Proper 12B (OT 17)

Image: The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, mosaic (ca 504 AC). Sant' Aopllinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy.


Voice in the Wilderness: Katey Zeh

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Featured Musician:Christopher Grundy

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

John 6:1-21

Initial Thoughts

  • Welcome to the August of John 6

    • “If the entire fourth gospel is devoted to disclosing who Jesus is so that people can believe in him, this long narrative does it be showing him to be nourishment for the soul better than the manna of Moses’ day. The lawgiver by his petitions kept alive a people fated nonetheless to die. Jesus is the person who, “devoured” in faith, will keep a people alive forever…

There emerges from this chapter a strong declaration of what Johannine faith in Jesus consists. Opposed to it is a mentality which cannot admit this faith because of its presuppositions. John is convinced that these must yield to the fact of seeing the Son.” (Gerald Sloyan, Interpretation: John, p. 62-63).

    • Aug 5 - John 6:24-35 Jesus pursued for food. Calls himself “Bread of life.”

    • Aug 12 - John 6:35, 41-51 Opposition to Jesus festers. More “I am the bread of life.”

    • Aug 19 - John 6:51-58 Closest thing we have to eucharist meal in John. Jesus compares bread to his flesh.

    • Aug 26 - John 6:56-69 Repeats “Whoever drinks my blood and eats my flesh.” Jesus predicts some will fall away.

    • Mark 7 - Back to where we left off in Mark (skipping feeding miracle), Jesus talks about what contaminates a life.

Bible Study

  • Miraculous Feeding

    • Clearly a redaction of the synoptics stories

      • no eucharistic verbs   

        • No formulaic took, blessed, broke, gave

      • no mention of the woman and children

      • Addition of the fact that it started with the lunch of a youth.

        • Andrew at least had an idea. It was an absurdly small idea, but he was creative enough to put it out there.

        • Disciples ask, “What good is this to a crowd like this.”

      • No mention of Jesus’ compassion (a very human emotion). Instead it is shown as a set up that Jesus orchestrated to reveal his power (very John-ish thing to do)

      • Same message of abundance in the face of skepticism

    • Interesting tidbits:

      • Takes place nearly time for Passover. Next few stories include mentioning “bread of life,” and “bread of heaven.”

      • 12 baskets of leftovers = 12 tribes of Israel.

      • 5 barley loaves = exactly what they started with.

    • Bread was a way for kings to enforce their power. The distribution and withholding of bread is a way for those in power to keep their power.

      • See WIC, Food Stamps debates of today.

      • When some are kept in poverty, they are kept in control.

      • Jesus’ abundance disrupts the whole system. Not just economic system, but the natural order (see walking on water).

  • Jesus leaves because he knows they will “force” him to be their king

    • They want Jesus to be the problem solver- but that isn’t Jesus’ role

    • In the next passage (next week) they pursue him to give food. He is suddenly seen as the divine vending machine.

    • They ask that question that is so timeless “What’s in it for me?” This gets pushed even harder next week.

  • Storm at sea

    • The Disciples still do not believe or trust

    • “I Am” shows up as both frightening theophany and comforter

    • Jesus disrupts now only food system and economic system, but the natural order. He is not swayed or even affected by storms, or something as simple as gravity and drowning.

    • Are the disciples scared of the storm or of Jesus?

    • Compare to other Jesus walking on water stories, and there is no Peter involvement (in this Gospel it probably would have been ‘the beloved disciple’).

    • “The disclosure of who Jesus is turns out to be more than an intellectual matter for the philosophically curious; it is a saving matter that makes the difference between darkness and light, terror and peace, death and life.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, p. 447)

Thoughts and Questions

  • We often look at our own gifts and resources and scoff. Sometimes ideas that seem destined to fail are worth pursuing. Brainstorming, collecting voices and opinions, and ideas that might seem foolish at first can lead to miracles. Still, we may ask, what good is this with problems such as these? The world’s needs seem so big, and our efforts feel so small. When they saw what the young person had, they scoffed. Yet with Jesus it was enough.

  • Feeding of the multitude and Emmaus as a original stories of the Eucharist

    • How does that shape our understanding of Eucharist (“Thanksgiving”) if we remove it from the death, betrayal and sacrificial atonement?

    • What if Communion was a celebration of this miracle - a remembrance of the abundance of Jesus, not just the sacrifice. How could we reframe our own liturgy and understanding of Communion?

  • Do we follow Jesus for the signs and wonders, for what he can do for us, for whom he can conquer, or do we follow Jesus for something more? What bread are we pursuing? The bread of life, which is forgiveness, mercy, grace, compassion; or the bread of the world, which is scarcity, power, manipulation, and coercion. These are the themes for this week, the next few weeks, and indeed all of Jesus ministry.

2 Samuel 11:1-15

Initial Thoughts

  • Difficult passage to read in a mixed-audience. If this were a TV show, I wouldn’t let my daughter watch it.

  • No good news here. Just sex (rape), deceit, and murder.

  • “We are now at a the pivotal turning point in the narrative plot of the books of Samuel. We are also invited into the presence of delicate, subtle art. We are the threshold of deeping, aching psychology, and at the same time we are about to witness a most ruthless political performance… Innocence is never to be retrieved. From now on the life of David is marked, and all Israel must live with that mark.” (Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation: First and Second Samuel, p. 271-2)

Bible Study

  • David

    • King fully entrenched in power.

    • Not in the field as he had promised, or as the Israelites had asked (1 Samuel 8:20)

    • Sitting on couch he sees her.

    • Finds out that she is the daughter of an important advisor, and the wife of a Hittite soldier.

    • Summons her. Has sex with her. ‘He takes her,’ is exactly what Samuel had warned the people what Kings would do: “[a King] will take your daughters”.” (1 Samuel 8:13)

    • She becomes pregnant.

    • David tries to cover it up by sending for Uriah, then sending him home to “wash his feet.”

    • Uriah refuses to lie in his own bed when his comrades are in the midst of war. His honor - which is in stark contrast to David, who is sitting on his couch during the war - does him in.

    • David then sends Uriah with a note that is basically his death sentence.

  • Bathsheba

    • One of the most famous examples of victim-blaming in history.

    • She is essentially raped by the King

    • Her husband is murdered.

    • For this, she is treated in history as a temptress, and named in a popular Christian book as a “Really Bad Girls of the Bible.” Liz Curtis Higgs, author of the book Really Bad Girls of the Bible at least partially implicates her because there’s no evidence that she “put up a fight.”

    • Author Susan McGeowan offers a great study guide about Bathsheba, one that outlines the different interpretations of her character, but comes to the conclusion that “She must have been an amazing woman. Despite their inauspicious beginning, despite her being the focal point for a time in David’s life of his most horrible sin, she remained a powerful and favored influence over him through the remainder of his life - as evidence by their final recorded time together when she secures Solomon’s future as the next king of Israel.”

    • Blogger Kate Schell writes, “She was powerless, but we cast her as seductress.  Today, I grieve for Bathsheba. I grieve for this woman coerced and bereaved. I grieve for this woman who mourned, her clothing torn and her life upended. I grieve for this woman who has been reduced to adulteress, to a naked body in the wrong spot at the wrong time.”

  • Aftermath-next week

    • David has Uriah killed. Bathsheba mourns, then becomes David’s wife.

    • The baby of the rape doesn’t survive.

    • She is the mother of several, including Solomon, who becomes David’s heir.

Thoughts and Questions

  • The way that Bathsheba is treated is telling. She is treated - in the text itself and in much interpretation of the text - as voiceless. Objectified and known only as a body and an object of a powerful man’s desire. The story implies that her nakedness is to blame for the death of her husband, her child, and the division of the Kingdom itself. History has gone on to tell of David’s greatness, but often leaves out the part about cowardly avoiding war, then raping a woman and killing her husband, who was, by the way, fighting honorably in the war David should have been at in the first place. How do we continue to victim blame? How many victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault have been charged with “asking for it”? How many time must a girl be told that modesty is her best defense against rape? How many pastors will try to redeem this unredeemable text?

Ephesians 3:14-21

Bible Study

  • Hinge text- linking the theological/doctrinal section: Ephesians 1-3 (what God has done by uniting all things in Christ and breaking down divisions) and the application section: chapters 4-6 (how we respond to God’s love and unity-”lead a life worthy of the calling which [they] have been called” 4:1)

  • “For this reason”

    • Might look back to 3:1-13 and The mystery that all people are included in the love and grace of God

    • Or it looks ahead to “in order that” (Gk: hiva) which is how verse 16 begins looking ahead to the hope of strength, indwelling, comprehension and ultimately love.

  • According to the New Interpreter's Study Bible - Kneeling is a part of Gentile worship, not Jewish worship (Isaiah 45:23; Phil. 2:10-11)

  • vv. 14-19

    • One sentence!

    • 4 Petitions

      • Strengthened in inmost being

      • Christ dwell in their hearts

        • Heart was considered the seat of intellectual thought- NOT emotion (the bowels were the seat of emotions- think  “butterflies in your stomach”)

      • Power to comprehend the extent of God’s work

      • Know the love of Christ

    • Paul Achtemeier - Divine love is the basis for living (v. 17 - “rooted and grounded in love”), Christ’s indwelling will allow the Ephesians to realize the extent of that life-controlling love which is superior and unknowable via intellectual knowledge (see the use of the word “mystery” in Eph. 3:1-13). In other words - you cannot think your way into understanding God’s love, it is only revealed by allowing Christ to dwell within you- to surrender to Christ.

  • Invitation to let Christ in

    • Allowing the love of Christ to transform us and dwell within us

    • The difference between Christ as a visitor and Christ as roommate

    • Going to church is not the same as letting Christ abide in us

      • K. Chakoian - don’t be the Dursley’s and let Jesus live in a cupboard under the stairs - change your life and make room for Christ

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Is Christ a visitor in our life? Do we put on show of hospitality and good manners; temporarily pushing our “junk” into the closets of our lives? OR do we invite Christ to live with us? To be challenged by Christ’s constant presence in time that are good and times that are bad? Will we allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ?

  • Accepting the love of God is not an intellectual venture but will require us to surrender the mystery of God’s love. This doesn’t mean checking our brains at the door, but rather realizing, humbly, that there are things we can and will never understand. God love and grace are beyond our comprehension. We can choose to accept God’s love as it is freely given to us and to others or to reject it. We can hope to know that love, but we can never understand it.


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.