Lectionary Preview study materials: Pentecost 7 (11 July)
(study on 7 July)
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.
So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.
Domini est terra
1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, *
the world and all who dwell therein.
2 For it is he who founded it upon the seas *
and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.
3 “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? ” *
and who can stand in his holy place?”
4 “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, *
who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,
nor sworn by what is a fraud.
5 They shall receive a blessing from the Lord *
and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, *
of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
7 Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
8 “Who is this King of glory?” *
“The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.”
9 Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
10 “Who is he, this King of glory?” *
“The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
King Herod heard of Jesus and his disciples, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
ECUSA COMMENTARY on Lectionary for Pentecost 7
Pentecost 7 July 11, 2021 Brian B. Pinter
RCL: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
We often hear this passage cited as support for liturgical dance. These 13 verses, however, can be interpreted as a challenge to reflect on the possibilities as well as the serious dangers of linking religious symbolism with political power. Scripture scholar Bruce C. Birch’s comments on this passage highlight the ambiguities of the king’s creation of a new capital city centered on an object that symbolizes God’s presence – “David’s intense personal involvement is either a genuine recognition and honoring of true power in the Lord (represented by the ark) or a manipulation of religious symbols for the sake of his own enhanced power.”
The merging of religion and politics remains a spiritually charged, ambiguous matter today. Religious symbols and prayers at inaugural ceremonies, for example, remind us of the accountability leaders have to God, as well as the grave responsibilities entrusted to those who serve. Recent events in American politics are as “exhibit A” of the shadow side of such symbolism – political figures being interpreted in Messianic terms, political contests being cast as a struggle between God’s people and Satan, and prominent religious leaders unabashedly endorsing politicians. Our experiences show us how religion has the power to constellate deep, unconscious, primordial energies, and politics can trigger our base tendency toward tribalism. While religious symbolism can have an appropriate place in our politics, our reading from 2 Samuel stands as a warning to those who cavalierly link the two!
- How can we responsibly use religious symbolism in our politics and exercise of secular authority? Is it at all possible?
Psalm 24 might have been a “song of ascent”, i.e., a hymn pilgrims sang as they approached the holy city of Jerusalem. As they climbed the hill to the Temple, we can imagine them singing in call and response – “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord?” “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart!” (vv 3-4). This beautiful poem invites one to ask – as children of Israel’s God, how ought we to live personally and collectively?
Our psalm echoes the Decalogue and foreshadows the Sermon on the Mount. All three sacred texts are instructions on how one is called to live in light of the reality that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (v. 1). All choices, all actions, all activities take place under this foundational principle – we live and have our being within God’s reign.
The Psalmist references seas and rivers (v.2) – ancient symbols of chaos over which the God of Israel brings order and then creation (cf. Genesis 1). Verses 7-10 underscore the power and strength of this Warrior King who achieves a decisive victory over these anarchic energies. Those who pray with this psalm are invited to become co-creators with God, participating in the ongoing work of bringing order to the forces of moral chaos and injustice which continually threaten human dignity.
- How are you being called to co-create with God a more just, moral, dignified world?
The scripture scholar Pheme Perkins writes, “Ephesians indicates that the purpose of our election is to praise God’s glory. We cannot engage in that praise without the ability to perceive God’s redeeming power at work.” The opening verses of the letter are a call to recognize how our lives have been transformed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, how we are transformed in the way we see the universe, the way we understand ourselves, the way we live our lives. Whereas the gospels tell us about the earthly ministry of Jesus, Ephesians speaks of what Jesus is doing now. In the understanding of our author here (traditionally Paul, but in reality pseudonymous), Jesus has brought us spiritual blessing, forgiveness of sin, and adoption as God’s people.
We notice that redemption (Greek apolytrosin, meaning “release effected by a payment of ransom”) is mentioned twice in our text. The author might be building on a metaphor used by Paul in earlier letters – enslavement to Sin (with a capital S). Paul understood Sin to be a cosmic power that has enslaved all. It’s a power that forces us to be self-centered; to live by the false values of the world. The only way to escape this power was to die and go to a different mode of existence. Jesus escapes the power of Sin through his death, a journey we participate in through baptism. What’s more, in the resurrection, Jesus is raised in power, a power that is shared with us. This energy creates a new life for us, a life in community where we work to counter the power of Sin and mitigate its effects in the world. This is redemption. It’s a new way to live, the way God dreamed and planned it to be, God’s will “for the fullness of time.”
Our verses from Ephesians invite us to claim our “inheritance,” to claim this power to live a transformed life. This is an invitation to do something great; to partner with God in the work of transformation, to bring this experience of “redemption” to all – because it is their birthright.
- How can we claim our “redemption” (as this text understands it) and share it with others?
A number of stories from the Hebrew scriptures foreshadow the tale of Herod and John – for example, Ahab, Jezebel, and Elijah, Jephthah’s daughter, Esther, who convinces a king to pledge half his kingdom, and Judith, who seduces Holofernes, only to cut off his head! Mark, in composing this story, was using an ancient form of biblical interpretation called typology, wherein stories about God’s saving work throughout history are shown to correspond.
Our gospel story bears a warning to those who have the privilege of exercising authority – beware the temptation to “save face”. Herod Antipas, an otherwise able administrator, talks himself into a situation where he finds it necessary, in order to maintain his persona, ego, and grip on power, to sacrifice an innocent. This must be an archetypal dynamic, as we see it repeated and replayed throughout history, including in our own era. We also note that sex has tentacles running through this episode, as well. Herod violated the Mosaic Law by marrying his brother’s wife, then her daughter beguiles the leading men of Galilee with a dance. Sex and power, along with money, exercise an influence over the human psyche that is bewitching! Of course, the Herods of the world ought to be condemned for their sacrificing of truth and justice to save their own skin, but then again, isn’t there a bit of this Herod in each of us?
- How does this reading invite you to face your own Herod-like shadow, that part of yourself that will do almost anything to save face, to avoid humiliation, to win?
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.