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.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Proper 13A/Ordinary 18A/Pentecost +8 August 3, 2014

Quotes That Make Me Think


"Dostoevsky, in the magnificent "The Grand Inquisitor" chapter of The Brothers Karamazov, ties the matter of bread and hunger to the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11."
Commentary, Matthew 14:13-21, (Pentecost 7), Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.

"The last supper makes sense in the light of all the other meals including this one and they make sense in the light of the vision of liberation and reconciliation which inspired them. To receive him in bread and wine is also to participate in the vision and nourishment which makes it possible."
"First Thoughts on Year A Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 7, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer

Loving God as a mother tenderly gathers her children and as a father joyfully welcomes his own, so in the compassion of Jesus you nurture and nourish us, feed us and heal us.  Let the bread Jesus multiplied then in the wilderness be broken and shared among us now.  May the communion we experience with each other in this holy meal, compel us to seek communion with everyone in loving service toward all. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 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 A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on Matthew 14:13-21

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

Not unlike the grace imparted in the Eucharistic meal the feeding of the five thousand connects Jesus' ministry of feeding people with God's continuous outpouring of love.

Certainly, the Gospel author tells his story in such a way that the feeding events in the Matthean narrative are linked.  They give shape and image to the final feast.  Matthew's vision of Jesus as Christ and as provider shapes the story even in the telling.

This passage comes in the midst of the fourth largest section of the Gospel. It echoes the abundance of the previous passages on the kingdom of God and not unlike a sacrament it puts flesh on the images of parables that Jesus has been offering those who have ears. In a way, the feeding of the five thousand is an incarnation of the kingdom parables.  Jesus is showing that the kingdom is all around and that God's grace abounds in the fields and on the hill tops not only in the sanctuaries.  He is showing that the mandate to care and love and feed one another is a commandment that will not be confined to the rules of the religiously powerful.

He is also manifesting a very real kingdom community.  The signs and stories, the symbols and the miracles, are now embracing an ever expanding vision and reality which is the growing kingdom.

The New Testament scholar Gerhardsson comments:

In Matthew's time the Eucharist had probably not yet been made fully distinct from the satiating common meals in the early Christian communities.  Thus Eucharistic symbolism does not exclude the possibility that the story is concerned with the satisfaction of elementary bodily hunger -- and vice versa."(Allison/Davies, Matthew, p 492)

The Davies and Allison Commentary continues the theme:

In other words, the spiritualizing of 14:13-21 on Matthew's part does not discount the equal emphasis upon Jesus as the one who can meet mundane, physical needs.  Our pericope therefore both shows Jesus' concern for such 'non-religous' needs and likewise demonstrates his ability to act in accord with that concern.  So the christological assertion that Jesus is  Lord of all seems implicit. (Ibid)
In the miracle of the multiplication of fish and loaves the Christian Church as a vision of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, through whom all things were made.  We have a vision of Jesus modeling a stewardship of abundance that insures that the world is not simply a place of consumption ("This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away"); but rather that all creation is seen as bountiful for a sustainable kingdom of God ("They need not go away.")

The miracle challenges us to see the possibilities of a church at work in the world.  It challenges us to move out as missionaries into our culture of scarcity and seek to transform the world by bringing real food to all those who are hungry.  Instead of sending them away to other agencies or expecting the government to care we, the Episcopal Church and the Church, must take our rightful place as the hands of God.  We must feed the world and make real the kingdom. We must make the Gospel story of our bible, the one of parable and miracle, a reality.  Only when we re-engage the world as the incarnational body of Christ at work (meeting the very real needs) will the world listen to the Good News we also offer.

For far too long the Church has squabbled over the idea that it is either evangelism or outreach. This Gospel lesson reminds us that service to the poor, with whom Jesus identified himself, and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God go hand in hand.


"People these days ask God to damn lots of things. I have, too; but I've never had the nerve to include myself on the list. Paul did, offering to surrender his own salvation in Christ if it could make a difference."
Commentary, Romans 9:1-5, Matt Skinner, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.

"The identity of the Messiah is the greatest of God's gifts to Paul's kindred according to the flesh. This brings Paul to the only words that can express the focus of all that he has said in these introductory words?a doxology of praise to God?'God blessed forever. Amen!'"
Commentary, Romans 9:1-5, Paul S. Berge, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2008.

Romans is a magnificent text by Paul.  We have covered a great deal of theological breadth.  He has offered an understanding of how God is at work in the world even now and making it new. He has given us an understanding of the life of the disciple who follows Jesus, is baptized, and forever adopted into union with God.  He has given us hope in our suffering and an understanding nothing can separate us from the love of God.

In this part of Romans he deals with the issue that the Jews have rejected Christ and the Good News of Salvation.  Paul, a Jew himself, wishes this was not so.  Paul would do anything to help the Jews come to Christ.  Then Paul offers these insights. They are insights worth pondering as we seek a healthy relationship with our brothers and sisters with whom we share the Abrahamic faith.

  • The Jews also called the Israelites are inheritors of God's promise to Abraham.  They are adopted like us and children of God.
  • God has been present with them in the desert and in the Temple and continues his presence among them.
  • God is faithful to his promises and so will keep his covenants made with their forefathers - Adam, Noah, Moses, and David of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  • God has given them the law to follow and it expresses his will at Sinai and his desire for them to worship.
  • Their continual and faithful worship is essential in their life with God.

Paul though also believes that Jesus is their gift as well.  God is the one who chooses and not the Jews. This is where Paul believes they have gone wrong. God has chosen Jesus to fulfill the law and to unite all humanity to God.  So, while they have so much they lack the one thing.

I think the challenge this passage presents to us is the reality that God is continuing to move and work in the world around us. We like the Jews of Paul's time may be too assured in our certainty and may in fact - like them - be missing the work the Holy Spirit is undertaking outside our churches. Just as the Jews could not see a religion freed to the masses beyond the confines of the Temple so too we may have a difficult time seeing God at work in the world around us.  We may count upon our lineage and adoption too much.  Paul is willing to give it all up to participate in the emerging faith around him. What are we willing to give up so that others may have life and have it abundantly?

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