Weekly Introductions to the Revised Common Lectionary Readings (Proper 9B / Ordinary 14B)

2 Samuel 5:1-5; 9-10

Our Hebrew Bible lection records the crowning of David as King and his taking of the city of Jerusalem as capital of his kingdom.  David was thirty when he began his reign, and his reign lasted forty years (a full generation).  The success of his reign is attributed to the fact that the LORD was with David, and thus David became “greater and greater.”  Our Psalm that follows will exalt the city of Jerusalem as the place where the Lord is present.  The city of Jerusalem will be the place where the permanent temple to YHWH will be built, and will be the center of worship for the Jews.

Psalm 48

Psalm 48 exalts the city of Jerusalem (the city on Mount Zion) as the home of YHWH.  The Psalm spirals in and then spirals out again in chiastic fashion.  At the center of the chiasm–which always presents the poet’s main concern in chiastic poetry–is the presence of the Lord in the Holy City, “As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God establishes forever.  We ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple.”  The Psalm exalts the city of Jerusalem not for its architecture, or its residents, or its nightlife, but because God is there.  Psalm 48 then, while exalting Jerusalem, is really a Psalm about the magnificent presence of God.  The Psalmist teaches us that the immanence of God is something to be praised.  In our casual way we sometimes take the presence of God for granted.  Psalm 48 helps us in our worship to recognize and praise God’s presence amongst us.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Paul brags about his weakness instead of boasting about his favored position amongst the saints.  This is a powerful passage that elevates the weak over the strong (a constant theme in the Corinthian discourse).  Paul speaks of a man in the third person, although many scholars believe he is recounting his own personal history, who is taken in a vision to the third heaven and told things that “no mortal is permitted to repeat.”   Paul could brag about such an event–but he chooses not to.  Instead he asks to be judged only by what others see and hear from him.  Instead Paul will elevate his weakness–his thorn in the flesh–for in weakness Paul is strongest, for the grace and power of God is made perfect in weakness.

We are not quick to elevate weakness.  Instead we hide it in favor of showing all that is strong about who we are.  We want to impress, and we want others to find us appealing by our myriad talents.  But the grace of Christ is not found there, so ironically when we play to our we are most vulnerable.

Mark 6:1-13

The placement of Jesus’ rejection at his hometown immediately before the commissioning of his disciples for service in the gospel of Mark is no coincidence.  The fact that in his own hometown, and amongst his own kin, Jesus finds no welcome is an eerie foreshadowing of the ministry that followed for all who professed faith in Jesus.  But perhaps the rejection of Jesus is of less significance than the fact that the townspeople took “offense at him.”  They did not simply dismiss Jesus out of hand and go about their day–they were offended. They were offended that this man whom they saw grow up was in their synagogue with new ideas about the God of their ancestors, and performing powerful deeds.  The offending Christ did not stop giving offense in his hometown, he would find his way into many homes in the early days of Christianity–and today the offending Christ is still present.  Whenever we take on the same commissioning as the disciples, leaving money pouches, safety, and power behind we find that even in the places we thought were most cordial to us that we are now outcasts who cause offense.  We might even find, like Christ did, that we can do little good in those places–for their unbelief is great.

Celebration of Worship

As you prepare your hearts and minds consider the blessing that is the presence of God amongst us.  The presence of God is an exalting presence.  It takes desert nomads and turns them into a holy nation and a royal priesthood.  At the same time, the presence of the Lord can be offensive, and in our unbelief the presence of the LORD can lose its exalting effect.

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