Gift of self

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; 1 August 2021; Proper 13B (RCL); 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a; Psalm 51:1-13; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35.

The little vignette of Nathan’s challenge to David would make you suspect David didn’t think he’d done anything wrong until Nathan told his little story. Imagine being Nathan, and having to tell the king he messed up. This was a king who regularly killed those who killed his enemies, so he clearly had a temper. Like a good court jester, Nathan gets David to pass his own sentence.

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King by force

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; 25 July 2021; Proper 12B (RCL); 2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21.

To me, the most difficult verse in our Old Testament reading is the first: In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle . . . . Uriah also makes and allusion to the Feast of Booths in his reply to David. Why should he sleep with Bathsheba when all of Israel and Judah are in booths, and the army is in the open field. It seems as if war was at one time a liturgical act in the worship of YHWH.

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Building a house

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; 18 July 2021; Proper 11B (RCL); 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.

I know the designers of lectionaries have choices to make — we can’t conveniently fit the whole of a Gospel into a year. And poor Mar, in his year, we have to cram in a lot of John’s Gospel (Mark being the shortest). So, this year, we are going to be reading the sea crossing/feeding miracles from John’s Gospel. But Jeez Louise, we leave out the whole feeding of the 5000, and then the second sea crossing (with Jesus walking on the water) all in one fell swoop. Hardly fair to Mark.

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To the praise of God’s glory

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; 11 July 2021; Proper 10B (RCL); 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29.

What a mish-mash of readings this week. The story of the beheading of John the Baptist has always puzzled me: what’s it doing in the Gospels in the first place? Why did Mark see the need to include it? It’s a rather lurid story, ending with a head on a platter. But we have the device of a drunken king and his court, watching his daughter dance as part of the entertainment at the party, and making an oath he regrets. It’s great drama in a short vignette.

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A prophet’s honor

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; 4 July 2021; Proper 9B (RCL); 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13.

This week’s lessons present an interesting contrast between David on the one hand, and Jesus and Paul on the other. The reading from 2 Samuel narrates Israel’s choice of David to be their king. He has already been the king of Judah for some time, and now Israel chooses to unite with Judah in the person of David. The stories of the Old Testament hold David up as the archetype of the righteous king, despite (or perhaps because of) his many flaws. We are told he is ruddy, and has beautiful eyes. He has a certain charisma that attracts people to him. Despite his many moral failings, the biblical story looks back to the united kingdom under David as the definitive moment of history.

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Unforgivable sin?

Second Sunday after Pentecost; 6 June 2021; Proper 5B (RCL); 1 Samuel 8:4-21, 11:14-15; Psalm 138; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35.

This year, we jump into Mark’s Gospel right in the midst of developing controversy (we’ve skipped over propers 1 – 4). Jesus’ family shows up, questioning his sanity, and then scribes arrive from Jerusalem accusing him of blasphemy (of using Satan’s power to cast out demons). After a retort from Jesus, the story returns to the question of Jesus’ family.

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Life in the Spirit

The Feast of Pentecost; 23 May 2021; Pentecost B (RCL); Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27, 16:14b-15.

I’m always fascinated by verses the lectionary omits. In the reading from John’s Gospel, the first three and half verses of chapter 16 have to do with the hour coming when John’s community will be put of the synagogue, and persecuted even to death. I understand why we would want to leave those verse out, but I don’t think the rest of the reading makes sense without them. Jesus tells his disciples that it is for their benefit that he is going away, so that the Advocate may come. The advocate will charge the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

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Whither Jesus?

Seventh Sunday of Easter; 16 May 2021; Easter 7B (RCL); Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19.

The first words out of Jesus’ mouth in John’s Gospel are addressed to the two disciples of John the Baptist who follow Jesus. Jesus turns and sees them following and asks, “What do you seek?” They reply, “Rabbi, where to you remain?” Jesus answers, “Come and see,” giving us, the readers of the Gospel, an invitation to discover where Jesus remains (the verb μένειν, menein, to remain, and its cognates appear dozens of times in John’s Gospel). This is the central question of the Gospel

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The fruit of love

Sixth Sunday of Easter; 9 May 2021; Easter 6B (RCL); Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17.

Last week, we read the image of the vine in John’s Gospel, and this week’s reading continues on from there. The whole purpose of Jesus’ command that we love one another as he has loved us is so that we might be fruitful. John never does tell us what fruitfulness looks like, and so leaves it open for each community to discover for itself what is good and ripe and juicy.

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Trust

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday); 25 April 2021; Easter 4B (RCL); Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18.

Good Shepherd Sunday conjures images of Jesus with a lamb across his shoulders (this was in fact one of the earliest known depictions of Jesus in the Roman Catacombs). The trouble with this image is that we, the sheep, remain passive. The language in today’s readings suggests that we should be anything but passive.

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