Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37; Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Narrative Lectionary: Series on Ephesians, 2:11-22 (Matthew 28:16-20)
David desired to build a temple for God, but God said, “not so fast” in 1 Samuel 7:1-14a. When David mentioned his concern to the prophet Nathan that he lived in a palace of cedar, but the ark of the covenant was in a tent, Nathan at first told David his idea sounded good and that God was with him. However, God spoke to the prophet that night, declaring that God never asked for a physical house like people. Instead, God, who appointed David as king, took David from among the sheep and commanded him to shepherd the people. God made a house out of David and his family. Because God had been with David and the people, God declared to Nathan that the people are God’s people—their home is in God. However, God will also provide a place for them to live. Once David passed on, his descendant would build a house for God. Nonetheless, the message from God is clear: God doesn’t desire a home; God desires for us to find our home as God’s people.
The psalmist sings on behalf of God in Psalm 89:20-37 that David is the one chosen and blessed by God, the servant of the Lord. God’s covenant with David will endure and God’s steadfast love will endure forever, as will David’s throne. Though David’s descendants may go astray, God will remain faithful and will not break the covenant with David and the people. David’s reign is established by God.
The prophet Jeremiah delivered God’s warning to the leaders, political and religious, who led the people astray, who were corrupt shepherds in Jeremiah 23:1-6. Though Jeremiah himself was preparing for exile, he shared a vision of hope for the future. God would raise up new shepherds and gather the people together. God would also, in the time to come, raise up from David’s legacy one who would reign as king and lead the people wisely, who would lead Judah and Israel to live in safety.
The Shepherd’s Psalm 23 is an ancient song of comfort attributed to David. The psalmist sings of God as their shepherd who leads them to places of rest and refuge, who restores their spirits and leads them through the vale of the shadow of death. God is with them like a shepherd, and they will not be afraid of any evil. God will be with them before their enemies, and they will dwell with God, knowing God’s blessings forever.
The Epistle selection continues its series in Ephesians with 2:11-22 (the same as the Narrative Lectionary series selection). Through Christ Jesus, Gentiles and Jewish people have been brought together as one. Though the law of the Jewish people was to remind them that they were a separate, holy people for God, in the writer of Ephesian’s view, the law has now been abolished to bring together the people, uniting them in peace. All people, regardless of background, have access to God. The spirit of unity in Christ brings all people together, Jewish and Gentile. The foundation of their faith is from the prophets and apostles, but Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, and all believers form the holy temple of God.
The Gospel lesson bookends the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. In Mark 6:30-34, following the death of John the Baptist, and after Jesus had sent his own disciples out into the villages after his rejection in his hometown, Jesus called the disciples to come together and rest for a while. While they ministered to all those coming and going, Jesus had compassion on the people, who were like sheep without a shepherd. Following his feeding of the crowds from the seven loaves and two fish, and following his approaching the boat on the lake by walking on water, in vs. 53-56, they came to Gennesaret. This is where Jesus had previously cast out the demon Legion into a herd of pigs, and the people had begged him to leave. Now, they welcome Jesus, and they recognize him—most likely because the man who had the demon cast out of him continued to tell the story of Jesus. In that region they brought those who were sick to Jesus, believing that even if they touched the hem of his clothes, they would be made well.
The Narrative Lectionary continues its series on Ephesians, with the same selection as the Revised Common Lectionary of Ephesians 2:11-22 (see above).
The secondary selection for the Narrative Lectionary is the Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew 28:16-20. Jesus commanded the disciples to go out and make disciples of all nations, to baptize them in the name of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to teach them to obey everything he commanded, and that he promised to be with them for all time. The disciples were commanded to go teach as they were taught, among all nations of people, Jewish and Gentile.
The image of the shepherd is one of God’s favorite metaphors in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures. God will never lose sight of us, never forget us, and will go after those who are lost, those who are considered least. In the Hebrew scriptures, the prophets looked to the hope of a new king who would lead in God’s ways, who would not lead the people astray the way the false prophets, priests, and kings had, becoming corrupt for power and money. The good shepherd would lead like David did, knowing God and seeking God’s will over their own. In Christian scriptures, Jesus, especially in John’s account of the Gospel, takes on the mantle of the good shepherd. In Mark’s account, Jesus recognizes that the people have lost hope—they are like sheep without a shepherd. They need hope again that they will find their way, that they will follow God’s ways. Jesus brings that hope to their lives in tangible ways by healing those who are sick, feeding those who are hungry. Jesus leads the people in a new way—not as a king, or a prophet prophesying against those who’ve gone wrong, but as someone who cares for their basic needs, someone who loves them deeply as a good shepherd loves their sheep.
Call to Worship
God is our Good Shepherd.
God leads us to places of restoration.
God leads us in the paths of righteousness,
And guards us in the valley of the shadow.
We fear no evil, because God is with us.
God comforts us, and leads us to safety.
Goodness and mercy are with us now and always,
For we worship and follow the Good Shepherd.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of All Nations, forgive us of the sin of nationalism. We may love our country, we may be proud and patriotic, but when we begin to believe that our country is better than others, that our ways are better than others, we deceive ourselves. For we are citizens of Your reign forever, and all nations, governments, and borders are of our making and are only temporary. When we unite our flag with the cross of Christ, we have been led astray and down a dangerous path, for the Cross is the path of sacrifice and living as last of all and servant of all. Remind us that You are the God of all peoples, of all tribes, nations, and languages, as declared in Revelation—this is what Your reign God looks like. There is no one flag that is under You, for all nations are under You, as all nations are human creations. You made the heavens and earth and made us in Your image. Remind us that all of us are Your beloved children and forgive us of our sins of nationalism that lead us astray from Your beloved community, Your kingdom on earth. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
You are God’s beloved child, made in God’s image. Your heart belongs to God, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Seek forgiveness, and know God forgives you. Show mercy, and know that God’s mercy and grace are with you. Practice compassion and loving-kindness, and your heart will be aligned to God’s heart. Go and live in God’s ways of love and compassion, for God is with you, now and always. Amen.
Loving Shepherd, guide us into Your ways. Help us to never leave anyone behind, to remember the last, the lost, the least are Your beloved, and we have a mutual responsibility to care and love one another. Keep close to us in the shadows and save us from the wolves that seek to devour us with the world’s concerns for wealth, power, and notoriety. We know You have prepared a place for us, with cool waters and green pastures, a way of life where evil cannot harm us, especially when we remember that we dwell with You forever. Guide us into Your way of life, Loving Shepherd. Amen.