Asleep in the boat

24 June 2018
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 7B (RCL)

1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

The bulk of Mark’s Gospel (from 4:35 through 8:10) is organized around a repeated pair of miracles; a sea crossing and a feeding in the wilderness. This pattern should be familiar to readers of the Old Testament. Moses led the people across the Red Sea and fed them with manna in the wilderness. And just so we don’t miss the connection, Jesus’ first miracle after disembarking from the first miraculous crossing is the destruction of a demon named Legion (a unit of the Roman army) in a herd of 2000 pigs drowned in the sea, just as Pharaoh’s army was drowned in the sea. Continue reading “Asleep in the boat”

The scrappy kingdom

17 June 2018
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 6B (RCL)

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Mark 4:26-34

There is an odd little puzzle hidden in this passage from 1 Samuel: why does Samuel take a heifer to Bethlehem? Almost every sacrifice described in the Old Testament involves a male animal a year old. Jonathan Z. Smith (The Domestication of Sacrifice) points out that killing sexually immature male animals with unwanted qualities is a way of breeding the herd for desirable characteristics. What to do with that meat? Eat it, of course. Continue reading “The scrappy kingdom”


10 June 2018
Third Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 5B (RCL)

1 Samuel 8:4-15; 11:14-15
Psalm 138
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

There is a strong strand of tradition in the historical writings that sees the monarchy as a failure of faith on Israel’s part. We have here one of the clearest expressions of that tradition. The author warns the people that a king will enslave them just as Joseph and Pharaoh did in Egypt. The Joseph story, cited as one of the clearest examples of the Wisdom tale of the suffering righteous one who is finally vindicated by God, also contains in it a stern critique of Joseph. Joseph ended up enslaving his own people. One wonders if this is a critique leveled by Judah against Ephraim, Joseph being part of the Northern pantheon. Here, Israel, as so often throughout the story of the Exodus, desires to return to Egypt. Reliance on God isn’t as easy as it seems — much easier to have the certainty of knowing one’s place in the scheme of things, even if that place is at the bottom of the pyramid. Continue reading “Kin(g)ship”