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.


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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Proper 13B/Ordinary 18B/Pentecost 10 August 2, 2015

"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.


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

Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel

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.

Resources for the Epistle

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.

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