Proper 10B (OT 15)

Image: "David Dances Before the Lord With All His Might", from wikimedia


Mark 6:14-29

Initial Thoughts

  • Cue the Game of Thrones music

  • “The Silver Platters” Brady Bunch Band

  • Reminiscent of Mark 8 - “Who do you say that I am?”

  • Not the death of John the Baptist, but a recollection of John’s death

  • Context: Not Herod the Great, but his sons

    • Mark 3 has the Pharisees consorting with the Herodians- we have now graduated to Herod himself

  • Herod’s response to Jesus’ ministry and especially the ministry of his followers

Bible Study

  • The whole story is in the context of: Who is Jesus?

    • Jesus and the Church by Willi Marxsen

      • First of 2 times this litany of “who is Jesus” appears in Mark. The other being Mark 8 where Jesus questions his disciples.

      • When people encountered Jesus - they encountered the divine and did not know how to resposo they used the language at hand to interpret what they were experiencing: John the Baptist, Elijah, Son of Man, Son of God, Messiah, etc.

    • Resurrection of John the Baptist?

      • Pheme Perkins (NIB vol. 8) suggests not bodily resurrection but taps into traditional Jewish martyr literature in which the martyred righteous one comes back to torment their oppressor/executor. Very possible considering v. 20

  • Also in context of a Mark Sandwich:

    • Jesus sends out the apostles

    • Recall the death of JBap

    • Apostles return to Jesus, crowds gather

    • Jesus feeds 5000

  • Death of John the Baptist

    • Differs a lot from the account of ancient historian Josephus

      • John was taken prisoner because of his popularity with the common people

      • John was Executed by Herod at Herod’s fortress, Machaerus, on the Eastern shore of Galilee

    • Why the difference? Ties John to a long tradition of persecuted prophets:

      • Ahab, Jezebel and Elijah (1 Kings 21)

      • Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:29-40)

      • Esther stealing half the Kingdom

      • Judith beheading Holofernes (Judith 13:1-10)

    • Who asks for John’s head, Herodias’ daughter, Salome in tradition

    • Herod is more concerned with keeping his drunken and lusty oaths given to party guests and his own image than with preserving the servants of God. (His Grief does not keep him from killing the innocent and righteous)

      • Karen Yust, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost: “Daily life also presents a series of Herod-like personal and spiritual dilemmas for persons to negotiate. For a harried mother of a toddler, there is the question of how best to love and parent a child in the face of a defiant "No!" and a full-fledged temper tantrum in aisle 6 of the grocery store at the end of a long day. For a father of three, it is the struggle to explain the importance of rearranging travel plans for a work trip so he can attend a Little League playoff game. A corporate executive wonders how her announcement of a long-awaited pregnancy will affect her employees' perceptions of her as an effective boss. A stay-at-home dad wrestles with the whispers of former colleagues that he just couldn't handle the pressures of work. Teenagers experience the angst of competing for acceptance in desirable social cliques, of serial broken hearts in the complex world of adolescent dating, of familial tensions over privileges and responsibilities. Younger children long for popular toys advertised on television, worry about parental fights and the potential (or actual) breakup of their families, and wonder if the trouble they have learning multiplication tables or basic grammar means they are stupid. Across the lifespan, persons question who they are and how they should act as life pushes and pulls them in conflicting directions. And as in the story of Herod's struggle, there are lives at stake as they decide which actions they will take.”
  • Foreshadowing of Jesus’ own death

    • Speaking truth to power does not end well for most prophets

    • Powers that be would rather kill the innocent than be embarrassed

    • “It is interjected between the sending out of the disciples on the journey through the surrounding villages and their report to Jesus of the successful mission. It is another example of Mark’s ‘sandwiching’ technique. In the midst of a positive account of the disciples exorcisms, healings, and preaching comes the jolting description of the slaying of ‘a righteous and holy man’ who had provoked political authorities by speaking the truth.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 427)

  • No good news in this story - no Jesus, really. Simply presents the way the world operates.

    • Good news is implied that in the midst of this, the apostles are out spreading the word, healing people, and casting out demons.

    • Juxtaposition of the apostles sent out and John murdered by a foolish King shows the way of Jesus.

    • Yes, there is devastation. Yes, there are ruthless rulers. Yes, innocent men are murdered for speaking the truth. Yes, Jesus too will suffer a similar fate. AND Yes, there is good news because there is another way.

    • David Lose: “Which brings us, I think, to the very heart of the gospel promise. We believe, teach, and confess that Jesus came to make possible for us more than mere survival, more than mere persistence, more even than mere success. Jesus came to help us to imagine that there is more to this life than we can perceive. Jesus came to offer us not just more life, but abundant life. Jesus came so that there could be a better ending to our stories and the story of the world than we can imagine or construct on our own.
And when the Temple has just been destroyed, or your marriage is ending, or you've lost your job, or you fear your child will never speak to you again, or you're pretty sure your friend has betrayed you, or you think you may just have screwed up the one relationship that meant something to you...then the possibility of another ending -- a good ending -- is, indeed, not just good news, but the best news you can imagine.”

Thoughts and Questions

  • How do we, like Herod, allow our own images or reputations or foolish promises to keep us from following the Gospel of love?

  • How often do we (as both individuals and churches) prefer status quo and social stability over prophetic truth-telling?

  • Herod is responding to the works done in Jesus’ name. How often do we do good works in Jesus’ name instead of trying to own it ourselves? How much more vital could our ministry be if we remove ourselves, our church, our denomination from the equation and simply act in the name of Jesus?

  • Mark is presenting in a clear and concise way the way of the world. Mark presents the cultural context of what political power can do. He is writing in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, and has no qualms about telling the truth about Kingly power. The good news of Jesus is that there is another kind of power. There is another way of living. There is another way that the story may end.

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

Initial Thoughts

  • Another time the lectionary editors got it mostly right. Avoid the strange side trip to Obed-Edom’s house, but including verse 12 then doesn’t make sense. So either go with 1-19, or 1-5, 14-19.

  • This is a story of David bringing the ark to Jerusalem. If you are going to talk about the sidetrack and difficulties of getting it there, it might be appropriate to include 6-13, but still might be better if left explained by the preacher instead of read verbatim.

Bible Study

  • The Ark

    • From The Common English Study Bible, p. 428: “The Hebrew word translated here is ‘chest,’ (traditionally ‘ark’) appears over 200 times in the Bible, and all but a handful refer to a gold-covered box symbolizing the presence of God in the midst of Israel… Israelite tradition observed that the chest was built under the direction of Moses in the time of the wilderness. From that time throughout the biblical story, the chest symbolized the presence of Israel’s God, Yahweh. Later Jewish tradition believed the chest also contained a jar of manna and the rod of Aaron… The concept is that Yahweh (the Lord), who is Israel’s king, sits invisibly enthroned above the winged heavenly creatures on the top of the gold chest. This enthroned God is also the commander of heavenly forces… In 1 Samuel 4-6 the chest is captured by the Philistines [but things don’t go well for them when they have it, so they send it back.]”

  • This story is told very similarly in 1 Chronicles 13-15. While Chronicles usually ‘cleans up’ the story of David, the delay is actually much more this telling. Chronicles is largely understood to be a less authoritative historical source, but reading these chapters could help understand the theological understanding of what David was trying to accomplish.

  • Ark establishes some important things about David.

  1. David as Warrior. The manifestation of the fact that God is on David’s side. The ark was the symbol of Israel’s victories and holy wars. By controlling the ark, David controls the heavenly army.
  2. David as Priest. By removing the ark from the custody of a priestly line (and one of the priests dies in the transfer) David becomes the spiritual custodian of the people’s relationship with God.
  3. David’s City as Capital.
    • Moving the capital Jerusalem was a shrewd political step, since it was in neither Israel nor Judah, but an independent, and not very prominent, city that he could conquer and mold.

    • Moving the ark was an important step in consolidating power in the capital.

    • “David was rightly concerned that his Jerusalem-based administration be understood as their to the political and cultic traditions of both Israel and Judah, and more specifically as a linear continuation of Saul’s kingdom. His most obvious step to achieve this was the transfer of the Ark.” (Maxwell Miller and John Hayes, A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, p. 171.)

  4. David as devoted follower of God. This story has a personal as well as public aspect. David reveals himself to be an enthusiastic worshiper of God. Though he is not a perfect servant, he makes it clear that he understands that his source of strength is God, not the other way around.
  5. David as Divinely Ordained King. David is not just the King of Israel and Judah, he is God’s anointed. The procession is seeped in sacrifice and ritual, and helps establish the relationship between David and God.
  6. David as provider for the people. The worshipful procession was not complete until every man and woman was given meat, bread, and raisins.
  • The sad story of Michal

    • Michal is depicted as little more than a pawn in the political machinations of men.

    • “Michal had boldly dared to love David and to make that love known. Yet, David is never said to have loved her, although marriage to her was politically advantageous to him. Three times Michal is given to a mn as wife for political reasons (to David in 1 Sam. 18:27; to Paltiel to spite David in 1 Sam 25:44, and to David again as price of alliance with Abner in 2 Sam 3:14-16). In all of this we lose sight of her love, for love was not allowed a role in such political matters.”

    • Michal is Saul’s daughter, and that is remembered. By the end of this passage there is no longer love for David, only distaste. She is dispatched at the end of the passage in v. 23, and it is clear that Saul’s line ended with her.

Preaching Thoughts

  • What voice can we give to Michal other than that of traditional reading of “nagging wife getting in the way of the man having fun”? Is this a redeemable story? Lift up that Michal once saved David’s life, taking his side in the battle against her father. Statement that Michal had no children doesn’t square with 2 Sam 21:8. Some manuscripts say that David had five sons of Saul’s daughter Michal, others say Merab (all were killed by David to officially end Saul’s line). By calling her “Saul’s daughter,” instead of “David’s wife,” the writer reveals the extent to which Michal was little more than a pawn in the political games. Although she once “loved David,” that love was never returned. And by this time, her love was gone as well. Despite being an important player in the saga, she is basically removed in this passage. “In readings Michal’s story, we do well to examine our own refusals of love for the sake of power, our own disregard of women’s interests as irrelevant to the public interest, our own efforts to honor the Lord while not fully honoring the priorities to which the Lord has called us” (Bruce Birch, New Interpreter’s Bible, v. II, p. 1252)


  • “It is plausible that the dance of David expresses the ambiguity we have already articulated. David’s dance, on the one hand expresses a genuine act of religious vitality, of genuine worship, making himself available to Yahweh’s power, purpose, and presence. On the other hand, the extravagance of David, even personal, bodily extravagance, may be a political act to express profound solidarity with Yahweh in the new establishment. The foundation of the new regime and the founding of the new shrine around the ark most likely share in the ambiguity,” (Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation: 1 and 2 Samuel, p. 250-1). Brueggeman goes on to point out that the day is both one of wonder and joy and despisement. It is this ambiguity that marks the whole of David’s career. It is an ambiguity which often makes people uncomfortable. It is an ambiguity that needs to be revealed.

Ephesians 1:3-14

Initial Thoughts

  • Begins 7 weeks in Ephesians

  • Background on Ephesians

    • Most likely

Bible Study

  • Encouragement to the Church

    • God’s actions - the faithful respond to what God has done and is doing, not in hopes of what God will do (earning grace or blessing)

    • Baptismal Focus (and argument for baptizing children) - Baptism is the church's recognition of God prevenient grace - which an infant has done nothing to earn and which does not reflect on the infant’s action but is unconditionally offered to the infant nevertheless

    • A reminder that we are wholly, truly and completely loved- Not just individually but corporately as well- the language of this passage is plural, “we”, “us”, plural “you”

  • Prevenient Grace

    • Grace that precedes or comes before

    • Jacobus Arminius (1560 – 1609): “Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace.... This grace [prævenit] goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co operates lest we will in vain.”

    • John Wesley, According to the UMC, “Wesley understood grace as God’s active presence in our lives. This presence is not dependent on human actions or human response. It is a gift — a gift that is always available, but that can be refused. God’s grace stirs up within us a desire to know God and empowers us to respond to God’s invitation to be in relationship with God. God’s grace enables us to discern differences between good and evil and makes it possible for us to choose good…. God takes the initiative in relating to humanity. We do not have to beg and plead for God’s love and grace. God actively seeks us!”

    • “The new exodus is made possible by the cross where Christ’s blood (i.e., his life given gladly in obedience to the Father’s will, as Heb. 10:5–10 shows) was offered. The immediate benefit is forgiveness of sins, with the promise that, since the burden of the past is removed, a new start to life is begun.” Ralph Martin, Interpretation: Ephesians, Colossians & Philemon.

  • Election/Predestination (George Straup, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost)

    • Election is about the wonder of God’s grace not about the scope of God’s grace

    • Election focuses on the benevolent and extravagant grace of God which is fully and freely given

    • Affirms the grace of God is beyond our wildest imagination or understanding

    • God’s will is sovereign, grace is given because God chooses not in response to what we have done. God cannot control how we respond to grace

    • God’s grace, for Christians, should be seen through the lens of Jesus Christ. Christ is our guide in response to grace

    • Election is not a right but a gift from God as all faith is a gift from God

    • Election does not make Christian special, but assigns to them a special responsibility, “when God calls someone, God calls that person to come and die” (Straup)

    • “Election is intimately connected to adoption (v. 5), and both designs are expressions of his love. His intention is that there should be many sons and daughters in his family, all of whom share the likeness of the elder brother.” Ralph Martin, Interpretation: Ephesians, Colossians & Philemon.

Thoughts and Questions

  • Radical notion that our worth is not determined by our actions or reaction, but is predetermined by God’s grace before we even have full conscious thought.

    • How does the notion of God’s prevenient grace affect how we treat ourselves? Others? And how we respond to God?

  • Election is not about who is in and who it our, but about the grace of God which is given to some (or all-for it is not for us to know). How do we respond to God’s grace when we do not know who has or has not been elected? If even asking that question a faithful question or do we show love to all as if they have already been welcomed into the kingdom?


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.