Monthly Archives: July 2015

10th Sunday After Pentecost, August 2, 2015

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a, Psalm 51:1-13, Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:24-35

2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a

“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord…” (11:27). Though David sought to cover his sins, God reveals his sins through the prophet Nathan’s story of how the rich man takes advantage by requiring the poor man’s pet lamb. David’s transgressions were no longer secret.

The lesson for each of us is: Even our best effort to cover our sins – though it may work for a while – will eventually prove to be ineffective, because God ultimately will expose them, so that He can forgive them.

Ephesians 4:1-16

Having been united by their faith in Christ, believers should desire to prove themselves worthy of their new condition. They should be at peace with each other (4:1–3), remembering all that they have in common (4:4–6).

When Christ ascended to heaven, he distributed a wealth of spiritual gifts to his followers (4:7–11) to enable them to minister together as his body on earth and to bring each believer to spiritual maturity (4:12–16).

John 6:24-35

Since Jesus fed the 5,000 from just a little bread and fish, crowds hounded him. They were drawn by the promise of food and the prospect of miracles. Jesus tries to explain that the bread is merely a sign. The ‘true bread from heaven’ is the eternal life that God gives.

BreadYears before, God had given the Israelites manna from heaven. It was a daily miracle, but the food didn’t last and the people eventually died. Now Jesus declares, ‘I am the bread of life’ (6:35). Those who believe in him will never be spiritually hungry and will have eternal life.

Eat Your Fill

Someone wise once said that building spiritual muscle and physical muscle have a lot in common: How well you do depends on which appetite you feed. It takes discipline to eat the vegetables and skip the fried foods. It requires self-control to pick up the fruit and put down the chocolate. When we enjoy too many cookies and not enough carrots, it shows.

Likewise, it takes humility and the strength of the Holy Spirit working in us to embrace the disciplines of prayer, meditation, and God-centered focus. It’s often tempting to fill up on the “spiritual junk food” that feeds instant gratification and self-centered desires. But when we do, we lose the spiritual stamina necessary to run – and win – the race.

In today’s readings, we see in David’s choices the results of feeding only physical desires. Death. Destruction. Separation from God. What a contrast to Jesus’s words! Jesus is our bread of life. When we eat his body and drink his blood – when we feast on him in our hearts – we find strength for this life and the life to come.

Prayer for Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – Ever living God, in your mercy, help me love what is good, feasting on your Word so I may proclaim your goodness; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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9th Sunday After Pentecost, July 26, 2015

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 2 Samuel 11:1-15, Psalm 14, Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21

2 Samuel 11:1-15

In his idleness, David starts an affair with the beautiful wife of one of his soldiers. Her name is Bathsheba. Her husband, Uriah the Hittite, is one of David’s finest men, a man of great integrity. Bathsheba becomes pregnant. David brings Uriah home from battle and encourages him to spend a few nights with his wife, so that no one will suspect that David is the father of this child. In desperation, David gives Uriah a letter to deliver to his commander, Joab, with instructions that Uriah be sent where the fighting is fiercest and then left to die.

Sin always entices us to cover up our actions. David’s lack of self-discipline has resulted in adultery, deceit and murder. With each “cover-up”, David thinks he has hidden his crime… but God will soon “un-cover” David’s sin.

Ephesians 3:14-21

Paul addressed his prayer to the Father (3:14). He expressed his aspiration for the saints to be strengthened, grounded, and filled. He asked that they comprehend Christ’s love and be filled unto God’s fullness (3:16–19).

His confidence in prayer was grounded not in his abilities or his readers’, but completely in God’s abundant power. Astoundingly he claimed that God can do abundantly more than we can ask or even imagine (3:20). Following these majestic words the apostle concludes with a beautiful doxology (3:21).

John 6:1-21

The feeding of the five thousand is the one miracle, apart from the resurrection, that occurs in all four of the Gospels. The number was far greater than five thousand, for this figure refers only to men, since woman and children were not counted (Matt 14:21). This miracle led the people to try to make Jesus king by force. God’s design was not that Jesus manifest Himself as an earthly king but as the Suffering Servant who would give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

As Jesus prayed alone, his disciples were rowing their boat across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum when a storm arose. Jesus appeared to them walking on the water. This was not some flippant show of his power. He had seen their dilemma from the mountain where he was praying and went to their rescue. [Matt. 14:22–33; Mark 6:45–52]

The Gift

lanfranco-g-34Imagine the thoughts that must have been in Jesus’ mind as He looked with compassion at the crowds following Him up the hillside. They were hungry and had nothing. Jesus took the gift of a single boy – someone’s son – blessed and broke it, and had enough to feed thousands.

In His mind, He had to be thinking of another hill. He had to be thinking of another Son who freely gave a gift – one that was broken. And He had to be thinking of us as we receive that gift today – the blessing of His body and blood. He is still feeding. Still providing. Still restoring. He is enough to meet all of our needs.

Prayer for Ninth Sunday after Pentecost– Loving God, give mercy that I may pass through this life while holding onto those gifts which are eternal; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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8th Sunday After Pentecost, July 19, 2015

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a, Psalm 89:20-37, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

2 Samuel 7:1-14a

David desires to build a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant (7:1–2). God speaks to Nathan the prophet, rejecting David’s plan (vv. 3–7). But in the kind of wordplay the Hebrew people love, God promises to build David’s “house”—not a residence, but his family line (vv. 8–16). God promises that David’s son will succeed him and he will build the temple/house David yearns to provide (v. 12).

Then, in a statement that echoes throughout all time, God promises to maintain David’s house/line forever. God will discipline kings in that line who do wrong. But there will come a time when David’s throne is “established forever.” This great promise, the Davidic Covenant, is echoed by the prophets, and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, David’s Descendant and Lord of an eternal kingdom.

Ephesians 2:11-22

Anti–Semitism is not new. Two centuries before Christ many cities in Asia and Europe had anti–Jewish riots.

What made the Jews special was their unique relationship with God, through covenant promises given by their forefather Abraham, and the Law given by Moses. These deep–seated differences created a sense of superiority on the part of many Jews, and hostility on the part of many Gentiles.

Jesus’ death “put to death” the basis of hostility between Jew and Gentile by providing access to God to both groups through His sacrifice. Not only can the two live in peace now, but they are to live as one.

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56sunset-grass-blades-2560x1440

Jesus took His disciples to a secluded place so that they might rest after their labors. As Vance Havner said, “If you don’t come apart and rest, you will come apart.” Even God’s Servant-Son needed time to rest, fellowship with His friends, and find renewal from the Father.

But the overzealous crowds would not leave Him alone. They followed Him to the area near Bethsaida, hoping to see Him perform some miraculous cures (Luke 9:10–11; John 6:1ff). In spite of the interruption to His plans, the Lord welcomed them, taught them the Word, and healed those who were afflicted.

The Miracle of Peace

Most of us are familiar with the pain of being different. Separated. Isolated. Even judged. It’s a pain as old as time.

David knew the pain of isolation and judgment in Saul’s repeated attempts to kill him. That’s why Samuel’s account of God settling David in his house and giving him rest from all his enemies are sweet words. Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus, reassuring us “he is our peace” and explaining how Christ brings reconciliation with God and man cause our hearts to hope. And Mark’s picture of the apostles gathered around Jesus, hearing an invitation to gather for refreshment, stirs a longing in our own souls.

Peace is the miracle that speaks powerfully to people who are all-too-often frantic, frenetic, and disenfranchised. When we live peaceably with God, each other, and ourselves we proclaim the Gospel to a weary and war-torn world.

Prayer for Eighth Sunday after Pentecost– Merciful God, give grace that I can both ask for and obtain Your wisdom and peace, sharing these gifts with my neighbors; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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7th Sunday After Pentecost, July 12, 2015

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost – July 12th

Scripture Readings*: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, Psalm 24, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

David leads an honor guard to escort the Ark of the Covenant, Israel’s most holy object, from its resting place near Kiriath Jearim (1 Sam. 7:1) to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:1–5). But on the way a man named Uzzah innocently touches the ark, and is struck dead! David, angry and afraid, temporarily leaves the ark by the house of a man named Obed–Edom, and goes back to Jerusalem (vv. 6–11). But when God blesses Obed–Edom, David decides to try again. This time Levites carry the ark, as Moses’ law demands, and it is brought successfully to Jerusalem (vv. 6:12–13). David strips off his royal robes and, wearing the simple linen garment of a servant in God’s tabernacle, he leads the joyful procession into the city, shouting and singing (vv. 14–19). At home after the celebration David is confronted by a contemptuous Michal, who scorns him for taking off his royal robes to dance and sing like a commoner.

Ephesians 1:3-14

After brief greetings (1:1–2), Paul launches into a powerful expression of praise for what each Person of the Godhead has done in crafting, accomplishing, and effecting our salvation (vv. 3–14).

Paul emphasizes that in Christ, God “chose us … before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” The spiritual blessings granted to believers are the work of the Triune Godhead: the Father’s electing, the Son’s redemptive work, and the Spirit’s sealing. God now has made known His purposes, has forgiven our sins, and granted hope to His own.

Mark 6:14-29

John had been arrested by King Herod (or Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great). John had spoken out against the royal marriage, when Antipas had stolen and married his brother’s wife. The wife, now called Herodias, became a powerful and vicious enemy of John the Baptist, just as Jezebel had been of Elijah. Herodias seized her opportunity at Herod’s birthday banquet. When Herod offered her daughter a reward for her dancing, she demanded that John’s head be cut off and brought to her on a plate. It was a tragic and pointless death, and a warning of what lay ahead for Jesus.

Gathered and Held In Christ

Sometimes in life there are seasons that make no sense. We encounter detours that take us away from our calling and purpose. A crisis hits, and we’re sent reeling off course. Like David, we may have right intentions to honor God, only to see our actions result in injury and confusion. There may even be times in life when we witness the death and destruction of a beloved person or dream. Like John’s followers, we are left trying to make sense of a senseless and horrific loss.640px-Lake_Erie_Sunset_with_fish_net

In these times, Paul’s words take on special meaning: “…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.” When we allow Jesus to hold our days and our seasons, we know they are gathered up in Him. Good and bad, meaningful and senseless, earthly and heavenly, Jesus gathers them all, revealing a perfect plan that lasts for eternity.

Prayer for Seventh Sunday after Pentecost– Gracious God, give me wisdom to know Your plans for me and grace to follow You in all my ways; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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6th Sunday After Pentecost, July 5, 2015

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10, Psalm 48, 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10Gerard_van_Honthorst_-_King_David_Playing_the_Harp_-_Google_Art_Project

With Abner and Ish–Bosheth dead, Israel had two major reasons to turn to David. He was a proven military man, a motive that reflects Israel’s earlier demand for a king (cf. 1 Sam. 8). But David also was known as God’s choice to “shepherd” Israel. At last, Israel’s and God’s will were in harmony.

The great things that follow David’s recognition as king remind us that success can come only when our will is in harmony with the known will of God.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Paul explains that “weaknesses” are a source of boasting. After the apostle received a stunning revelation, being carried to heaven itself (12:1–6), Satan struck him with a “thorn in the flesh.” Some scholars think this was a serious and disfiguring illness. Regardless of the nature of the “weakness”, Paul prayed earnestly for its removal, but was told “no.”

Through this experience Paul learned “weakness” was a special call to rely on the Lord, who delights in showing His strength in weak people (vv. 7–9a). As a result of this insight, Paul gladly exposes his weaknesses, so his successes will be clearly seen as achievements because of Christ’s power (vv. 9b–10).

Mark 6:1-13

When Jesus returned to Nazareth, now as a visiting Rabbi, His neighbors show bitter resentment. Who does Jesus think He is, anyway? Their unbelief becomes a barrier that keeps Him from performing miracles there (6:1–6).

However, the mission of Jesus – to reach as many in Israel as possible – is urgent. To accomplish His purpose, He commissions and empowers the Twelve to go preach and heal (vv. 7–13). Because of the importance of this mission, Jesus tells the men not to acquire new equipment or be encumbered with things they do not need.

The Mark of A Leader

We often pray for God to use us – to make us ones who bring about His kingdom here on earth. And yet we resist when God takes us at our word and begins to mold us for leadership. David was destined for greatness; however, he had to spend time living as a fugitive, on the run from Saul. Paul is a cornerstone of God’s Church, yet Paul had to live with a debilitating condition that made him weak. Even Jesus’ own disciples were sent to proclaim His salvation equipped with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Only after living in the caves and serving in the military at great personal risk was David ready to become the servant leader of Israel. Only by acknowledging – and accepting – his weakness was Paul able to fully demonstrate leadership in the newly formed church in Corinth. Only in stepping out with nothing did Jesus’ disciples gain the privilege of establishing His kingdom here on earth.

When we ask God to use our lives for leadership, we need to be prepared for seasons of hardship. This is most frequently the mark of a leader in God’s kingdom.

Prayer for Sixth Sunday after Pentecost– Almighty God, help me know that serving You is demonstrated by serving my neighbor and give me the grace of Your Spirit to serve with faithfulness and love; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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