Weekly Introductions to the Revised Common Lectionary (Proper 14b / Ordinary 19b)

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

David is on the run.  His son Absalom has claimed his throne while David is still alive, in effect saying to his father “you are dead to me.”  Absalom is being advised by others to search out David and kill him.  David and those with him are skilled warriors and Absalom is too zealous in his wish to have David dead.  When David’s servants meet Absalom’s army the slaughter is great, and 20,000 of Absalom’s men die by the sword, and Absalom himself is killed fleeing on his mule.  Before David sent out his men to meet Absalom he instructed them to deal gently with his son.  When David receives news that Absalom is dead he laments his son’s death with the famous lament, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”  David’s lament is theological to the core.  Just as David wished to give his life for his rebellious son, so God wills to give divine life for the sake of God’s rebellious children.

Psalm 130

Psalm 130 teaches us to call on the name of the Lord and to wait for his response.  The Psalmist assures his hearers that the Lord is a gracious God who forgives.  This Psalm was likely written to comfort those that lived in exile and to help them remember God’s steadfast love.  As the Psalm says God’s response is as sure as the sun rising in the morning.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Ephesians 5:1 encourages us to be “imitators of God.”  The surrounding material instructs us what that looks like.

4:25 “put away falsehood…speak the truth”
4:26 “do not sin in your anger”
4:28 “do not steal…but work to have something to share with the needy”
4:31 “do not be bitter”
4:32 “be kind and forgiving”
5:2 “live in love”

While this may seem like a list of moralisms the invitation to be imitators of God transforms this list into a theological statement. These are the things God is doing for and with us—and as we endeavor to be like God our lives should reflect these statements.

John 6:35, 41-51

You may start to wonder how many weeks in a row we can talk about the bread of life!  We are now in week three of the lectionary’s five week tour of the Bread of Life discourse.  Is Jesus repetitive or is John having us go in circles?  But a closer look at the discourse shows us that each week the conversation is ratcheted up a notch.  Jesus makes the claim in verse 35—“I am the bread of life.”  He goes on in verse 38 to explain that the bread of life is that which comes down out of heaven.  For the crowd of would be followers (a great multitude of 5,000 strong) this statement of Jesus’ is too much to handle.  They immediately complain—just as the wandering Israelites did in the wilderness.  “How can he be from heaven—we know his parents!”  Brian Peterson a NT scholar writes concerning this passage, “We suffer from the same difficulty of seeing beyond what we “know” to be true (about the poor, about ourselves, about the line separating “the saved” from everyone else, etc.), so that we might see the divine Truth among us.”

What follows in our text is a paradoxical call to faith while acknowledging that God draws people to God’s-self.  We cannot explain this apparent contradiction.  But we do know that in the mystery of faith there is both God and us.  God’s call and our response.

Whatever the call of God, Jesus doesn’t make it easy for the crowd to respond favorably.  They misinterpret his first words about the bread of life which he then follows by the bold proclamation that “I am the bread of life.”  When the crowd finds this offensive he chooses to add even more to the description by telling him that the bread is his “flesh.”  Yuck.

L. William Countryman (The Mystical Way in the Fourth Gospel) has called this sort of repeated pattern in John’s Gospel “obnoxious discourse.” Jesus seems intent on making his claims as difficult and offensive as possible.  We follow Jesus on his terms not ours.  His message is difficult—and his walk is hard to imitate.  Scholars debate whether by “flesh” Jesus meant to indicate the Eucharist or the cross.  Whatever the case, since both point to his suffering on our behalf, we know that the lunch received by the 5000 was not free after all. God provides—but at God’s cost.

Celebration of Worship

As you prepare your hearts and minds for worship consider the lament of God for his wayward children, and the bread of life that was sent as our provision and redemption.  It is hard to confess our desires to kill our king and take his place, but it is a necessary part of our worship life.

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