Worship Resources for July 25th, 2021—Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: 2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14; 2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145:10-18; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Ephesians 4:1-16 (John 15:1-4)

David turns from God’s ways in 2 Samuel 11:1-15. Instead of being off to war as other kings were at that time of year, David was home, where a king was not supposed to be. He spied Bathsheba bathing on the roof, and desired her, and sent for her. No matter who she was, a woman would have had little authority to say no in those days, and even today, the power differential is one all too familiar, a story played out in the #MeToo movement. Bathsheba was coerced. This is a story of sexual assault, though it is often told as a story of adultery, and Bathsheba is not often seen as the victim she really was. When Bathsheba became pregnant, David tried to cover up his sin by getting Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to go home and sleep with his wife, but Uriah the Hittite—not an Israelite—was so faithful to David and Israel he remained with his soldiers, until David had to orchestrate his death in battle. While next week’s lesson will cover the ramifications of David’s actions, this marks a turning point in the David story. From here on out, much of the violence that threatens David’s family comes from this point of betrayal and assault. David’s own sons learn that no one can refuse a king, and power and greed take over following the ways of God.

Psalm 14 calls out the unfaithful who are corrupt and have gone astray. The psalmist sings of how foolish they are, for if they eat, they know God provided the food—yet they deny God and God’s goodness. God is with the righteous and is the refuge of those who struggle and suffer. The psalmist prays that deliverance would come from the holy city, instead of corruption, for God’s people will rejoice when they are rescued from evil.

Elisha feeds one hundred people from twenty loaves of barley and some fresh ears of grain in 2 Kings 4:42-44. In this much older story that is less well-known to Christians (the more famous story is Jesus feeding the 5000), Elisha feeds a large group on very little, relying on the bountiful abundance of God. Even though Elisha’s servant questioned how to feed the people, Elisha knew there would be plenty left over.

Psalm 145 is a song of praise to God, and vs. 10-18 specifically praise God for God’s mighty deeds of power. The faithful speak the truth of God’s wonderful acts, and God’s reign will endure forever, proof of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. God lifts up those who are struggling and provides for those in need. God is just and kind, and near to all those who are faithful to God’s truth.

The Epistle lesson continues its series in Ephesians with 3:14-21. The author prays that God will strengthen the believers through the power of God’s Spirit, and that they will know Christ dwells in their hearts through faith. In this section that concludes the first half of Ephesians, a sort of benediction is rendered, that the believers would know the fullness of God’s love and receive the blessing of God’s glory and power.

The Revised Common Lectionary’s Gospel selection begins a five-week series in John on the Bread of Life. In John 6:1-21, we read John’s account of Jesus feeding the 5000. In this version of the story, Jesus asked the disciples where they were to buy bread for the crowds as a means of testing them. In this account, it is a young boy who has the five loaves of bread and two fish—one of the youngest who was willing to share. The people saw the miracle of the feeding of everyone, with twelve baskets left over, as a sign that Jesus was the prophet “who was to come into the world,” and the crowds wanted to take him by force to make him king. Because of this, Jesus withdrew to the mountain. His disciples went down to the sea, and in the evening, Jesus walked out on the water in the midst of stormy seas to meet them in the boat, and to go ashore to the place they were headed.

The Narrative Lectionary continues its series on Ephesians, departing from the Revised Common Lectionary’s series by moving to 4:1-16 (which will be the Revised Common Lectionary Epistle reading next week). The author, purporting to be Paul writing from prison, begins the second half of the letter with an ancient creed of unity in Christ: “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” The writer shifts from the unity of all to the diversity within the body, through the gift of God’s grace—we all have different gifts for ministry. The author calls for the believers to grow into maturity and to come into the unity of faith, “seeking the truth in love” within the body of Christ.

Jesus speaks of being the true vine in John 15:1-4. God is the vinegrower, and every branch that grows in Christ is made to bear fruit. Those that do not are pruned so they can grow more fruit. Only branches that abide in the vine can grow, so Jesus calls the disciples to abide in him.

God’s desires for us are not always the same as our own desires. We get caught up in the ways of the world, seeking worldly wealth, security, and notoriety. David had a glimpse of power and wanted more, believed he could have more without consequence—and assaulted a woman and murdered her husband because of it. The crowds saw Jesus having real, worldly power, and wanted to make him king over them—but Jesus desired to meet the needs of the people and show them that God was the one who provided for them. The writer of Ephesians emphasizes that diversity of gifts is wonderful, but we are also bound together as one body, Christ’s body. For the fruit of our lives—our righteousness, justice, kindness, compassion, joy, gentleness—all of these are witnesses to our unity in Christ, that we are rooted in God and not the ways of this world.

Call to Worship (Psalm 145:13b-14, 17-19)
The Lord is trustworthy and true,
Faithful in all of God’s ways.
The Lord upholds all who are falling,
And brings us up when we are brought low.
The Lord is just in all ways,
Faithful in all things.
The Lord is close to everyone who calls upon God;
God hears our cries and will save us.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy Spirit, Breather of Life, we confess that we have sought a different kind of life than the one You set out for us. We have desired to have the things we have made from this world. We have created possessions from the exploited resources of the earth. We have manufactured wealth off the labor of the oppressed and marginalized. We have pursued worldly means of satisfaction and security that separate us from the needs of others, believing in the myth of self-reliance and personal salvation. Forgive us. Call us into accountability with the greater community. Remind us of our responsibility to care for the one planet You made for us. Guide us into Your ways of repentance, reparation, and restoration to those we have wronged and exploited, even unknowingly. Lead us in Your ways of justice and righteousness, so we may truly know You, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance
We are made in God’s image, and that image is good. We are co-creators with God, and everything we create—art, music, poetry, beauty, and love—is good and necessary for the world. Make new things. Give space for new life to flourish. Bless and bless, and know God’s blessings. Love deeply, and know God’s love is with you. Be forgiven, seek restoration, and bless the world with your creativity. Amen.

Prayer
Bread of Life, Source of All, nourish us, for we have grown weak. The world has pressed down on us, the blight of oppression has suppressed us. Nourish our souls, Holy One. Feed us with Your words, Your wisdom, Your grace and Your peace. Quench our thirst for justice and righteousness. Restore us to Your strength, so we can pursue Your ways in this world. Guide us to use our resources to care and nourish others, because in You, there is always enough. You are a God of abundant love and grace. Feed us, guide us, and lead us on. Amen.

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