Lectionary Preview study materials: Pentecost 3
(study on 9 June)
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
Exaudiat te Dominus
1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble, *
the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;
2 Send you help from his holy place *
and strengthen you out of Zion;
3 Remember all your offerings *
and accept your burnt sacrifice;
4 Grant you your heart’s desire *
and prosper all your plans.
5 We will shout for joy at your victory
and triumph in the Name of our God; *
may the Lord grant all your requests.
6 Now I know that the Lord gives victory to his anointed; *
he will answer him out of his holy heaven,
with the victorious strength of his right hand.
7 Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, *
but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God.
8 They collapse and fall down, *
but we will arise and stand upright.
9 O Lord, give victory to the king *
and answer us when we call.
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
[Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.] For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
ECUSA Pentecost 3 June 13, 2021 Brian B. Pinter
RCL: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; Psalm 20; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, [11-13],14-17; Mark 4:26-34
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
By the standards of his day, David was a most unlikely choice to be the future king. His family had no status and no wealth. Nor did David’s pedigree portend greatness – his great grandmother was Ruth, a foreigner, and his great grandfather was Boaz, a descendant of Tamar, a woman who seduced her father-in-law. What’s more, David was the youngest boy, another defiance of convention. Yet – God sees what is not readily apparent to us and brings about grace and renewal from the most unlikely of places and people.
Scholars call this text the “history of David’s rise.” The theme of “seeing” is highlighted several times through the use of the Hebrew ra’a, “to see” in 16:1, 6, 7, and 12. David’s rise is not based on outward appearance alone, but rather on what lies in the secret places of the heart. To see ourselves and others as God saw David requires discernment and trust in God’s ability to channel grace through the most surprising vehicles.
- How might God be inviting us to “see” grace in circumstances, people, or events in the last places we would normally look?
Our psalm for today might have been written for a king offering sacrifice and prayers at the Temple before heading into battle. Themes of victory and divine support are highlighted throughout this poem, which makes masterful use of synonymous and antithetical parallelism, literary devices often used in Hebrew poetry.
While we might hear in these verses “God-is-on-our-side” cheerleading, we could also interpret the psalm as anti-militaristic. After all, “Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,” but “we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God” (v.7). We are invited to ask, “In whom or what do we place our deepest trust?” Psalm 20 affirms that the Lord answers our pleas and grants our requests; we don’t place our ultimate faith in weapons or human leaders. Furthermore, Christian interpreters have read this psalm Christologically, seeing in verses six and seven a foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus, and his call to non-violence as the ultimate symbol of trust in the Lord’s holy name.
- Where in our collective and personal lives are we being called to deeper trust in the Lord?
2 Cor 5:6-10, 14-17
Paul uses the metaphors of being “at home” and “away from home” to sort out what is important from what is not. While this might seem a confusing way to go about it, Paul’s audience would have understood that he was employing Stoic philosophy to make his point. The Stoics liked to categorize things into what they called the “preferreds” and “not preferreds.” For example, it didn’t matter to them if you were to eat sumptuous meals, but if given a choice, why not? For Paul, given a choice, why not be with the Lord and finished with his body and earthly life (which, as he likes to point out, caused him all kinds of trouble!)? Paul tells the Corinthians that he put his own preference aside because it is God’s will that Paul be with them (he was not above playing the sympathy card!).
Paul also wants to underscore that how we conduct ourselves as we carry out our everyday lives (“in the body”) matters. Paul strongly believes that God will hold us accountable. In the Orthodox Christian liturgy, this theme is echoed in a weekly prayer of petition: “For a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ, let us ask of the Lord.” The way we do anything is the way we do everything; it all matters and it all adds up to something.
Finally, let’s take a moment to unpack the most well-known words from this passage, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” This phrase captures Paul’s wisdom about where we should seek our purpose and direction. Externals – image, status, wealth, relative success – are not the ultimate measure of who we are; they are but a temporary illusion. Just think – if we judged Jesus by his “externals”, would anyone take him seriously? Born out of wedlock, paternity questioned, associated with low-class people, no money (and is apparently “kept” by some wealthy women [Luke 8:1-3]), dies a criminal. Yet we know better than to make our judgments about him on these external attributes. Paul’s words are a call to go deeper, both within ourselves and with others.
- Where do you feel this call to move beyond externals and go deeper – either within yourself or with others?
Parables are powerful teaching tools. They sift wisdom from our everyday experience, wisdom we often overlook. Parables are also multivalent, that is, they can be interpreted in a number of ways. Above all, parables invite us to draw our own conclusions. A teacher who uses parables shows respect for her/his audience. John Wesley put it this way: “He spake the word as they were able to hear it – adapting it to the capacity of his hearers; and speaking as plain as he could without offending them. A rule never to be forgotten by those who instruct others.”
Our text relates two parables about seeds. Both play on the smallness of the seed and how so much that is consequential is happening when no one notices (cf. Paul’s and 1 Samuel’s points about internals and externals). But it is the mustard seed parable that I think would have been most arresting for Jesus’ first-century audience. You see, the mustard bush was considered a weed, and a virulent one at that. The rabbis taught that one could not plant mustard in the same garden as other crops. There always had to be a wall between it and anything else. Why? Once mustard took root, it was nearly impossible to control. It would crowd out everything else.
We also note that the mustard bush is not the largest of trees and shrubs – “largest” is a bad translation. Rather, it is the “greatest” (from the Greek “meizon panton” – “greater than all”). Why? It is a place where “the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” The kingdom of God, it seems, does not mirror the powerful kingdoms of the world, yet it is a place where people will find peace. There’s wisdom in this – as we as a church go about our work for the kingdom, we don’t need to focus on being the largest or loudest, but a safe refuge where all the “birds” will find peace.
- How do we continue to create a church that is a safe refuge for all?
- How does it strike you to imagine Jesus trying to make his audience laugh?
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.