Revised Common Lectionary: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24; Amos 7:7-15; Psalm 85:8-13; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29
Narrative Lectionary: Series on Ephesians, 1:1-14 (John 14:25-27)
We continue the first selection of the Hebrew scriptures with the story of the kings. The ark of God, which had been in the custody of the Philistines, was returned via a cart to Israel. David celebrated the triumphal return of the ark, representing God’s presence with the people, and provided sacrifices and offerings along the parade route. David was so overcome with passion for God that he stripped down to almost nothing, dancing before God and rejoicing at what God had done for him and the people. However, Michal, David’s first wife and the daughter of Saul and sister of Jonathan, saw David dancing and despised him. In the verses following this passage, she accused David of lewd dancing that exposed himself even to the female servants of the people, an act too disgraceful for a king. Though the selection ends at verse 19 with the celebration concluding in gifts of food for all the people, it is important to note the story behind the scenes. When David fled Saul’s wrath, Michal helped him escape in 1 Samuel 19:12-18. Saul married Michal off to another man (1 Samuel 25:54), and David did not return for her until after Saul’s death (2 Samuel 3:14), to present a united kingdom after his conflict with Saul. In the time between she was sent away and David sought her retrieval, he had married other women. There is more history behind the conflict between Michal and David than what is presented in this short selection.
Psalm 24 is a song of worship. God is the creator of all the earth. Who is worthy to come before God in the temple on God’s holy hill in Jerusalem? Those who are innocent, pure at heart, who have not been deceitful. They are the ones who may come before God and receive blessings. The psalmist calls upon the temple to be open for the presence of God, calling the people into worship of their glorious King, God of the heavenly host.
The prophet Amos beheld a vision of God building a wall, using a plumb line to measure how the wall stood up to God’s standards. However, Jeroboam, the king of Israel, did not follow God’s ways, and God declared that all religious shrines and holy places would be destroyed because the people did not live into God’s standards. They did not measure up. Amos also declared that God would rise against Jeroboam’s rule. However, the priest Amaziah told Amos to flee and go to Judah instead of prophesying against the king of Israel, whom Amaziah had told what Amos prophesied. However, Amos was no career prophet that could be pushed over. He was a shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees, but God called him to speak on God’s behalf. Nonetheless, Amaziah and others did not want to hear the words from God, and God declared Amaziah and his family would end up like the others in Israel—taken into exile under the Assyrian empire.
The second half of psalm 85 is an assurance that God hears the prayers of the people, and God is faithful to those who trust God. The lines of this part of the psalm show how all good things come together for God: steadfast love and faithfulness meet. Righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, righteousness meets faithfulness from the sky. God will be faithful in goodness, and righteousness is the path before God.
The Epistle readings begin a series on Ephesians (as does the Narrative Lectionary this year) with Ephesians 1:3-14. Except for the mention of Ephesus in verse 1 (which is not included in other earlier manuscripts), this letter is fairly generic, and perhaps was a letter sent to one church, and then forwarded on to other churches with specifics omitted. This opening section writes of the blessings of God, and that all believers are God’s children by adoption through Jesus Christ. God chose us to be holy. We have redemption through Christ’s blood and forgiveness of sins through Christ’s grace. God’s plan for the fullness of time was for all people to be brought together in Christ—this is our destiny as believers. Through Christ, believers have obtained an inheritance, marked with the promise of the Holy Spirit for restoration with God.
The fate of John the Baptizer is told in Mark 6:14-29. When Jesus’ ministry became well-known after sending his disciples out into the villages, the stories reached King Herod’s ears. While some wondered who Jesus was, he believed he was John raised from the dead. John had spoken out against Herod marrying his brother Philip’s wife, so Herod had him thrown into prison, but he liked what John had to say. However, his wife did not. When his daughter Herodias danced before him and his court, she pleased him so much he promised to give her anything she wished (reminiscent of the rash vow Jephthah made in Judges 11:29-40, when Jephthah promised to sacrifice to God the first thing that came outside of his house in exchange for winning a battle). Herodias, after conferring with her mother, asked for the head of John the Baptizer on a platter. Herod did as she wished and had him executed, but he grieved his death, and after John’s head was presented on a platter, John’s own disciples came and buried him.
The Narrative Lectionary begins its series on Ephesians (see the Epistle reading above for the reflection).
The secondary text for the Narrative Lectionary is John 14:25-27. Jesus tells the disciples that while he is teaching them now, the Holy Spirit will come and be with them, reminding them of everything Jesus taught. Jesus assures the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled, for Jesus leaves them with peace.
Living into God’s ways sometimes makes us look foolish to the ways of the world. David had no misgivings about dancing before God, even if it appeared scandalous. He was full of passionate zeal for what God had done for him and his people. The prophet Amos was a nobody compared to the priests of the land, but he was not afraid to speak God’s words to the king’s priest and tell them that they let the people down and they would be taken into exile, even if his own life was threatened. John the Baptizer spoke boldly to the point of being thrown into prison and became a victim of the actions of those in power, but still proclaimed a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. The early church, as revealed in the letter to the Ephesians, shows us that God’s intention for all times was that we would know ourselves as God’s children through Christ Jesus. In a time when the early believers faced marginalization among their own cultural communities and under the Roman Empire, it might be seen as foolish to live into a faith that included everyone, regardless of cultural and ethnic background, but based on belief. Jesus calls us to live into a way that seems foolish to the world—giving up our possessions, becoming last of all and servant of all, including those who are on the margins—but this is the beloved community, the reign of God on earth, in whom we have an abundance and inheritance.
Call to Worship
Blessed be our God,
Who created us in God’s image.
Blessed be our God,
Who called us to follow Jesus Christ.
Blessed be our God,
Who sent the Holy Spirit to be with us.
Blessed be our God,
In whom we live, move, and have our being.
Blessed be our God as we gather in worship.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, we confess that we have succumbed to the ways of the world. We fret about what we don’t have. We worry there isn’t enough. We are consumed by the doubts of the world that we are not good enough, that we don’t have enough wealth and security by the world’s standards. Forgive us, Almighty God, for You called us to be Your children. In You we have an abundant inheritance. In You we know that we are called to be a community that provides and cares for each other. In You, the standards we ought to live up to are kindness, compassion, justice and mercy. Help us to cast off the cares of the world and live deeply into Your ways as Your children. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
There is abundant love to be found in God through Jesus Christ. Seek Christ in all you do, and know how much God loves you. There is abundant forgiveness in Christ’s name for all our sins, all the ways we have missed the mark. There is abundant grace for us all. Live into God’s ways, and know that you are loved and forgiven. Practice kindness and show compassion, seek justice and mercy, and you will know God now and for all time. Amen.
Holy One, help us to live into Your ways of holiness. Help us to cultivate a practice of holiness in our life, setting aside time for You. Guide us into ways of living that are sustainable, that care for the earth and all of creation, and do not waste resources for others. Lead us into Your ways of deep compassion for ourselves and for one another. Help us to find the holy in our everyday lives—in the dandelion that grows between the cracks of cement, in the simple acts of kindness that someone has shown us, in the pauses between the busy. Remind us to breathe, for this simple act is the first act of human life, when You breathed Your spirit, Your breath, into the first human being. May we cultivate holiness in our daily life, and be holy for You. Amen.