18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 13), Year B
2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a
In the Jewish tradition, there is a prayer, the Shema, that articulates the most important beliefs in the Jewish faith. The complete text includes Deuteronomy 6:4, 11:13–21; and Numbers 15:37–41. It is to be spoken faithfully twice a day in morning and evening prayer services. It is probably familiar to you, beginning "Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God; the LORD is one." It is a prayer that calls people to speak these central truths faithfully to the children, to keep them close at hand in their homes, to speak them for themselves throughout the day.
Throughout the scriptures there are stories, prayers, and songs that bear repeating. In their repetition, they slowly become part of the fabric of our understanding and our mysteries. There are weeks when the lectionary texts tie together with a neat little thematic bow. This week, the connection for us was more about the centrality of the teaching in each text. These are foundational texts for Christians.
In 2 Samuel, David's world is unraveling around his poor choice to have relations with Bathsheba and to have her husband, Uriah the Hittite, killed in battle. Nathan (can we pause to say that we really appreciate Nathan?) the prophet comes to David with a story about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man has large flocks, and the poor man has only one beloved ewe which he treasures. Along comes a weary traveler, and the rich man cannot bear to slaughter any of his flock, so he calls for the poor man's ewe. David is incensed by the injustice of the rich man, and then Natan neatly points out that David is the rich man. He has stolen Bathsheba, Uriah's treasure, for his own pleasure. As a result, David and all of Israel will suffer. And if you continue reading, David's kingdom is fraught with turmoil. David realizes pretty quickly that Nathan has brought him a profound truth. He has sinned against the LORD and that cannot bode well and he knows this. He knows it deep in his being because he has been raised with these stories and truths. He has considered himself a faithful servant and something very real (lust, greed, desire) got in the way. But David has to keep plodding forward, even knowing that he has done something wrong in the sight of God. He can't just stop and curl up in the fetal position and take his knocks. He has to keep ruling, keep being in relationships with his people. Now it is not lost on us that Jesus was understood to be a descendant of this ancient king. The line of David was and is important to this story about God and his relationship with humans. It doesn't all end with one bad move. It keeps moving forward.
Psalm 51 is a prayer of confession and repentance that relates pretty directly to what David must have experienced. The psalmist prays for cleansing and for further teaching and understanding. It doesn't end with the one bad move. Something has to be gained from that one bad move that informs the rest of life.
In the passage from the Ephesians, there is some very fundamental teaching about the church as one body - the body of Christ. We have to admit certain leanings here. We are pretty clear in our own world that the church was not created for itself, to become something self-feeding, but instead the church is a gathering of souls knit together to be the hands and feet and lymph nodes and heart and stomach and tongue of Christ in the world. The Ephesians passage was probably written to a church community facing many challenges - different teachings, a waning belief in the Jesus who walked and talked and performed miracles and then was crucified, dead, and buried and rose from the dead. It was probably a community facing the perils of a material world, struggling with natural human tendencies to build empires of leadership and hierarchy and structure and rules. But the author of the epistle is clear, "we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ..." It's not about these other things, you see. It is about knowing and loving Christ, and in doing so, loving the whole world.
Finally, in the passage from John, we continue along a path with Jesus and his disciples. They have fed the crowds with loaves and fishes, and now they have moved on, across the water to Capernaum. And the crowd has followed Jesus and the disciples. These people have grown somewhat accustomed to seeing Jesus perform amazing miracles and they continue to seek his miracles as ongoing proof of his specialness. But Jesus reframes a fundamental understanding. Moses was the LORD's vehicle for distributing manna to the Israelites. In much the same way, Jesus explains that it is not Jesus doing these things on earth, but God's work. But there is a bit of a difference - Jesus isn't the vehicle, Jesus is actually the manna, the bread of life. Wow. And it is the responsibility of these people to share this bread with others...that is how they will perform the works of God...sharing Jesus. Wow. It's like a precursor to "Love one another."
The scriptures are rich with the very lessons that are the warp and the weft of our souls if we allow them to be. This week was a special gift of reminders for us. How about you?
What stories, lessons, songs or teachings can you not live without in scripture? in other writings?
How do you share these with the world?
Father, Abba, LORD, God -
Fill my heart.
Fill my head.
Fill my lips.
Fill my hands.
- use me.
Use my heart.
Use my head.
Use my lips.
Use my hands and feet.
© matt & laura norvell 2009 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Peace be with you.
thank you so much for your inspired thoughts on the lectionary. I especially love your prayer poems.
Posted by: Ruth Smith | 07/31/2009 at 08:24 AM
Thanks for the inspiration...
Posted by: Joel | 08/01/2009 at 09:58 PM