Worship Resources for August 1st, 2021—Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a; Psalm 51:1-12; Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15; Psalm 78:23-29; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Ephesians, 6:10-20 (Matthew 10:28-31)

The fallout from David’s assault of Bathsheba continues in 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a. Bathsheba, after a period of mourning for her husband, was brought into David’s house, but God knew what David had done. The prophet Nathan told David a parable, which David believed was a real story, of a rich man who exploited a poor man and stole one of the poor man’s sheep to feed his own guest. David was outraged and wanted the rich man dead, and reparations made to the poor man. Nathan then revealed that the rich man in the story was David, for he had exploited Bathsheba and murdered Uriah. Because of this, Nathan prophesied that violence would never leave David’s house and that his own wives would be taken from him. What David had tried to cover up, God revealed to everyone. David had to admit his sin to God through Nathan.

Psalm 51:1-12 is a song long attributed to David after Nathan’s revealing of David’s sin. The psalmist seeks mercy from God and requests to be cleansed from their sin. They confess their sin before God and seek to be purified and restored. The psalmist sings of how God desires truth from our inner heart, and requests that God create a new heart, to be restored to God’s presence.

Right after the people escaped their oppression in Egypt through the Red Sea, they began complaining on the other side to Moses and Aaron in Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15. They were hungry, and remembered how good the food was back in their captivity and how they had enough bread. God promised to rain down bread, just enough for each day, for them to collect, along with quails in the evening. In the morning, a flaky bread lay on the ground just under the morning dew. The Israelites wondered what it was, but Moses told them it was the bread, the manna, God provided.

Psalm 78 recounts the stories of the ancestors of the people, and vs. 23-29 recount the story of God providing food for the people in the wilderness. God provided the “mortals” with the “bread of angels.” God provided an abundance for the people, including the quail in their camp. They were “well-fed” for God gave into their cravings.

The Epistle lesson continues its series in Ephesians with 4:1-16, which was the Narrative Lectionary reading for last 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.

The Gospel series continues on John’s passages on the Bread of Life. Picking up from last week’s passage, in John 6:24-35, the crowds went looking for Jesus after the feeding of the 5000. Jesus had gone across the lake with the disciples after walking on the water to meet them, but then the crowds followed them on boats to Capernaum. Jesus knew they pursued him because they wanted more bread, more physical, tangible ways of satisfying their needs. Jesus instead called the crowds to work for spiritual food, what nourishes for eternal life. The crowds wanted to know what they must do to perform the work of God, but Jesus said the work was to believe in the one God sent to them. The crowds then asked for a sign, and one of them remembered the sign of the manna in the wilderness from Moses. Jesus corrected him—the manna was from God, not Moses—for God’s bread gives life. The crowds ask for Jesus to give them that bread always (reminiscent of when the Samaritan woman asked for the water of life in John 4:15). Jesus responded that he was the bread of life, and whoever came to him would never be hungry, and whoever believed in him would never be thirsty.

The Narrative Lectionary concludes its series on Ephesians with 6:10-20, the Armor of God (this will be the Revised Common Lectionary Epistle reading on August 22nd). This metaphorical list of armor is all defensive, save for the Sword of the Spirit (the word of God). The rest of it is for proclaiming peace, abiding in God’s salvation and righteousness. This metaphor reminds the reader that the struggle is not against blood and flesh but the rulers and authorities and powers of the present time of evil. The author roots nonviolent protest as spiritual work, against the spiritual forces of evil: oppression, greed, marginalization—all the forces of empire. The author concludes with a call to prayer and a request for prayer while they are in prison, so they may speak boldly in faith.

Jesus tells the disciples to not be afraid in Matthew 10:28-31. Jesus reminds the disciples that the authorities in this world have the power only to kill the body and to not be afraid of losing one’s life, but to fear the evil that can destroy both body and soul. But all are valuable to God, and all the hairs on our heads are accounted for.

What is it that we are pursuing in life? Are we satisfied with what we have, or are we pursuing more simply to gain more? What is the cost—not financially, but spiritually, emotionally, physically? Even when we believe we are trying to meet our daily needs, are we so caught up in the “rat race” that we miss what God desires for us? Are we all scavenging for bread instead of sharing the bread that we have with all in need, so that all people’s needs are met? A common understanding of the Feeding of the 5000 is that while Jesus may have given them only a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, those there began to share the food that they had brought only for themselves, and recognized that when everyone shared, there was enough. The miracle was Jesus knew that simply starting with five loaves and two fish, people would want to add to that feast. When the crowds, in John’s account, follow Jesus because they want more bread, they missed the point. The bread is already with them if they have Jesus, for they know there is enough, and need to live it out with one another. This is the bread of life, for whoever comes to Jesus and lives in Christ’s ways will never be hungry.

Call to Worship (from John 6:35)
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.
“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.”
Whoever comes to Christ will never be thirsty.
“Lord, give us this bread, always.”
May we come to God with hungry hearts;
May we come to Jesus with thirsty souls.
May we find fulfillment in the body of Christ;
May we worship God, knowing the fullness of God’s love for us.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of All, we come to You with broken hearts. We confess to You that we have sinned. We have broken faith with one another and with You. Our hearts have been led astray by the promises of the world. We have failed to live into Your intention for our lives. We have failed to view Your image in one another. We have taken what we wanted and taken it for granted and have harmed others in the process. Forgive us. Refine us and purify us, so that our hearts might heal, and fill with Your love for one another. Remove the stains of the world that blister and fester, that lie to us about our needs and confuse them with our desires. Restore us fully to You, O God, and help us to seek forgiveness, reparation, and restoration wherever possible. Amen.

Jesus said, as quoted in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Blessed are you when you seek the right ways of God; blessed are you when you pursue justice. You are forgiven, loved and restored on this journey of faith. Go with full hearts, wise minds, and the spirit of God in you, to love and forgive and bring healing to our broken world. Amen.

Beloved Spirit, refresh in us Your image. Remind us that we are made to create, to do Your work in this world, to share beauty and awe. The ways of this world desire for us to produce, which is not the same as creativity, for creativity is breathed from You, Loving Spirit. Creativity inspires others and always reminds us of Your love in this world. Production leads us to wealth and worldly gain. Turn us away from the wheels of the world’s production and into the gentle movement of Your creativity, in how we live, how we move, and how we exist. Amen.

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