Engaging the Word: Readings for 8/2/15 (Tenth Sunday after Pentecost)

By Barbara Klugh

 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a; Psalm 51:1-13 Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, the prophet Nathan confronts David, Paul teaches how a diverse community can live in unity, and Jesus tells us, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Prophet Nathan confronts King David by Palma Giovane (1548-1628). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Prophet Nathan confronts King David by Palma Giovane (1548-1628). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a: In last week’s reading we learned of King David’s abuse of power by taking Bathsheba, and, when she told him she was pregnant, he attempted a cover up and ultimately arranged to have her husband Uriah killed in battle.

Our reading this week tells what happened next. Once Bathsheba’s mourning was over, David married her and she bore him a son. For the moment it looks like David got away with rape and murder, “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David, and he did so by telling a parable. A rich man with many flocks and herds killed the only beloved ewe lamb of a poor man in order to serve a meal to a traveler. Predictably, David was outraged and filled with righteous indignation, and said that the rich man deserved to die and needed to make a fourfold restitution.

Nathan then said to David, “You are the man!” Nathan continues to deliver God’s message with the consequences that will follow. For what David did, “the sword shall never depart from your house.” David’s family is condemned to terrible turmoil and strife. “For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel.”  David said, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Although not included in the Sunday lectionary readings, Nathan tells David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” But because of his deed (“you have utterly scorned the Lord”), the child shall die. The life of David continues to come undone and spills over to the family. David’s son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar, and Tamar’s brother Absalom avenges this violation by killing Amnon. Absalom usurps his father David’s throne, and he sleeps with his father’s concubines “in the sight of all Israel.”

As I’m sure we all know, our repentance and God’s forgiveness for our sins does not remove the—sometimes far-reaching—consequences.  If there is any redeeming feature to this sad tale, it’s that David didn’t waffle when Nathan confronted him with his sin. He took full responsibility for his actions. We all need a Nathan in our lives, someone who will speak the uncomfortable truths to us.

Psalm 51:1-13: The superscription of Psalm 51 is: “To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” We pray this psalm as part of our Ash Wednesday liturgy. It’s a song of repentance with a moving appeal to God’s steadfast love and mercy for cleansing and restoration, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

German text One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
German text: One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Ephesians 4:1-16: In this week’s reading, Paul considers how the Christian community is to live in unity amid diversity. All Christians have received a vocation from God and therefore are called to a life of humility and gentleness. Christians are bound together because “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

Christians are not, however, identical in temperament, personality, or gifts. We need to have a loving forbearing attitude toward one another, and use our different gifts for mutual upbuilding. Apostles prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are not the only persons called and equipped for ministry; every Christian is called to participate in God’s work in the world.

Paul Calls Christians to maturity and stability in faith, so they are not “tossed to and fro” by fads, false teachers, trickery or deceit. Paul says, “We must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”

Christ preaching before a crowd. Woodcut. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Christ preaching before a crowd. Woodcut. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

John 6:24-35: In last week’s reading, Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000. This week in the synagogue at Capernaum Jesus takes the bread as a starting point to teach a deeper lesson.

When the crowd found Jesus they asked him when he arrived, but Jesus sidestepped their question because he knew they have misinterpreted the sign of God’s power and compassion in the feeding miracle. Jesus tries to move the people from the material to the spiritual. He says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” The crowd asks Jesus how are they to perform the works of God, and Jesus tells them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So the crowd asks Jesus to show them a sign so they might believe in him—maybe rain down some manna from heaven like Moses did. Jesus corrects them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” The people said, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

God set his seal on Jesus,  the Son of Man, and on us, too. At our baptisms, we were sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own for ever. Amen.

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