Weekly Introduction to the Revised Common Lectionary Readings (Proper 7b / Ordinary 12b)

1 Samuel 17:57-18:16

When David returns from slaying Goliath the whole population of Israel falls in love with him.  David takes on celebrity status and finds his way into the songs of the people, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands.”  The elevation of David above Saul in the popular songs of the peasants proves too much for fragile king Saul’s ego to handle.  Saul eyes David with suspicion and jealousy.  His jealousy turns to violence.  Saul attempts to pierce David through with a spear, but David escapes.  Saul then puts David in charge of a thousand men and sends him to war (much like David would later do with Uriah, to eliminate Uriah from interfering with his affair with Bathsheba).  David continues to have military success, however, and the people’s admiration for David continues to grow.  David’s popularity portends the all consuming mission Saul will engage in to kill David and reclaim esteem for his own throne.

Saul’s actions are party described as a product of his own jealousies, and partly credited to an ‘evil spirit’ that rushes upon him.  Interestingly the ‘evil spirit’s’ provenance is said to be God (i.e. the evil spirit was sent to Saul by God).  Saul’s fear of David is also talked about in theological terms.  Saul fears David because David is seen to be “with God” while Saul is said to be abandoned by God.  The anointing of Saul is lost.  Meanwhile David’s anointing is still present.  The results of this are evident to Saul, and also to the Israelites.  David is continuing to ascend; Saul is on decline.

Psalm 133

Psalm 133 celebrates unity in the community.  The psalm calls unity among kin ‘precious’ and ‘good.’  Two images are given to describe how precious and how good.  The first is anointing oil.  The goodness and preciousness of unity of kin is like the overflowing anointing oil of the venerable Aaron (the first high priest).  The oil is so abundant that it not only covers his hair, but also his beard, and flows down past the collar of his robes.  Unity is like this.  It not only blesses the heads of the community, but the whole populace, as it works its way down the body.

The second image used is of the dew on mount Hermon which falls on the mountains of Zion.  This is an improbable image since Mount Hermon was hundreds of miles from the mountains of Zion.  How could dew in an arid climate flow hundreds of miles anywhere?  The point may be the same as that of the oil–a picture of great abundance.  As the anointing oil is abundant enough to cover not only the hair of Aaron, but also his beard, and collar so too is the dew on Mount Hermon abundant enough to reach all the way to Zion.  Others have suggested that the distance between Zion and Hermon shows the extent of the word “kindred” (i.e. these are your kin–from Zion to Hermon).

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

In our ‘other New Testament’ reading we find Paul urging the Corinthians to “accept the grace of God.”  This grace is previously described in 5:11-21 as “being reconciled to God through Christ” and carries with it a mandate for a “ministry of reconciliation.”  Paul commends himself and his fellow servants as embodying the ministry of reconciliation through great suffering and hardship, and is saddened that the Corinthians have yet to receive this grace gift.  Even though Paul and his fellow servants are unjustly accused and falsely represented (assumedly by people at Corinth) they have “spoken frankly” and “opened wide” their hearts.  Paul asks the Corinthians to also open their hearts and to be reconciled to God and each other (i.e. to experience God’s lavish grace).

Mark 4:35-41

Our gospel lection is the story of Jesus calming the storm.  After a busy day of delivering parables about the kingdom of God Jesus gets into a boat with his disciples and they attempt to cross the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus falls asleep in the stern of the boat (asleep on a ‘cushion’ as Mark alone records) .  While Jesus sleeps a great storm overtakes them and waves of water are swamping the boat.  The disciples wake Jesus (one wonders how the wind and the water did not wake him) and ask, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  The plaintive cry of the disciples is a universal expression of our shared humanity.  All of us wonder if God cares we are perishing.  All of us wonder why God is asleep or if Go will ever awaken.  Jesus acts quickly and stills the storm with the words “Peace!  Be Still!”  He turns to his disciples and questions them, “Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith.”  We are like those disciples, for we fear the winds and waves.  We see no progress in the amelioration of society.  Our pessimism sees only storm clouds and high seas.  We fail to see the power of the one asleep on the cushion, yet in our very presence.

Celebration of Worship

As you prepare your hearts and minds for worship consider the self absorption of King Saul (formerly anointed by God) in his pursuit of David.  Consider the depravity that robs kindred of unity, and takes away the blessing of abundant anointing oil and life giving water.  Consider the lack of willingness to accept grace and to open hearts to engage in ministries of reconciliation.  And yet, in the midst of our storms, asleep on the cushion of faith, is the great anointed of God who is here to calm the storm and restore our belief.  God be praised.

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