Revised Common Lectionary: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; 1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34:1-8; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51
Narrative Lectionary: Series on Sacraments—Baptism, Psalm 46 & Acts 2:37-42, or Series on Revelation, 4:1-11, John 17:1-5
In 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33, David’s son Absalom is captured by Joab’s men. Joab had been a loyal servant of David and served as commander of his army. Absalom had been on the run after killing his half-brother Amnon, who raped their sister Tamar. Though at one point he reconciled with David, he later rebelled against David’s rule. David did not want him to be killed and hoped that it could be resolved peacefully. When a messenger approached, David thought it was good news, but wept when he heard his son Absalom was dead.
Psalm 130 (which was also the first choice in the Revised Common Lectionary back on June 27th) is a prayer for help from God. The psalmist cries out for God to listen to their prayer, to offer them mercy. They know that in God there is forgiveness, and they wait with hope. They know God will answer their prayers and call upon the congregation to wait because God is faithful to the people.
The prophet Elijah is ready to give up in 1 Kings 19:4-8. He was persecuted by Jezebel, wife of Ahab, for Elijah killed the prophets of Baal. He was ready to give up and die. However, God made him get up and eat. Elijah did, then he lay back down again. God woke him up a second time, telling him to eat and drink, because he had a journey ahead and he needed nourishment to make it. Elijah did so and had the strength to go on to Mount Horeb.
The second Psalm selection for the next three weeks comes from Psalm 34. In vs. 1-8, the psalmist begins by praising God and calling the congregation into glorifying God together. The psalmist speaks of how God has answered their prayers when they were suffering, and God has delivered those in need. The psalmist then calls upon the listener to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” to know God’s goodness in all our senses, but especially in the food and drink that nourishes us.
The Epistle reading continues in Ephesians with 4:25-5:2. The author reminds the reader/listener that they are part of the community, the body of Christ together. They are called to speak the truth to each other, but not to allow anger to last. Believers must put aside their selfish, harmful ways, and instead, work together and build up one another. The author teaches that the faithful are to imitate Christ and live in love with one another, because Christ gave himself up for us.
The Gospel lesson continues the series in John on the Bread of Life with 6:35, 41-51. The passage repeats the verse from last week’s selection where Jesus declared himself to be the bread of life, and those who came to him would never hunger again. In 41-51, the author of John uses the term “the Jews” to refer to the people and religious leaders who complained against Jesus, but we must remember that Jesus, his disciples, and his followers were also Jewish. A certain group of religious leaders and others were opposed to Jesus, especially those who thought they knew him. They didn’t understand how he could claim to come from heaven when they knew Mary and Joseph. Jesus called on them not to complain, but instead to understand that if they had listened to the teachings of God, they ought to be drawn near to Jesus. The ancient Israelites had manna in the wilderness, but Jesus was the living bread from heaven. God provided for the people to survive in the wilderness; Jesus provides for the people eternal life.
The Narrative Lectionary has two series choices for the remainder of the summer—a series on Sacraments, and a series on Revelation. I am using the same resources I did four years ago, beginning on August 13th, 2017 in the archives, for this summer:
The series on Baptism begins with Psalm 46. The psalmist sings of our hope in God’s faithfulness, who is with us in the roughest of seas. There is a river, the psalmist declares, whose steams make glad the city of God, and God is in the midst of the city. The city and river refer to Jerusalem as well as the hope of a new Jerusalem, in which the water of life flows through.
Following Peter’s proclamation on the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2:37-42, the people who hear Peter’s testimony, now recognizing through Peter Jesus as the Christ, ask Peter what they ought to do, and Peter declares they ought to be baptized. The scripture tells us that about 3000 were saved, and following this, the newly baptized began to live in community, serve one another, break bread together, and have the goodwill of all the people.
The series on Revelation begins with 4:1-11. John of Patmos, after specific mentions of the seven churches of Asia, goes deeper into his vision of the heavenly throne room, into the lavish descriptions of the thrones and the elders who sit upon them, as well as the creatures from Ezekiel’s vision. All come before God to praise God, who is greater than all this beauty and awesomeness and wonder.
In John 17:1-5, Jesus prays for God to glorify the Son. Through the gift of eternal life, we may know God. Jesus glorified God by finishing the work Christ began. Jesus asks God to glorify him with the glory that he had in the presence of God before the world began.
Do we not perceive what God has provided in front of us, or are we still demanding signs? Those who knew Jesus’ family didn’t believe he could come from God, even though he was teaching as one of the prophets, instruction on how God provides for all our needs. The way of life God has taught us is a way of loving one another, remembering that we are connected, that we are part of the beloved community together. King David had to live with the consequences of his actions, mirrored in the actions of his sons that sowed discord and rebellion. When we live out of selfish desires, we sow division because we have put ourselves first. Sometimes, it’s easier to poke at the divisions rather than embrace unity with diversity. How we live out our faith is how we glorify God in our worship.
Call to Worship (from Psalm 38:1, 3-5)
We will bless the Lord at all times;
God’s praise shall continually be on our lips.
O magnify the Lord with me,
Let us exalt God’s name together.
When we seek God, God will answer us,
And deliver us from all our fears.
Look to God with radiance,
May we never be ashamed of worshiping God.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Lord of Life, we confess that we have sought to save ourselves first. We claim to follow Your ways, to follow Jesus who laid down his life for us, but at the first sign of conflict, we become defensive, we look to shore up our possessions, and we hold on to our pride. Forgive us for not understanding sacrifice. Forgive us for not becoming last of all and servant of all. Call us into accountability for our own actions of self-preservation, instead of living into Your ways of love, mercy, and justice. In the name of Jesus, who gave over his life for us, we pray. Amen.
We have all fallen short, and we’ve all been selfish at times. God knows this, because God knows you and loves you despite your faults and shortcomings. God made us all a bit imperfect, and that’s okay. We learn, we grow, we fail, we forgive. Continue to grow with God, to learn to do better, strive to do good, and know that you are not alone on this journey of faith. Forgive one another, and it shall go well with you. Amen.
Ancient of Days, You formed us from the stardust of the universe, shaping us into Your image, and breathing Your spirit into us. May we remember that we are from the stars and from the earth. May we recall Your great love for us that molds and shapes us into who we are. May we know how precious we are to You, and to one another. May we view one another as You view us: a treasured child, a holy gift, unique, loved, and needed in this world. May we shine as Your stars while staying rooted to what You have created us to be. Amen.