Engaging the Word: Readings for 7/19/15 (Eighth Sunday after Pentecost)

By Barbara Klugh 

2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34,53-56. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, God promises David that his “house” will last forever, Paul tells us that through Christ the barriers between Jews and Gentiles have been broken down, and we see further examples of Jesus’ compassionate ministry.

Nathan advises King David by Matthias Schelts (1630-1700). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Nathan advises King David by Matthias Schelts (1630-1700). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

2 Samuel 7:1-14a: This week’s reading is a significant passage in the Hebrew Bible as it tells the story of the establishment of the Davidic Covenant, God’s promise to David that his dynasty would last forever.

In last week’s reading, the ark was brought to Jerusalem. In this week’s reading, King David is settled in his palace, and “the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies.” David didn’t think it was right that he lived in a king’s palace while the ark of God was housed in a portable  tent.  He spoke with the prophet Nathan, who told David to go ahead with whatever he had in mind, “for the Lord is with you.”

That night Nathan received an oracle message for David that God didn’t want David to build him a house. Through Nathan, God reminds David that he traveled with the Israelites through the desert, and took David from herding sheep to his role as king, has been with him and protected him from his enemies every step of the way. God says he will build David a house—a  different kind of house—a royal dynasty. The Lord declares, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”

As David’s dynasty is assured of God’s continued favor, God’s presence in Israel is no longer tied to the ark but to God’s promises. When David’s son Solomon died and ten of the twelve tribes rebelled, the covenant with David stood. When the Davidic kingdom was brought to an end by the Babylonians, the people still looked to God to send another anointed one, a messiah, in David’s line. He came, and his name is Jesus.

Psalm 89:20-37: Our portion of this week’s psalm meshes very well with our Old Testament reading. The psalmist sings the song of God’s covenant and promise to David of an everlasting dynasty of kings. “His line shall endure for ever and his throne as the sun before me; It shall stand fast for evermore like the moon, the abiding witness in the sky.”

Not part of this week’s lectionary or ever included in the Sunday Scriptures, the psalm’s tone changes at verse 38, and God’s promise is called into question by an unspecified defeat—probably related to the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity. The psalmist calls upon God to remember his covenant with the family of David.

Saint Paul by Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Saint Paul by Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Ephesians 2:11-22: In the first century, Jews were separated from Gentiles by religious, cultural, and social barriers. In this week’s reading Paul contrasts the old life with the new life that eliminates these barriers through oneness in Christ.

Paul reminds the Gentiles of the ways in which they were alienated from God. They were without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God. Christ seeks to bring those near who were far away. Christ’s death and resurrection dissolved the physical and spiritual dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles and reconciles all with God. He created one new humanity—Christians. Christ reconciled this new humanity to God through the cross.

Jews and Gentiles now enjoy a new relationship with God and a common bond with one another. Believers, Jew and Gentile, are fellow citizens in the kingdom of God, members of the household of God. It is the community that forms a new spiritual temple by embodying the presence of God, with the prophets and apostles as the foundation and Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of the living temple.

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56: As you may remember in our reading of two weeks ago, Jesus sent out the disciples two by two, giving them authority over evil forces. They anointed and cured many who were sick. Last week, Mark’s Gospel inserted the story of John the Baptist’s death; this week we return to the main story as the twelve return from their journey.

The sick are brought to Christ by Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet (1644-1717). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The sick are brought to Christ by Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet (1644-1717). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The apostles tell Jesus about their missionary journey, and Jesus realizes that the twelve are tired, and he leads them to the boat so they could go to a deserted place and get some rest. Because of the crowds, they didn’t even have time to eat. It didn’t work. They—both Jesus and the twelve—were recognized and the crowd hurried on foot so they would arrive before Jesus and the disciples. So when they went ashore, the crowd was already there and, instead of hopping back into the boat, Jesus “had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

The Lectionary Task Force chose to omit vs. 35-52, which is Mark’s account of the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the sea. (We will read these stories next week in the Gospel according to John.) Our reading continues after the two omitted scenes with Jesus and his disciples getting out of the boat at Gennesaret on the western shore. Once again the people recognize Jesus and “began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.” They begged Jesus to touch the fringe of his cloak; “and all who touched it were healed.”





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