Weekly Introduction to the Revised Common Lectionary Readings (Proper 6b / Ordinary 11b)

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

“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.”

Apparently Jesse had good genes.  All of his seven sons were impressive edifices of flesh and bone, and all of them would have provided the throne of Israel with a striking physical specimen to rule and conquer in the name of the LORD.  Even David, the youngest, and a shepherd, is described as “ruddy, with beautiful eyes, and handsome.”  Not a bad pedigree.

God is not interested in the right genes, however.  Saul had all the right genes, and his rule was anything but perfect in the eyes of God.  The people of Israel desired a king over them, but God would not give them the prototypical king.  David was not first born (or second, or third, or fourth).  David’s profession was not a stepping stone to the royal life.  This would-be king had “nice eyes”–that’s about it.  Well, nice eyes and a “good heart.”  Saul had good “outtards”, David had good “innards.”  The Lord selected him, and he was anointed (he was a messiah), because he was more than a book with a flashy cover.  He had rich dialog, a depth of symbolism, and a captivating plot.  The people of God needed more than window dressing in the seat of power.  They needed substance.  Despite David’s many failures he proved to be a king of substance, and a fitting ancestor of the great Messiah, who would one day rule on the throne of David forever and ever.

Psalm 20

“Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.”

Psalm 20 is in the genre of “Royal Psalms” that celebrate the kings of Israel, and were probably sung on their day of coronation, and on anniversaries of their reign.  There was no separation of church and state in ancient Israel.  The king was God’s anointed, and as such the king was celebrated in the popular religion as the ‘hand of God.’  The king was upheld by the deity, and help for the king came from divine might not human might.  As a nation Israel had a small man’s complex.  Powerful Egypt to the south, and Assyria and Babylon to the north and northeast made Israel feel puny and insignificant militarily.  This royal psalm reminded the people that “some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.” 

This psalm serves as a response to our Hebrew Bible reading in that it celebrates God’s choice in anointing David, and it promises divine help to David in his reign.

2 Corinthians 5:6-17

Paul wants us to see each other differently.  As Christians we are in process.  Inwardly we are ‘new creation’, but this ‘new creation’ finds itself, for a time, in an earthly tent.  This tent is not a source of comfort for the ‘new creation’, but a source of longing.  We chaff under its roof.  We long for our heavenly dwelling.  At the same time we are fearful to throw off the tent and be found naked.  Therefore God gives us the Spirit as a guarantee of our new home.  Because of this we go about our life with confidence, willingly giving away our life in hopes of a greater life.  The ascended Jesus (who ascended ‘bodily’) is a foreshadow of what we will be.

Therefore, when we look at the face our siblings in Christ and see the outward earthly tent, and we witness human longing and struggle, we remember to “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!”

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus spoke in parables.  Some understood these parables.  They were the ones who had “ears to hear.”  Others did not understand the parables.  Even some of Jesus’ disciples did not understand, which is why Jesus had to “explain everything in private” to them after the fact.

The two parables present in our gospel lection this week are parables about the Kingdom of God.  Mark has far fewer parables of the kingdom of God than Matthew and Luke do.  This is in keeping with the nature of Mark’s gospel which records far more about what Jesus does than about what Jesus says. 

The point of the parables seems to be two-fold.  First, while the beginnings of the kingdom of God may not look like much (scattered seed, the smallest of kernels), in time the kingdom grows in maturity to something of value to others (a large shrub whose branches provide nests for the birds of the air).  Second, the kingdom of God grows relentlessly independent of what we do (the farmer sows but does not know how the increase happens).  The kingdom of God is guided by God’s providence.  It can develop in concert with us or in spite of us.  Do not be discouraged by its humble beginnings.  It is a grace gift from God, and its coming cannot be thwarted.

Celebration of Worship

As you prepare your hearts and minds for worship consider the power of God’s anointed.  What God begins God finishes.  The kingdom of God, born from an insignificant military power, is ruled this day by the ‘great anointed’ who sits in everlasting reign on the throne of David (a ruddy, pretty eyed shepherd).

In our worship we are reminded that “some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.” 



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4 Responses to Weekly Introduction to the Revised Common Lectionary Readings (Proper 6b / Ordinary 11b)

  1. eirenetheou says:

    The RSV’s paraphrase — “human point of view” — in 2 Cor 5:16 obscures the meaning of the text and its significance for understanding our brother Paul’s theology. When we see that Paul wrote “according to the flesh” in 2 Cor 5:16, we may immediately think of the dichotomy between “flesh” and “spirit” in Rom 8, where, in context, the RSV translates KATA SARKA correctly. Then we may begin truly to understand the meaning of Gal 3:28, among other words of Paul.

    God’s Peace to you.


  2. Don,

    I agree. The RSV is perhaps concerned that the casual reader not see Paul’s Sarx doctrine as a denigration of the flesh–and thus the paraphrase (similar in a way to the NIV’s “sinful nature”). My commentaries, intended to help our weekly readers at the WICOC have a little context as they perform their public worship duties, are terribly short, and I usually choose only one or two points in the text to camp out on as I write. I tried to point out Christ’s “bodily” ascension (a fact that the Luke/Acts author is intent to point out) as a fact that flies in the face of denigration of the “body.”

    Gal 3:28 is helpful in pointing out that the body is not the problem but all the things that attach to it–concepts of gender identity, ethnicity, circumstance. All the add ons frame the ‘according to the flesh’ mindset which insists on the maintenance of boundaries.

    The inconsistency in translation is problematic and at times puzzling. So aren’t most decisions made by committee. 🙂


    • eirenetheou says:

      When, “according to the flesh,” we found the church’s doctrine of ministry on genitalia, we cast aside the gifts of the Spirit that should guide us in choosing and encouraging people to serve in the Body of Christ. As our brother Paul says, “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” We should, rather, “be transformed by a renewing of our minds.”

      God’s Peace to you.


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