses leading the people across the sea and feeding them with manna in the wilderness. Mark strengthens the association by having Jesus cast out the legion from the Garasene demoniac immediately after the first sea crossing, drowning a legion of the Roman army in the sea in a herd of pigs. The feeding of the five thousand wraps up this first block of material which has included the demoniac, Jairus’ daughter, the woman with the hemorrhage, the sending of the twelve and the death of John the Baptist. Continue reading “The house of God”

True power

12 July 2015
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 10B (RCL)
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

We assume that Michal despises David because she sees him dancing with abandon before the Lord, and even that he shows off his underwear in the dancing. However, he does something much more egregious in this passage. We are told that he distributes to every man and woman in the whole multitude of Israel a loaf of bread, a cake of raisins and a portion of roasted meat. Women received sacrificial meat (so, any meat) through their men — their fathers if they were unmarried, or the husbands if married. Hence, the plight of widows. David is effectively claiming all the women of Israel as his own, either daughters or wives. No wonder Michal despised him.

Herod Antipas Continue reading “True power”

Imperial implications

5 July 2015
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 9B (RCL)

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Psalm 48
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13

The Books of Samuel provide a very ambivalent assessment of the development of the monarchy. At times, they portray the monarch as God’s plan for Israel from the outset; and then again, as a betrayal of God’s plan, demonstrating the people’s lack of trust in God. In the passage we hear today, the nation of Israel finally choose David as their king, and he thereby becomes king of both Judah and Israel, beginning the process of the melding of their various traditions. David captures the neutral city of Jerusalem of the Jebusites (thereby also becoming a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek — possibly a title for the king of Jerusalem). The empire is now a fact. From here on, the history of David’s monarchy is presented almost as a matter of fact, neither as God’s plan or a betrayal thereof. But God does send prophets to David to remind him of the way he came to the throne — by considering the plight of the marginal — something he woefully forgets once on the throne. That would be an enduring theme of both the histories and the prophetic works. Monarchy as an institution in its own right was never the plan, but only for the protection of the least. Continue reading “Imperial implications”