Finding the Lessons

I try to post well in advance of the upcoming Sunday.

You will want to scroll down to find the bible study for the lessons closest to the upcoming Sunday.

The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date.

You can open the monthly calendar to the left and find the readings in order.

You can also search below by entering the liturgical date, scripture, or proper. This will pull up all previous posts.


Search This Blog by Proper and Year (ie: Proper 8B or Christmas C or Advent 1A)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Proper 13B/Ordinary 18B/Pentecost 11 August 5, 2018


To our stewardship, O God, you have entrusted the vast resources of your creation.  Let there be no lack of bread at the table s of any of your children, and stir up within us also a longing for your word, that we may be able to satisfy that hunger for truth that you have placed within every human heart. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on John 6:24-35

"Preachers may need to remind their congregations about last week's text and the feeding of the multitude because in today's text, John begins to unpack the meaning of that earlier event."

Commentary, John 6:24-35, Brian Peterson, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

"'The hymn powerfully portrays the plight of so many of God's children: "Across the world, across the street, the victims of injustice cry for shelter and for bread to eat, and never live before ...'"

Commentary, John 6:24-35, Craig A. Satterlee, Preaching This Week,, 2015.

"In this text, Jesus is trying to repair the faulty understanding the crowd took away from last Sunday's text."

Commentary, John 6:24-35, Ginger Barfield, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

Oremus Online NRSV Text

We now move into the bread of life discourse in John's Gospel.  This passage follows on the heals of the feeding of the five thousand.

So the crowd of five thousand and more follow Jesus by boat across the sea.  And, there Jesus tells them that they are there because of their hunger and because Jesus fed them. He then reorients their hunger to the hunger for enduring life.  Here Jesus invites them into the deeper life of the spirit. The people were dealing with their physical need and Jesus invites them to lift their eyes to their spiritual hunger and the potential of a spiritual life. 

So, what is this work?  The work is clear in this passage. Jesus says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  They then demand more signs.  Jesus again reorients their vision.  He said to them that their religion relies on signs.  And, that as humans they are more likely to give credit to the one who performs signs; this is natural.  But Jesus is clear again that these signs are from God.  And, he, Jesus, is from God.  He is a new bread of life. He is the incarnation.  Those who come close and move beyond the simply physical will find God in the One who comes from heaven. 

Jesus is the living word that feeds the body and the soul.  Raymond Brown reminds me of the tradition in which this conversation about manna from heaven is taking place.  From the book of Wisdom 16:26 we may read, "That your sons whom you loved might learn, O Lord, that it is not the various kinds of fruit that nourish man, but it is your word that preserves those who believe in you."  Or, Nehemiah 9:20:  "You gave your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst." Of course the crowd seems unable to understand these links or even to see the revelation of God made man in Jesus that is standing before them.

The revelation of Jesus as Son of Man, the incarnation, is indeed good news. It is good news because it reminds us of our chosen nature. That we are built to love and to long for God, and that though we are constantly seeking to fill our love and longing with bread of this world, it is God who provides a manna which nourishes both the body and the soul.  Indeed, we are beckoned into a new life with God through the incarnation.  A very real Jesus who gives us physical bread is also the the very real living word who gives himself as manna from heaven. 

Today we find this living word not only in the community of faithful people who share communion, we also find the living word in the preaching and teaching of the church.  We are able to find the living word in bible study (private and corporate). We are able to hear the living word in prayer which is petitional and contemplative. We are able to listen for the living word in conversations with fellow church goers and with strangers.  We are also able to find this living word out in the world.

It is too easy to see it only in church. God has sprinkled the world with leaven and in its stories, in the lives of people (even those who do not share our faith), in the arts, in film and in music. If you look, listen, and are attentive you will see that the leaven of God is all around us speaking of revelation, of incarnation, of resurrection.

We thirst and hunger for the living word, some thirst and hunger for real food, the mixture of this physical and spiritual hunger is a nexus in which the incarnation may be experienced in our own day and in our own time, within the confines of a Christian community and without.

Ephesians 4:1-16

"This section of Ephesians begins a series of ethical instructions firmly based on the preceding three chapters."

Commentary, Ephesians 4:1-16, Sarah henrich, Preaching This Week,, 2015.

"God was making a body for Christ, Paul said. Christ didn't have a regular body any more so God was making him one out of anybody he could find who looked as if he might just possibly do. He was using other people's hands to be Christ's hands and other people's feet to be Christ's feet, and when there was some place where Christ was needed in a hurry and needed bad, he put the finger on some maybe-not-all-that-innocent bystander and got him to go and be Christ in that place himself for lack of anybody better."

"Eternal Life," Frederick Buechner from Wishful Thinking.

"We live in a time that tends to undermine any claim to truth out of fear of being divisive or intolerant. But Paul advocates 'speaking the truth in love' (4:15). In other words, our bearing witness to the truth is grounded in a deep humility (4:2)."

Commentary, Ephesians 4:1-16, Mark Tranvik, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

What seems powerful about the letter to the Ephesians is not only its focus upon unity but also the reality that it was probably meant as a circular letter among many early Christian communities. The communities are flourishing and growing. New members (new families) are being added to the community. Not unlike our own efforts with evangelism - when we add people the community itself changes.  

The church is growing and thriving because God is present.  Consuming this religion is not the only reason for participating though. The Christian community has work to do and membership comes with obligations. 

The obligation is to live a life “worthy of ... [their] calling” as Christians. Unity will be the essential ingredient to this work because it brings about humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance.

There are in fact, 7 ways in which we must work on this unity. 
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Paul reminds us that Christ himself did not wait upon our perfection, nor our agreement, to come and begin the work of gathering us in. The Church, the Christian community, is not perfected - though Christ through the Holy Spirit is even now doing this work. 

Often times as we think about our work of being unified and becoming Christ like we immediately exteriorize the process. We make it about others and about our community or about someone else. We say you should be unified while I go my own way. You should love while I enjoy my hatred and anger. You must put down your sword while I remain an instrument of division.  We put the work of Christ-likeness on others and remind them they are not fully ready yet. They are not worthy. They are not to be included in this community or that community. Their ways are not our ways. 

The truth is that Paul has a much higher standard than this - as does our lord. God is not interested in how others are at work undertaking their obligations of unity, transformation, and Christ-likeness. No. God is much more interested in my personal journey towards unity in the family. God is much more interested in your personal journey. 

So you might ask yourself today as you ponder and pray about this passage - how are you doing with that? How is that working for you?

Where are you learning humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance by unifying yourself (as did our Lord Christ) with those who are so foreign to you? How are you a person of unity and a person being transformed by living among and working with those who are so very other than yourself? 

The work of unity is not some simply nicety. It is at the core of discipleship because it requires a life lived under the power of the bond of relationship with another - setting aside your desires for them and allowing yourself to live in relationship with them. 

This was the work of Christ to come into the creation (though it was not his nature), to embrace its creatures (though they are not of his own kind), to love (even though they would not understand or return it), and to give of himself fully (even as they took his life from him). This seems the measure of discipleship. This seems the necessary ingredient to a thriving God like community.

So, as we think about all the ways we would have it our way we might pause to think of the obligation of following a God who models something quite amazing.

2 Samuel 11:26-12:15

"2 Samuel 12 is one of the most compelling stories of injustice uncovered."Commentary, 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:15, 13-15, Juliana Claassens, at, Luther Seminary, 2016.

"There is nothing of Nathan's in writing so it's impossible to grade him on literary skill, but when it comes to the ability to be a thorn in the king's flesh, he gets a straight A."
"Nathan," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog. "Bathsheba," from Beyond Words.

"Preaching that tells this story in all its fullness will push us beyond the polarities that often order our thinking. It will remember David as murderer, adulterer, and predatory king as well as hero, beloved of God, and singer of psalms."
Commentary, 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a, Ted A. Smith, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

Oremus NRSV Text

Let us begin with this passage, Uriah said to David, “The Ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2 Samuel 11:6-11)

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks puts it this way:
Uriah’s utter loyalty to the Jewish people, despite the fact that he is not himself Jewish, is contrasted with King David, who has stayed in Jerusalem, not been with the army, and instead had a relationship with another man’s wife. The fact that Tanakh can tell such a story in which a resident alien is the moral hero, and David, Israel’s greatest king, the wrongdoer, tells us much about the morality of Judaism. (Minority Rights)
David has killed a good man, a faithful man, and a loyal man. He has done so by treating Bathsheba as an object, scapegoating Uriah, for the sake of rivalry. David has repeated the sin of those who came before and those who will come after. The House of David itself will repeat the mimetic rivalry in Solomon's reign as well. Leaders are people, but they are people of a kind. They are vested with responsibility and charged with a higher rule of living.

Rabbi Sacks goes on to offer a reflection about leadership within the Jewish tradition:
The Jewish approach to leadership is thus an unusual combination of realism and idealism – realism in its acknowledgement that leaders inevitably make mistakes, idealism in its constant subordination of politics to ethics, power to responsibility, pragmatism to the demands of conscience. What matters is not that leaders never get it wrong – that is inevitable, given the nature of leadership – but that they are always exposed to prophetic critique and that they constantly study Torah to remind themselves of transcendent standards and ultimate aims. The most important thing from a Torah perspective is that a leader is sufficiently honest to admit his mistakes. (The Sins of a Leader)
Nathan the prophet gives David the results of his conversation with God. Nathan is to be the one who brings God's word, judgment, and sentence to the king. He says to David that you have brought scorn upon the kingdom and betrayed God's trust and the people. Because of this you have also brought trouble on your house and your rule. Last week we heard the terrible truth, now the truth comes home and preys upon David's reign and his relationships.

He will repent but the damage that is done is terrible. It is a stain on his reign as king and it is a stain within the wider text and narrative of scripture. He has been exposed to the prophetic critique and has fallen quite short of the transcendent and ultimate aims of his ministry as king.

Some Thoughts on Exodus 16:2-15

"In preaching this text, I couldn't help but think of so many people in our congregations who experience upheaval and uncertainty. This story gives the wonderful promise of God's provision, which is reassuring to all of us. It also might serve as a guide for when we're in stressful times to let the rhythms of religious observance -- daily prayer and weekly worship, for example -- bring order to the chaos."
Commentary, Exodus 16:2-15, Anathea Portier-Young, Preaching This Week,, 2017.

"In preaching this text, I couldn't help but think of so many people in our congregations who experience upheaval and uncertainty. This story gives the wonderful promise of God's provision, which is reassuring to all of us. It also might serve as a guide for when we're in stressful times to let the rhythms of religious observance -- daily prayer and weekly worship, for example -- bring order to the chaos."
Commentary, Exodus 16:2-15, Callie Plunket-Brewton, Preaching This Week,, 2014.

"In this passage, God acknowledges not only the Israelites' need for assurance but also God's desire to shape them as a different kind of people, a different kind of community."
Commentary, Exodus 16:2-15,Amy Erickson, Preaching This Week,, 2011.

"God is near and listening to those whom we might be tempted to call faithless: those who complain to God because they are hungry, anxious, dislocated, in unfamiliar territory and without a clear plan for the future. There God is present."
Commentary, Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15, Elna K. Solvang, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

The passage for this Sunday from Exodus is the story of the manna and quail in the wilderness. It is about God’s providence for the hungry. It is about God’s listening ear and God’s intervention in the world.

The passage appears in John’s Gospel and is an allusion along with other Exodus mentions that correlate the ministry of Jesus with the work of Moses. Scholar Richard Hays in Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, p. 291, makes the comment that while the author of John’s Gospel does use the references there is no particular explanation but rather that the reader is supposed to understand the significance. The Passover of Israel is a common theme mentioned four times throughout the Gospel as it makes its way towards the Last Supper.

Left to our own devices we might see that at the minimum the Gospel is revealing in the work of Jesus the themes of God from the history of Israel. Jesus’ own ministry is defined in similar spiritual terms as that of Moses. Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 is connected then to the manna and quail from heaven. Here what we can say is that God in Christ Jesus is doing and working out God’s purposes just as God did so with Moses. God hears God’s people crying and God frees them, feeds them, and delivers them. 

It is not simply that Jesus mimics what came before in the history of Israel but that the arc of salvation stretches backwards just as it stretches forwards. The very nature of God is to care, deliver, and provide for God’s people. In this way the work of God in Christ Jesus is not unique but part of the continuing and emerging story of the relationship between God and God’s creation.

Furthermore, what John’s Gospel does tell us is that while it is similar work it is also different. Jesus is not another Moses, or doing similar work, but in line with God’s eternal work. The difference is important though. That difference is that while the manna and quail in the wilderness was temporary and perished the work of the Christ will be eternal.

Sermons Preached on These Texts

You Can't Fake True Religion Aug 20, 2015, This is a sermon preached at St. Paul's Pfluggerville on Proper 13B

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