Lectionary Preview study materials: Pentecost 9 ( 25 July)
(study on 21 July)
2 Samuel 11:1-15
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Samuel 11:1-15
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah 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.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”
1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” *
All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;
there is none who does any good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all, *
to see if there is any who is wise,
if there is one who seeks after God.
3 Every one has proved faithless;
all alike have turned bad; *
there is none who does good; no, not one.
4 Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers *
who eat up my people like bread
and do not call upon the Lord?
5 See how they tremble with fear, *
because God is in the company of the righteous.
6 Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted, *
but the Lord is their refuge.
7 Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion! *
when the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.
2 Kings 4:42-44
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.
Exaltabo te, Deus
10 All your works praise you, O Lord, *
and your faithful servants bless you.
11 They make known the glory of your kingdom *
and speak of your power;
12 That the peoples may know of your power *
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; *
your dominion endures throughout all ages.
14 The Lord is faithful in all his words *
and merciful in all his deeds.
15 The Lord upholds all those who fall; *
he lifts up those who are bowed down.
16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, *
and you give them their food in due season.
17 You open wide your hand *
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.
18 The Lord is righteous in all his ways *
and loving in all his works.
19 The Lord is near to those who call upon him, *
to all who call upon him faithfully.
I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
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.
Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 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.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
Pentecost 9 July 25, 2021 Brian B. Pinter
RCL: 2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21
2 Samuel 11:1-15
Not only was David an inspired leader, but he was also the “Don Corleone” of his age. This king reveals his mafioso-like cunning – he carefully arranges the death of an unwitting rival while distancing himself from the terrible deed. It is most notable that the authors and editors of 2 Samuel preserved this unflattering story and included it in their compilation (the authors of Chronicles, an operatic presentation of the events recorded in Samuel, omit David’s wicked action). Popular piety through the ages has tried to soften David’s sins in this episode – blame has been shifted to Bathsheba (she seduced him), or the motive was actually David’s deep love for the woman. According to some ancient rabbis, the marriage of a Hittite – Uriah – to an Israelite woman was offensive to the Lord and David acted heroically to right this wrong! In reality, David was an adulterer and a murder. We might see in him the amalgamation of light and shadow that characterizes each of us. We are all vulnerable, vulnerable to the temptations of power, wealth, and sex, and no matter how holy, righteous, and confident in our goodness we might be, shadow lurks just below the surface, waiting for an opportunity. David had every gift but the most essential – self-knowledge.
- How does this story of David’s transgressions invite you to ponder your own shadow side and capacity for evil?
Psalm 14 bears witness to a perennial truth – we all sometimes live as if there is no God. This way characterizes what the psalmist calls the “fool.” We also notice, however, a tension in these verses between the evildoers and “my people” (vv 1-3 and 4-6.) We might interpret this as the tension we all carry as we grapple with the reality that we are light and shadow. Each of us has the capacity to turn not only away from but against God in our actions, words, and choices. Yet we all know what it is to flee to God for refuge when we realize there is nowhere else to turn. These internal contradictions we carry are not a failing but rather the human condition. Our psalm invites us to deeper self-knowledge and awareness of our shadow.
We could also interpret this poem as lamenting inordinate human pride and the illusion of control. J Clinton McCann, in his New Interpreter’s Bible commentary on the Psalms, reflects, “What is truly shocking is that what Psalm 14 calls foolishness and what other psalms call wickedness, is essentially what our culture teaches people to be – autonomous, self-directed, self-sufficient…We don’t need other people and we don’t need God!” Who among us is unaffected to some extent by this mindset? No one, “no, not one…” (v3).
- How might Psalm 14 invite us to deeper self-knowledge and shadow work, individually and collectively?
The second-generation Christians who received these words faced extraordinary existential questions, for they witnessed their founding members – the apostles – and many of their brothers and sisters in the church face torture, exile, and martyrdom. What’s more, by the time this text was composed, the Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed – the one external symbol of God’s presence and a visible connection to the faith of their ancestors. Now, the only people in their world who had holy gathering places were those who worshipped the emperor and gods of Rome; the Christians had no external supports. Therefore, the prayer that they be strengthened in their inner being through the power of the Spirit (v16) carried powerful resonance. The image of being rooted, as if in a nurturing garden of love, carries the symbolism of tapping inner strength in the fertile soil of Christ.
Finally, we note that the author begins this prayer with a sentiment that challenges us today as powerfully as it did our ancestors-in-faith 2000 years ago – God is the loving father of every “family” (the Greek patria can also be rendered “clan”). Theirs was an era similar to our own in its factions and polarization, yet the Ephesians are being called to reclaim and live in the reality that all belong to God.
- How are you being invited to nurture and become more deeply rooted in your “inner being with power through [the] Spirit”?
I’ve often heard preachers try to explain this Gospel by saying that Jesus convinced the people to share their food with each other. Their open-heartedness and mutuality were the true miracles. This is a fine lesson, but there is something deeper here – the power of the “Bread of Life” in the face of overwhelmingly hopeless circumstances. Let’s briefly explore what this text might teach us about Christian hope, as well as the notion of testing (v6) and finally the move to make Jesus king (v15).
We note that John evokes the memory of the Exodus by setting this story in the wilderness near the time of the Passover festival. Those sacred events from Israel’s past were also apparently hopeless situations overcome by the creative, surprising power of God. Ronald Rolheiser observes, “What do we need to understand about the loaves? We need to understand that we are with the bread of life, everything we need to feed the world we already have…We have the resources already; though on the surface those resources will always look over-matched, hopeless, dwarfed, nonsensical, wishful thinking. On the surface, invariably, we will look…not up to the task of …feeding a hungry, greedy world.” Hope is trust that God, with our cooperation, will find a way.
John records that Jesus questioned Philip to “test” him (Greek peirazon). This word is also used in Matthew 4 (the “Temptation” narrative). Does God test us? Many well-meaning people attribute hardship in their lives to the testing of God (or the devil). I think they’re trying to say that God is present with them when it’s difficult. But the notion that God “tests” us is discomfiting. Adults don’t do that to each other – we call that “mind games.” When the Bible talks about testing, we might interpret that as saying that life sends us challenges and God watches how we respond. This is what Jesus was doing with Philip.
Finally, notice how Jesus runs from the move to make him king. This desire to “crown” Jesus is the reaction of people who are “amazed” (never a positive thing in the Gospels!). Jesus realizes this is a gut response from an overwrought people. It’s not from discernment, from maturity, from the soul. Jesus models for us how the spiritually conscious leader responds to and redirects the overwrought energies of excitable people.
- Where in your life are you being called to exercise the kind of “hope” discussed above?
Brian B. Pinter is a teacher of religious studies at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx and a Pastoral Associate at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan.