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)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Proper 14B/Ordinary 19B/Pentecost 12 August 12, 2018


Guide your church, O God, on the paths of its earthly pilgrimage, and sustain with the food that does not perish so that, perserving int eh faith to which christ has called us, we may come at last to your holy mountain and gaze on the beauty of your face.  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 6:35-51

"At some point a human being quits grasping for life and griping at God and begins instead to give herself away with Christ, as a piece of his flesh, for the life of the world (v. 51)."

"Foodstuffs," Jerome Burce, Sabbatheology, The Crossings Community, 2009.

"The good news is that Jesus, rather than our knowledge and understanding, is the source of our calling and the source of our strength."

Commentary, John 6:35, 41-51, Craig A. Satterlee, Preaching This Week,, 2015.

"'Murmur' here and in v.41: Perhaps 'grumble' or 'complain' would be better, but the idea of Jews/Judeans murmuring brings to mind the wilderness stories of the Exodus, when the people of Israel ‘murmured.’ See, e.g. Exodus 16:12, where the people murmur (γογγυσμὸν in LXX) and God, in response, sends Manna, later called the 'bread of heaven' (Psalm 78:24)."

"Murmuring about Bread from Heaven," D Mark Davis, raw translation and exegesis/questions, Left Behind and Loving It, 2012.

Our gospel today continues with the "Bread of Life" theme that is marching its way through our summer readings in John's gospel.  As I go a little deeper with the bread of life texts I was fascinated by the history of scholarship and theology on this text.  Raymond Brown has a lovely paragraph in the beginning of his exegesis on this passage that is worth repeating for you history buffs.

As Brown begins to unpack the notion that Jesus is either a) speaking prophetically and about himself as the bread of life from heaven and so this is a revelatory passage on the incarnation; or, b) it is about the flesh of Jesus and the Eucharist.  He writes:

"Even in antiquity there was no agreement.  Some of the early Church Fathers, like Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Eusebius, understood the whole discourse (vss. 35-58) spiritually: for them the flesh and blood of 53ff. meant no more than did the bread from heaven - a reference to Christ, but not in a Eucharistic way. For Augustine the flesh referred to Christ's immolaiton for the salvation of men.  In the heart of the patristic period, Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, the Cyrils of Jerusalem and of Alexandria gave a preponderance to the Eucharistic theory. Skipping to the Reformation, we find that many of the reformers did not accepts the Eucharistic interpretation, but then neither did the Catholic champion Cajetan." (John, vol 1, 272)

In the end Brown himself will settle on the notion that Jesus is preaching on a text selected for the seder meal in the Capernaum synagogue at Passover time.  (ibid, 280)

I think this passage gives us the ability to mold and shape a discourse of our own; wherein we meditate upon the nature of Jesus and of the Eucharistic feast.  For Episcopalians this is an important time to speak about our own particular and faithful understanding of the Eucharistic meal.  We believe that the Holy Eucharist is a gospel sacrament that is essential in understanding the revelation of who Jesus is, his life, death, resurrection and our hope of his return.  For Episcopalians you see this passage is a both/and revelation. It speaks to us of who the incarnation is and how we recognize him; and it speaks to us of the sacrament itself.

The incarnation itself, Jesus as manna from heaven, is remembered and we give thanks for God's intervention in the world around us. We understand that the service and Eucharist itself makes Christ's sacrifice present for us in both a physical and spiritual manner. The Eucharist is the place where in the people of God, the Church, gathers for refreshment as it makes its pilgrim journey through the world.  It is part of the narrative of life which stretches from baptism to the passing from this life into the next. 

The narrative life of Jesus and his Church is an important part of this because there is much that is taking place here and much that is at work in the life of the believer: there is in this Eucharist the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of the union with Christ and with one another, and it also is a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven.  It is a service where people are invited to examine their lives, repent of sin, and seek to be in love and charity with all people. 

So as we turn and look at this passage from John's gospel we see that Jesus' words and teachings profoundly impact and build our narrative. Jesus is the bread of life. His promise is a promise for a world hungry for life and thirsty for salvation.  Those who follow him and partake as family are never lost to him.  Jesus as bread of life, manna from heaven, the incarnation, is part of the reordering and recreating of the cosmic order.  Which is remade in Jesus' incarnation and whose culmination will be the earth's reunion with heaven in the last day.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

"Even with the transformative effects of the love of God, the writer of Ephesians recognizes that sin does not disappear."

Commentary, Ephesians 4:25-5:2, Susan Hylen, Preaching This Week,, 2009.

"The Spirit wants to bear the fruits of love in you and through you. Fundamental to all of this is forgiveness. It means giving, not holding oneself back and holding something against people. Let it go, embrace them; God embraced us."

"First Thoughts Year B Epistle Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 11, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"We must admit that the condemnation ingredient in anger always involves an illusory self-perception. But sometimes illusions are an inevitable part of our human situation and ones that we get around not by eradicating them but by compensating for them."

"Tempering the Spirit of Wrath: Anger and the Christian Life," Robert C. Roberts. The Christian Century, 1997. At Religion OnLine.

One commentator on this passage wrote something like, "Paul gives advice you don't often hear in the ancient world." The truth is that Paul's letter to the Ephesians was and is unique advice. As a circular letter meant for more than one community we might remind ourselves that it is good to hear and it might just be meant for us.

Paul says we have to speak the truth to one another. This is key. We must be honest with one another and in doing this work we are then true members together in the community. We should never ask that people hold back their honest selves from us. And, we should work to be honest with others. This is a key quality to the kingdom of God and the vision for Christian community. 

This is not license though to be mean. This truth telling is not license to hurt other people. It is not the freedom to get in another persons face and tell them like it is. It is not freedom to hate or be angered against another person. Hate speech, hate, being ugly, demeaning another person, humor at another's expense or in order to degrade another person, treating people poorly or in an unkind manner because you think you have the truth - is evil, sinful, and of the devil Paul says.

If you are a follower of Jesus you can't talk this way. You can't treat people this way - no matter what they do or did. You are to instead build people up, to speak words of grace, and to make sure they hear you speak of them and to them in this manner. 

God wishes to move and work through you as a witness to God's love and mercy. Hate speech and anger will not be vessels of God's love. Bitterness, wrath, anger, arguing, slander, malice and mean intent cannot be transformative vessels of God's love.

I have actually heard people say that kindness is not a biblical value. Paul would disagree. You are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving. This is the nature of Christ and when you are these to other people you are yourselves images of the Christ and much fruit will be born in the world because of your witness.

This is what it means to be imitators of God. To be a beloved Child of God is to live in love and to give your life for those who would harm you. You are to give your life and give up your mean spirited, hate speech, your ugliness, your anger and hostility, and your demeaning of other people if you are to be a child of God. No matter how just you believe your cause to be - God will not have beloved followers who do not imitate these qualities of Christ himself. In fact to behave in this fashion is to actually frustrate God's own mission and ministry in the world. 

This is not some kind of politically correct way of being - it is God's way of being. If we are to be with God and be imitators of God then we are must be about this work in the world too.

2 Samuel 18:5-33

"If the heart of David was riven between being a father and a king, Joab's actions suggest the unambiguous character of the remorseless king, full of vengeance."
Commentary, 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33, Robert Hoch, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

"It all started when David's son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar. David would not punish Amnon because he was his firstborn, leading Absalom to avenge his half-sister by killing Amnon himself."
Commentary, 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33, Ralph W. Klein, Preaching This Week,, 2015.

"If David could have done the boy's dying for him, he would have done it. If he could have paid the price for the boy's betrayal of him, he would have paid it. If he could have given his own life to make the boy alive again, he would have given it. But even a king can't do things like that. As later history was to prove, it takes a God."
"Absalom," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog. Absalom, from Beyond Words.

Oremus NRSV Text

First, if you have not done so I suggest reading or even rereading the text on David and Bathsheba from proper 12B. I will not repeat myself here. As we have pointed out previously the Succession Narritives hold within it several example of René Girard's sacred memetic themes of desire, rivalry, and scapegoating/murder.

In the story of Amnon and Tamar, the triangle consists of Amnon (the subject of desire), Tamar (the object) and Tamar's brother Absalom. Once again desire leads to rivalry and violence. Our passage this week picks up after Amnon took Tamar by force, and after years of built up sibling rivalry between men Absalom then kills Amnon.

Girard offers an explanation that this desire is rooted in the human psyche. It is metaphysical and repeats itself throughout human history. It is present in the succession narrative as it is in literature as it is in history. Bathsheba is only a pretext, an object, something that is a means to an end. We participate in repeating the damage (as we clearly see visible in the #metoo movement) because we fool ourselves into believing it is love, or that the object will satiate the hunger. In this case Tamar does not change Amnon's character. Girard reflects on this theme and writes:
The disappointment is entirely metaphysical...The subject discovers that possession of the object has not changed his being—the expected metamorphosis has not taken place The greater the apparent virtue' of the object, the more terrible is the disappointment (Girard, Deceit, Desire, ρ 88)
What was true for David and Bathsheba is repeated here again. René Girard's theory offers a model in which we can come to see clearly the repetitive, or memetic, nature where in human desire, begets rivalry, begets a crisis that ends in death.

The story of Absalom is greater still though. Absalom not only desires Tamar, he desires the kingship. He sets himself up as a duplicate of David.

Hans H. L. Jensen writes in his journal article entitled Desire, Rivalry, and Collective Violence about the subject in this way:
Absalom's death is a paradigmatic example of the blessings of collective violence, in which general violence is done away with by its transformation into an 'all versus one' scene, that is, by the elimination of one single victim. The death of Absalom is not the only instance in the Succession Narrative where this mechanism is shown at work. Just as in the case of desire, where we found no less than four instances that showed how important this theme was for the text, so we have more examples of the same mechanism of collective violence.

This will be the end of Absalom and Absalom's end is another telling of the faltering house of David.

Because in many ways Absalom himself is set up as a double to king David, it is a personal death.

Quite literally what we see is the memetic violence of Cain and Abel repeated throughout the Davidic succession narrative.

1 Kings 19:1-15

"Does this story teach us that murder is okay when we do it to defend God's honor or to enforce loyalty to God? Does God need this kind of defending?"
"Elijah, Murderer," Nanette Sawyer, The Hardest Question, 2013.

"Our journey with God sometimes calls us to do things and be things that we may not want to do, or didn't ever see ourselves doing. There might be times when things get scary. But what we can learn, through Elijah, that when things happen, and when the road gets hard… that it's ok to be afraid, or worried, or frustrated; its even ok to feel like giving up."
"Get Up And Eat," Linda Fabian Pepe, Theological Stew, 2013.

"This notice and the selection of Elisha are not divine reprimand proper, but they may sting Elijah nevertheless, serving as yet another reminder that one doesn't always get the answer one wants from God in prayer."
Commentary, 1 Kings 19:4-8, Sara Koenig, Preaching This Week,, 2012.

Oremus NRSV Text

So, here is the passage. We got trouble in the northern kingdom. Elijah is telling them judgment is coming. Jezebel is all over the Canaanite religion and God isn't happy.

We have the great western shoot out style dueling prophets on Mount Carmel. Baal prophets loose. The prophets are murdered. All is fire, like a scene out of a classic rock song. People behave, God has shown his power, Baal followers are out. Then Jezebel is a little upset and exiles Elijah and throws down a few death threats on the way.

After all of this Elijah is a bit sick and tired. He did a lot of work and the people still rejected God, and him. They killed off God's prophets. Elijah is the only faithful one left. Like Job or Moses, he is summoned. God brings him up to the mountain and speaks to him not int he whirlwind but in the quiet still voice.

Walter Brueggeman invites you to consider the following:
"So the question that I want you to think about while I talk is: Who threw the mantle over you, and what did they expect of you, and how are you doing? And if you've been at this faith business for awhile, you are permitted to ask: Over whom have you thrown a mantle of empowerment and expectation? Because the matter of apostolic succession is not just with bishops and priests. The matter of apostolic succession concerns the whole body of believers, and it is an intergenerational thing in which we are always casting the mantle on somebody else." (From a lecture in Newark)
Elisha is a great example of a prophet invited to go and do very difficult work. God speaks to him, through him, and sends him on dangerous errands. Sometimes he is alone, sometimes he has company. He is faithful but as this passage reveals it is a hard life. Even now, in the midst of this text we know that the mantle is about to fall upon Elisha.

Our work on God's behalf wether you be prophet or a member of God's prophetic community is difficult work. In the frustration of the work and its loneliness can you still hear God's voice in the midst of it all. What is God inviting you to do and where to go? Who is God inviting you to place a mantle of call upon?

Sermons Preached on These Texts

Murmuring and Grumbling on the Way to the Kingdom of God., Aug 20, 2015, Preached at All Saints Hitchcock on 14B, 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment