Revised Common Lectionary: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 or 1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34:1-8 or Psalm 130; John 6:35, 41-51; Ephesians 4:25-5:2

The Revised Common Lectionary continues the saga of the fall of the house of David, but leaves out key details. This week’s passage cuts down the story of the death of Absalom, David’s son, who had killed his half-brother Amnon—Amnon had raped Absalom’s sister Tamar, who was also Amnon’s half-sister. It is clear David loved his children, and he weeps for the death of Absalom, but Absalom had created a revolt against David, enraged at what happened to his sister and his father’s continued relationship with concubines. Absalom is killed by the men of Joab, who is David’s right-hand man. It is a complicated passage, and the lectionary completely overlooks the rape of Tamar. There is deep violence in this passage, violence that occurs because David is occupied more with his affairs (literally) and not paying attention to the conflict and strife within his own house. David wishes he could die to take the place of Absalom in the end—and Joab increasingly becomes fed up with David’s sensitive side and would rather resort to violence. David appears to understand, even briefly, that the overlooking of violence, the acceptance of violence and greed, including the rape of his own daughter, has led to more violence.

1 Kings 19:4-8 is a brief passage about the prophet Elijah, during a time of discouragement and persecution, in which God encourages Elijah to continue to live, even to survive, when Elijah is ready to give up and die. God, through an angel, wakes up Elijah twice and encourages him to eat. The first time was not enough; Elijah needed continued encouragement, and God knew that and provided it, and it was enough to keep Elijah going.

Psalm 34:1-8 is a psalm of praise for deliverance, remembering the blessings of God in difficult times and that God has heard the cries of those in need. “Taste and see”—God is so active in our world that we need to use all of our senses to experience God’s goodness and wonder.

Psalm 130 reflects on the other side of Psalm 34—we reflect now on the waiting for God and trusting in God’s deliverance when times are difficult. We have to trust in God’s forgiveness when we have gone wrong, and know that we have hope in God, “more than those who watch for the morning.”

John 6:35, 41-51 overlaps with last week’s passage where Jesus declares that he is the bread of life. As usual in John’s Gospel, the listeners take Jesus’ words too literally (remember how Nicodemus questioned how one could go back inside one’s mother’s womb to be born again?) The ones hearing Jesus this time have known him and his family, and so they don’t understand how he literally could have come down from heaven. Jesus has spoken of himself as the Living Water in chapter 4, now he is the Bread of Life, and later Jesus will speak of himself as “The Way, The Truth and the Life.” Just like the lady at the well, we do not literally drink and eat of Jesus. We do, however, celebrate a meal of remembrance (though we drink wine or juice, not water). The truth is that what it means to come to Jesus, to take the Living Water or the Bread of Life or Live in the Way, is beyond what we can explain with words—it is a way of life, a transformation of life, a new life in Christ.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 remarks that this new life in Christ calls us to ways of peace and justice. We are allowed to be angry—indeed, we recall Jesus’ own anger in the temple when he overturned the tables—but we are called not to sin in our anger and not to let our anger grow inside us. We are called to live in peace, to work honestly to provide for ourselves and others (and Ephesians indicates that perhaps we ought to give those who have sinned another chance for honest work), to watch what we say that it might build up rather than break down—all of these are part of the way of Christ, to live for others and not for ourselves and to live our lives in ways that help build up the reign of God, by imitating Christ.

We are called to turn from violence in the world. We learn from David’s story that violence breeds violence, that injustice must be brought to light. We know this is not easy—poor Elijah was ready to die as he ran into hiding to escape persecution, violence and injustice. But God will renew our strength, will give us courage and will continue to encourage us. Jesus calls us into this new life, in which we must stand against injustice but in nonviolent ways. We are called to lead by example, to love and forgive, to use our anger at injustice to bring about justice through peaceful means. We are called into this new life.

Call to Worship:
Leader: The buzz of the world rings in our ears.
People: Come, enter God’s sanctuary and find peace.
Leader: The news of the world brings stories of violence and despair.
People: Come, enter this place of worship and find peace.
Leader: The people of the world cry out with such great needs.
People: Come, share in the hope for the world, by reaching out together.
Leader: When we come together, we know we are not alone.
People: Come, join in the Way of Christ, and let us follow Christ into the world together.
All: Come, let us worship and serve God.

Prayer of Confession:
God of peace and mercy, we confess that sometimes in our anger, we act irrationally. When we have been lied to by someone in need, we make sweeping generalizations condemning all of the poor. When we have been judged by someone, we make false judgments of others. When we have been hurt by someone, we respond with hurt, even violence at times. Forgive us, God, for allowing our anger to become bitterness. Use our anger, O God, to stir in us a desire to seek justice, not revenge, not retribution. Call us down from our anger to seek justice in ways that bring reconciliation, learning, and even peace. In the name of the Prince of Peace we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:
Wait for God, and God will answer. In God, we have hope, we have forgiveness, and we have love. Walk in the ways of Christ. Amen.

God of Love and Life, we thank You for the blessings we experience in our own lives. Guide us to live in ways that seek the well-being of others, to share what we have and to work to build a better world together. Call us to seek justice and peace, mercy and reconciliation, so that in building a better world, we are building up Your reign on earth. Help us to hear Your voice, O God, in the midst of a busy and noisy world, where it is easy to get caught up and forget the needs of others, and even our own needs of family, love, and spiritual growth. Help us to hear Your voice. In the name of Christ, the Author of Life, who continues to call to us, we pray. Amen.

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