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Revised Common Lectionary: 2 Samuel 11:1-15 or 2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 14 or Psalm 145:10-18; John 6:1-21; Ephesians 3:14-21
We turn in our story of David to the fall of David. In chapter 11 of 2 Samuel, David does not go out to war as kings did in his day—in other words, David was not focused on the affairs of his kingdom, his country, but rather was focused on himself. He finds Bathsheba bathing—he was looking where he should not have been looking—and he desires her and has to have her, even though she is married (and David is married as well, but in those days, kings were allowed concubines and numerous wives, so the problem in this story is that she is married). But if that was not bad enough, having an affair with Bathsheba, he determines to have her husband Uriah killed after he cannot scheme to have Uriah sleep with Bathsheba and cover up the affair, for she is pregnant. One sin spreads into another—greed and lust, the affair, the lies to cover it up, and finally murder. Once David begins to fall, he falls into the paths of sin.
2 Kings 4:42-44 is the precursor of the Feeding of the Five Thousand by Jesus—in this story, one hundred men are fed by twenty loaves of barley and some fresh ears of grain. Both Jesus and Elisha respond to the disciple or servant who questions them, “How can I feed these people?” with the response to give. “Give it to the people,” or “You give them something to eat.” Even when what we have seems so little, God can do so much when we are willing to give, to share out of our abundance, to share out of what we have. We are called to give, and are reminded by both Elisha and Jesus to do so.
Psalm 14 is a reminder that all of us go astray at one time or another, but only a fool says “there is no God.” But we all at times act as if there is no God—we follow our own desires, such as David did, and one sin leads to another. The psalmist reminds us that the ones who often suffer due to the greed and desires of others are the poor, and that God hears the cries of the poor, for God is their refuge.
Psalm 145:10-18 is a song of praise, reminding the hearer that God is always faithful, that God is always making things new, God is always lifting up the lowly and raising the fallen. God is faithful and just, and God’s love endures forever.
John 6:1-21 is the Gospel of John’s version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, a story found in all four Gospels. In John’s version, it is a little boy who has five barley loaves and two fish. It is a little child who has food, when the disciples want to send everyone away. Jesus tells them to have the people sit down, and Jesus gave thanks for the meal, just as he did in the other gospels with the bread and the cup on the night of the Passover (and in this Gospel, the Passover is near when Jesus shares this large meal with the five thousand). The passage continues to contain the story of Jesus appearing to walk on the water that evening on the sea. The disciples are afraid at first until Jesus tells them, “Do not be afraid.” But in between these two stories, we are told that Jesus was concerned that the people were going to take him by force to make him king. Jesus clearly did not come to establish an earthly political realm, but rather Jesus came to declare the kingdom or reign of God was at hand, and that all were called to be participants in the reign of God by following the ways of Jesus, to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, to share what they had with others, to live for Christ and others.
Ephesians 3:14-21 is a benediction that comes in the midst of Ephesians—some scholars believe Ephesians contains the pieces of several letters of Paul put together by one of his followers. The writer prays for the strengthening of faith to those reading and hearing these words—so that they may understand the love of Christ more deeply and experience the fullness of God in their lives.
Faith is what helps us to understand the incomprehensible. Faith is what holds us to the path of God, the way of Christ. We are faced with temptations every day to live for ourselves, to satisfy our own greed and desires, and we forget the needs of others and God’s desire to live for others. In living for others, we find that we have life. In living for Christ, we find that we have lived for others. In thinking of the needs of others, we are reminded that we can be overwhelmed, as Elisha’s servant and Jesus’ disciples felt, or we can have faith, as Elisha and Jesus did, that the needs will be met when we serve and give out of what we have. It is not easy, but it is what we are called to do—and God always provides enough. We may not be able to solve the world’s hunger problems, but we can do our part to help those around us—and we may be surprised at what God can do with the little we have.
Call to Worship:
Leader: The world says there is not enough, the world says there is too much need.
People: Christ calls us into the ways of faith.
Leader: The world has too many problems, there is too much to be done.
People: Christ calls us into the ways of hope.
Leader: The world is too divided, there are too many wars and too much violence.
People: Christ calls us into the ways of peace.
Leader: There is just too much to think about, it would be easier to think about ourselves.
People: Christ calls us into the ways of love.
All: Christ calls us to love others as we love ourselves, and in Christ’s love, we know that faith surpasses all understanding. We are not alone. Let us worship Christ together on this journey of faith.
Prayer of Confession:
Creator of Life, we confess that our lives are often not focused on You. We are focused on earthly successes, on moving up, on gaining the next promotion. We neglect those around us and have forgotten the need in our world. At times we make mistakes, and instead of owning up to our mistakes, we cover them up, we lie or withhold information, to make ourselves look good instead of doing the right thing. Forgive us, O God, for our foolish and selfish ways. Call us back to loving our neighbor as ourselves, sharing out of what we have, thinking of others and how we can be Your love and light in the world. In the name of Jesus, who always forgives us and calls us back, we pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
Christ is at work within us, and is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine. We are forgiven. We are a new creation in Christ. Go and share the good news. Amen.
Loving God, You love us deeper and more strongly than we can possibly imagine. We can only think in human, earthly terms, but Your love is beyond anything we know. You created us and our world and declared it good; You called us to be good stewards of Your creation and to be caretakers of each other. Living God, when we feel down about the world we are in or we feel helpless and hopeless, remind us of Your love through the love of and care of others. Renew in us Your love, hope, and faith, so that we might have the strength to do Your work in our world. In the name of Jesus the Christ, who loves us and restores us, we pray. Amen.