Proper 13A (OT18)

Loaves and FIshes Mosaic in the Church of the Multiplication

Loaves and FIshes Mosaic in the Church of the Multiplication


231: August 6, 2017

  1. Genesis 32:22-31 

  2. Matthew 14:13-21 

  3. Romans 9:1-5 

Voice in the Wilderness: chris Strickland

  • Chris Strickland a pastor’s kid and school teacher and UMC lay servant at St. Paul UMC Gainesville, Georgia

  • Twitter @chrisstrickla

Featured Musician: Jennifer Knapp

74: August 3, 2014

  1. Genesis 32:22-31

  2. Matthew 14:13-21

Featured Musician -  Bryan Sirchio

Exegetical Notes

Matthew 14:13-21

Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Did it really happen?

    • This is a question that we are concerned with, but Matthew and the early church was not.

    • Traditional “Liberal” explanations

      • People were so moved by the act of generosity, that they took what they had naturally brought with them and shared. In the end, the outpouring of sharing of the community produced an abundance.

      • The “spiritual hunger was satisfied when each person received a miniscule fragment of the shared food.” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 165)

      • “These are both edifying retellings of the story, but they hardly do justice to the story in the Gospels, which intends to report a supernatural event. Since it is impossible to determine precisely what experience underlies the story, it is best to bracket out the question of historicity and ask instead what theological meaning the narrative held for Matthew.” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 165)

  • Death of John the Baptist

    • Funeral banquet- this occurs right after they received news of John the Baptist’s death

      • They want to leave and isolate themselves in grief

      • Contrasts Herod’s banquet

        • Herod: out of seeming abundance there was death and scarcity

        • Jesus: out of seeming scarcity there is abundance

    • D Mark Davis (Left Behind And Loving It):

      • The aorist participle “having heard” appears twice here. The first refers to Jesus having heard the message of John’s death and leaving for a deserted place as a result. Is he going to grieve? To pray? To hide? Any of these answers is possible. Grief is understandable for any number of reasons.

      • The second aorist participle of “having heard” refers to the crowd. Many translations assume that what the crowd heard was that Jesus was out in the deserted place. However, they, too, may have just been hearing of John’s death and their sojourn may have also been an act of grief or bewilderment or something else desperate enough to end up in the wilderness with no food. One reason Herod was holding John in prison and did not put him to death immediately was because he feared the crowd (v.5).

      • A revolutionary leader – like a Zealot – could have used this moment to rally troops. 5,000 men plus women and children in one place, angry or bewildered or dispirited over the death of John the baptizer would make a great start to an army that could have stormed Herod’s palace. Instead, it becomes a feeding story.

  • Deserted Place/Wilderness

    • Place of temptation

    • Exodus

    • similar to the blessing of Manna

      • Place of searching for God and who we are in response

    • Hard place but important to journey in the wilderness and not to leave or be sent away

      • Being sent home = going back to Egypt - might be easier but neither leads to the promised land

      • Are we willing to walk through the wilderness? To go hungry trusting in God’s provision?

      • Think of conflict in church- better to address it than avoid it and return to “niceness”

      • Perhaps the church is now in the wilderness- we are getting hungrier and hungrier as are those around us- how will we “feed them” and ourselves with God’s abundance?

        • The Miracle

  • Jesus’ actions - not only 4 actions

    • saw - the importance of being seen can never be underestimated - who goes unseen in our congregations/communities?

    • Had compassion

    • Ordered

    • took - uses what is at hand

    • looked - honoring the work of God, not his own devices.

      • “The first temptation that Jesus faced in the wilderness was to declare independence from God, to assert his autonomy. In the Scriptures this is the central sin, the primary act of rebellion, and Jesus refuses to participate in it. He insists that we are utterly dependent on God: "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3). Human existence rests on the word of God.” - Iwan Russell Jones, Feasting on the Word

    • blessed - A prayer for the hungry

      • give us this day our daily bread”

      • Blessing the bread acknowledges that while we cannot “live on bread alone” we still need to eat and the material is NOT profane

    • Broke

    • gave - Huge social implications

      • Patrons gave food to clients in exchange for service and fealty.

      • Caesar’s benevolence was seen in his distribution of food to the masses - “bread and circuses”

      • The giving and receiving of food set the social structures - Jesus asks food to be given and received as equals regardless of social structure.

      • People are fed because they are hungry and Jesus “had compassion”, they are fed unconditionally

      • Should the Lord’s table/Communion/Eucharist be conditional on baptism/fealty to God/Church or Confession or is it the outward and visible sign of God’s unconditional love and grace?

  • God chooses to work with and through us

    • “You give them something to eat”

      • Jesus did not feed 5000- the disciples did

    • Uses the resources we have- ABUNDANCE

      • not what we don’t have  - SCARCITY

    • Only 5 loaves and 2 fish - SCARCITY

      • Leftovers - ABUNDANCE

    • Send them away - SCARCITY

      • Remaining as a community follow Jesus - ABUNDANCE

Preaching Thoughts

  • Should the Lord’s table/Communion/Eucharist be conditional on baptism/fealty to God/Church or Confession or is it the outward and visible sign of God’s unconditional love and grace?

  • Discipleship means taking on the impossible task of declaring the good news to the poor, unbinding the captive, liberating the oppressed, reconciling the enemies and feeding the hungry- Not saying this is too much and sending “them away”

  • Are we willing to walk through the wilderness? To go hungry trusting in God’s provision?

  • Think of conflict in church- better to address it than avoid it and return to “niceness”

  • Perhaps the church is now in the wilderness- we are getting hungrier and hungrier as are those around us- how will we “feed them” and ourselves with God’s abundance?

Genesis 32:22-31

Initial Thoughts

  • Exegesis by Eric

  • Jacob and the Divine Trickster.

    • From the summary: “The book of Genesis portrays the character Jacob as a brazen trickster who deceives members of his own family: his father Isaac, brother Esau, and uncle Laban. At the same time, Genesis depicts Jacob as YHWH s chosen, from whom the entire people Israel derive and for whom they are named. These two notices produce a latent tension in the text: Jacob is concurrently an unabashed trickster and YHWH s preference. How is one to address this tension?”

Bible Study

  • Context of the Jacob story

    • He’s leaving Laban’s house, and coming home

    • Fearful of upcoming meeting with Esau, whom he screwed 14 years ago.

    • He hears at the beginning of Gen 32 that Esau is coming to greet him with 400 men.  “Jacob was terrified, and felt trapped.” (Genesis 32:7).

    • He had already sent Esau gifts, and prayed to God  ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, “Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good”, I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. Yet you have said, “I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.” ’ (Genesis 32:9-12)

  • Jacob wrestles with a man - It is never directly stated that this man is anything other than a man.

    • Walter Brueggemann: “Perhaps it is important that the narrative is not explicitly.  In its opaque portrayal of the figure, the narrative does not want us to know too much.  It is part of the power of wrestling that we do not know the name or see the face of the antagonist.  To be too certain would be to reduce the dread intended in the telling.  It is most plausible that in the present form, the hidden one is Yahweh.” (Interpretation: Genesis, p. 267)

    • Terence Fretheim, in The Suffering of God refers to this passage in his chapter called “God in Human Form.”

    • “God appears in the world without disruption.  They reveal that the finite is capable of the infinite.  God can come and be present in the pillar of fire/cloud. God can appear in human form of the messenger.  The world can serve the task of clothing God; in these theophanies God assumes chosen aspects of the created order and ‘wears’ them in order to be as concretely and persuasively and intensely present with the people as possible.  Theophanies demonstrate that God is not identical with the world, but they also reveal that God takes on creaturely forms so that humankind may discover God embodied within the world itself” (Fretheim, p. 92)

  • The match

    • Physically comes to a draw

    • God strikes (not touches, as NIV states) Jacob’s leg.

    • Jacob refuses to let go

    • God asks Jacob his name.  Presumably, God knew his name. Why did he ask this?  Is there an aspect of confession, since Jacob’s name means “trickster/heel/surplanter,”

    • Jacob asks God’s name - no answer given (unlike Moses who is given a response).

    • God blesses Jacob

    • God names Jacob Israel

  • What is the victory Jacob wins?

    • A limp

    • A blessing

    • Name changed from “Trickster” to “Struggled with God and prevailed”

    • “Israel is the one who has face God… and prevailed, gained a blessing, and been renamed.  There is something new underway here about the weakness of God and the strength of Israel.  The encounter will not permit a neat summary of roles, as though God is strong and Jacob is weak, or as though things are reversed with Jacob strong and God weak.  All of that remains unsettled.  But new possibilities are open to Israel that have not been available before.  In the giving of the blessing, something of the power of God has been entrusted to Israel.  Unlike every other relationship in which God rules and humankind obeys, Israel is a newness which has prevailed with God” (Brueggemann, p. 269)

Preaching Thoughts

  • Reconciliation can be difficult.  

    • “Wouldn’t it be easier to just walk away?” - interesting reflection on The Hardest Question, by Lia Scholl

    • Facing someone you have wronged is a terrible burden to face.

    • Reconciliation takes hard work.  Truth telling.  Sometimes people get hurt.

    • "Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.” (Nelson Mandela)

    • Avoiding conflict is not the way to solve problems.

  • Where is the Peniel of your life?

    • Where are the times and places you have wrestled, struggled, come out limping, but been able to declare “I have seen God.”

    • What do you learn from these times?

    • Cliche “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” has a part of truth.

  • In midst of a new war between Israel and Palestine, what can we learn from Jacob, who is now known as Israel?

    • Reminder that current national state of Israel is not analogous to the Biblical Davidic monarchy.  Israel was created as a secular state that would serve as a safe-haven, not as a theocracy.

    • With whom does Israel wrestle?  Is the sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau still brewing?  The lectionary does not include the story of Esau and Jacob’s reunion.  Maybe it needs to.  Now more than ever that story needs to be told.

    • Yet the reconciliation did not come without Israel limping.

Romans 9:1-5

Initial Thoughts

  • Transition from Romans 5-8 to Romans 9-11

    • Traditionally seen as Paul’s Anthropology/Soteriology in which we are told who is saved and who is damned - leading from a traditional predestination view of Romans 8

    • Alternative - Taking the view of Romans 8 as discussed last week (ep. 230) this is not about anthropology but theology and God’s steadfast love (hesed)

Bible Study

  • Beware anti-Jewish supersessionism

    • Paul is not delighting in the damnation of the Jews by anguishing and lamenting over those who do not see the steadfast love, grace and reconciliation in Jesus Christ (he does not say they don’t receive it, simply that they don’t understand it)

  • Beware the historical and modern Christian delight in seeing themselves as chosen and others as being “Left Behind”

  • Paul is devastated and anguished that his friends, family and people are unwilling or able to live in the full knowledge of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ which leads to a life fully lived (see 5:21)

    • Paul uses two words (great sorrow and unceasing anguish- which are used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew word yagon which means “sorrow”) to describe his lament - playing off of the prophetic tradition of Isaiah (cf. 35:10 and 51:11)

    • “When close friends and even family members have left a church or a denomination, or given up on faith altogether, those who remain will miss and mourn them. For these, it is essential that this brief pericope of the lectionary be read in the larger context of God's sovereign love. Even when the faithful separate themselves from one another, nothing can separate any of us from the unfailing love of God (Rom. 8:38-39), not even, apparently, our own foolish rejection of that love.” Mary Beth Anton, Feasting on the Word.

  • Paul is willing to be to be cursed, cut off from the good news in order for others to receive it. He DOES NOT say that they are accursed or cut off from the good news- he is simply expressing how good this news is and how devastated he is that others don’t experience it.

    • To be cut off from the good news is especially bold considering the end of chapter 8

    • Karl Barth, “Paul, therefore (as a true Israelite) cannot lament over Israel without rejoicing … for Israel's sake—in the steadfastness and faithfulness of Israel's God." (quoted from Psalms, James Limburg)

    • Paul appeals to Torah by making a similar claim as Moses does when pleading with God to forgive the Hebrews for the Golden Calf (Ex. 32:32)

  • Kyle Fedler - This passage connects the invincible power of God’s love at the end of chapter 8 with the expansion of God’s love and grace beyond the Jews to the Gentiles. This is a message of inclusion - not exclusion.

    • The key to Romans 9-11 is 9:6 "It is not as though the word of God had failed."

  • Paul concludes his lament with hope and assurance in God’s presence - very reminiscent of the Psalms

    • Ultimately this is about what God is doing:

    • God called the Patriarchs, God adopted Israel as chosen people, God gave the law, covenants, worship, glory and promises, God called Saul and transformed him into Paul, God send Jesus, God loves the world and nothing can separate anyone from that love.

Preaching Thoughts

  • It can be tempting to be so convinced of the righteousness of the “good news” (however we individually may define it) that we use our righteous cause to demean, disparage or even dehumanize other. Any news that is used to oppress, subjugate or deny others the love and grace of God is NOT good.

  • How many blog articles and conversation have there been about how to have difficult conversations with loved ones that “just don’t get it”? Paul is heartbroken because those closest to him - just don’t get it. Does he condemn them? No. Does he reject them? No. He continues to lament and love and evangelize.

    • We are called to share the good news - to dance the dance - to mourn,but not to condemn and to keep dancing.

  • Paul affirm the truth of God is Christ, but refuses to use it as a weapon against others.


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 Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).