Engaging the Word: Readings for 7/26/15 (Ninth Sunday after Pentecost)

 By Barbara Klugh

2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. Great readings this week—from sin to lamentation to  prayer to miracles.

David and Bathsheba by Lagrenee (1724-1805). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
David and Bathsheba by Lagrenee (1724-1805). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

2 Samuel 11:1-15: Our readings for this week and next focus on the story of David and Bathsheba, the story of a powerful king who takes the wife of one of his soldiers. In this week’s reading, David stays home in his palace in Jerusalem while his army is fighting the Ammonites. This is odd because it is springtime, “when kings go out to battle.” One late afternoon, strolling along the balcony, he sees a very beautiful woman bathing. He learns that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his officers, who is away serving in King David’s army. Taking advantage of his power, David has Bathsheba brought to his palace and “he lay with her.” Bathsheba becomes pregnant and tells David.

Then the cover up begins. David sends for Uriah and encourages him to sleep with his wife, so that the baby will be acknowledged as Uriah’s. But Uriah, respecting the sexual abstinence prescribed in time of war, said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.”

His plan foiled by Uriah’s integrity, David then sends Uriah back to the front, with a letter to Joab. The letter said, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” So David resorts to murder to cover up his adultery.

We will continue the story in next week’s reading as we learn of the consequences of David’s abuse of power.

Psalm 14: This week’s psalm is attributed to David, who laments the breakdown of society—people are fools (coarse and brutal), society is corrupt, and sin is rampant. He declares that God opposes the wicked and prays that the Lord will deliver them and restore the fortunes of his people. Given our Old Testament reading, I can read this psalm not as a lament by David, but as an indictment against David.

St. Paul by Unknown Artist (before 1686). Public domain via Wikipedia Commons.
St. Paul by Unknown Artist (before 1686). Public domain via Wikipedia Commons.

Ephesians 3:14-21: Earlier in the chapter, Paul wrote about the mystery that was made known in Christ: “it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

In this week’s reading Paul offers a prayer for the body of Christ, celebrating the unity of creation under Christ. He prays that the indwelling Holy Spirit will strengthen their inner beings; that the Risen Jesus may be the source of their outward expression of love;  that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith, and that they “may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Paul concludes with a familiar doxology that we pray at the close of Evening Prayer: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

John 6:1-21: This week we read about two miracles by Jesus—The Feeding of the Five Thousand and Walking on Water. In his sermon on July 19, Daniel gave an interesting explanation of these miracles as recorded in Mark’s Gospel. Even though the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) has assigned Year B to focus on Mark’s Gospel, the Lectionary Task Force selected to use the account in John’s Gospel. You can read Mark 6:30-52 for his versions. And if you missed church, you can listen to Daniel’s sermon.

Miracle of the Bread and Fish by Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647) Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Miracle of the Bread and Fish by Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647) Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

In our reading, Jesus has crossed the Sea of Galilee where the crowds continued to follow him. It was near the time of Passover, which connects the event of the feeding of the five thousand to the Last Supper. Upon seeing the large crowd, Jesus asks Philip how they are going to feed all these people. This was a test by Jesus because he already “knew what he was going to do.”

Philip points out that the impossibility of the job because it would cost more than half a year’s wages. Andrew said there was a boy with five barley loaves and two fish, but doesn’t believe that enough for the crowd. Neither disciple can imagine that these meager resources will meet so great a need.

Jesus had the people sit down. “Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’” The leftover fragments filled twelve baskets.  As I read somewhere, God may be extravagant, but he isn’t wasteful.

The crowd recognizes that something amazing has happened and began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” The crowd was so excited that they wanted to make Jesus king, so he withdrew to the mountain by himself.

The disciples set out in their boat. It was dark and the sea became rough. Then “they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat and were terrified. But Jesus said, “It is I; do not be afraid.” When the disciples were about to take Jesus into the boat, miraculously the boat reached their destination.

I don’t remember where I got this note: Jesus’ self-identification, “It is I,” is literally (in Greek), “I am,” ego eimi.  This is the expression by which God made himself known in the Old Testament. So the crowd may think Jesus is a prophet, but Jesus reveals himself to his disciples (and to us) as the Lord.

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