Proper 13B (OT 18)


Voice in the Wilderness: Nicole Cox

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Featured Musician: Amanda Opelt

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan


John 6:24-35

Initial Thoughts

  • As is so often the case, Jesus is speaking on multiple levels. Physical and Spiritual. Confusion ensues.

  • The crowds are looking for Jesus because he physically fed them, he wants to spiritually feed them and for the crowd to spiritually feed others

  • Jesus miraculous deeds are always for two purposes: To rectify a human need, and to reveal who he is. If you dwell only on one, and not the other, you’re missing the full point.

  • All good things come from God- not from the messengers of God. It is not Moses who saves the Israelites, but God. It was not Jesus who provided the bread and fish, but God.

  • God gives even faith, and it is this faith that is the key.

  • God continues to give. The story of God providing is not just one for the histories. It is one for the present age. It is not that God gave, but that God gives.

Bible Study

  • “When did you come here?”

    • Loaded question - both literal - they are wondering when he slipped away and how he got to Capernaum (since he didn’t get on the boat) and figurative - see below

    • The literal question is “Rabbi, how did you come to be here?” or “Rabbi how were you begotten?”

      • Same verb used to wonder where the wine from Cana came from (2:9), where the “birth from above” comes from (3:3, 7), and where the living water comes from (4:11).

      • Therefore the question is also a deeper question about how Jesus came to be - Jesus’ answer will be covered the next 4 weeks

  • Desire for a sign dialogue

    • Crowds want more food - Jesus fed them once, “why not again?”

    • They are looking for quid pro quo/transaction: “What must we do?”

    • J: “Believe”

    • Crowds: “Give us a sign so we can believe! Moses gave sign - bread from heaven”

    • J: Wrong bread - that was just manna, God will give you the bread of life that gives life to the world!

    • Crowds: Eternal bread! Food forever?! Count us in!

    • J: You don’t get it. Not bread you can eat that will grant you physical life, but bread that will feed your soul.

  • They are looking for the wrong thing

    • They ask for a sign- which is funny since they just saw a sign in the miraculous feeding- but apparently it wasn’t enough

      • Are we any different? No matter how much we receive we always are wanting more. What have you done for me lately?

    • Jesus miraculous deeds are always for two purposes: To rectify a human need, and to reveal who he is. If you dwell only on one, and not the other, you’re missing the full point.

    • All good things come from God- not from the messengers of God. It is not Moses who saves the Israelites, but God. It was not Jesus who provided the bread and fish, but God.

    • God gives even faith, and it is this faith that is the key.

    • God continues to give. The story of God providing is not just one for the histories. It is one for the present age. It is not that God gave, but that God gives.

    • How often do we come to church looking for the wrong thing? How often as a church do we look to provide the wrong thing?

      • O Benjamin Sparks, “We are accustomed to inviting people into the community of faith for all the wrong reasons: for the "right" kind of worship; for political engagement on behalf of the poor and downtrodden; for the sake of a Christian America; for a strong youth and family ministry; for the opportunity to practice mission in a downtown location, or to go on mission trips to Africa or Central America. Yet what we have to offer—in Christ and by Christ and because of Christ—first and foremost is "soul food," which lasts forever and does not change with the changing circumstances of the church or the world. It is soul food that we desire, and soul food in which we will rejoice, long after our bellies are full of rice and our lives know justice in a free society.” Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).

    • Jesus refuses to participate in their quid pro quo, consumer focused system. He isn’t interested in being their king (cf. 6:15), but in revealing a new way, a radical truth and a full life.

  • I am

    • Similar saying as 4:26

    • “I am” appears 26 times in the Gospel

    • Calls back to Exodus and connects Jesus with God

    • Never hungry or thirsty - survival will no longer be your primary focus, it will be replaced with love (even unto death)

Thoughts and Questions

  • O. Benjamin Sparks, “Do we believe the good news—not caring whether believing brings us material prosperity or personal happiness—for that new, transformed life along the way?” Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16)

  • How much of Christianity is based on a desire of immortality? Endless food, endless blessing, endless life? Jesus is more concerned with this life - food that will grant quality of life in relationship with God- NOT neverending sustenance.

  • Do we really want the bread of life? Do we desire a deeper relationship with self, other and God or are well looking for eternal life and possessions?

God as Bread from our 2015 Sermon Series based on Wearing God by Lauren Winner

Focus 1: God as Bread

  • “You, eternal Trinity, are Table and Food and Waiter for us.” (Catherine of Siena, as quoted on page 91 of Wearing God, by Lauren Winner).

  • “It would not be a gross exaggeration to say that the Bible is a culinary manual, concerned from start to finish about how to eat, what to eat, when to eat.” (Lauren Winner’s opening sentence of Bread and Vine chapter in Wearing God, p. 92)

  • If Jesus is the “bread of life,” what kind of bread is he?

    • What kind of bread do we use at Communion?

      • Prepackaged wafer

      • Cut up pieces of white bread

      • Hawaiian loaf (at $4.50 a loaf)

  • God is the meal and also provides the meal.

Focus 2: The Darker Side of Bread

  • White Bread

    • White bread was once a delicacy because highly refined flour was expensive.

    • 1890: 90% of bread eaten in the US was made by women at home.

    • 1930: 90 % of bread was baked outside the home by men in factories.

    • As it became easier to produce, it became more popular. Not always because of its taste.

      • “In an era obsessed with hygiene and sanitation, the color white came to represent ‘scientific control,’... Physicians took to the pages of national magazines to urge families, especially immigrant families and poor families, to whitewash their walls… [One designer wrote] ‘Whitewash is extremely moral.’” (Wearing God, p. 106)

  • Shoe Box Lunches

    • Created by women for the men in segregated South who would be traveling far for work, or for families from the North traveling into the South to visit family. They would not be able to stop anywhere and eat.

    • Food must be packed that could last for hours.

    • “[This kind of] food preparation is the best picture I have found for understanding God as a provider of food. Here is God preparing food for the Israelites journeying in the wilderness: God is not just abstractly raining coriander flakes down from the  heavens. God is staying up late to prepare shoe box lunches for a people on a perilous journey.” (Wearing God, p. 112)

  • Eating Disorders

    • “From a study on women with eating disorders: two thirds of the women who regularly participate in the Eucharist report that they have decreased the frequency with which they receive Communion because they fear the calories in the wafer and the wine.”

    • Avoiding the bread of Communion as a part of an eating disorder is an extreme case, but probably one many people can identify. Maybe they haven’t gone that far, but they can see it as plausible.

    • Obsessing over food, we have lost the joy, process, and fellowship of it.

    • Too much of eating food has been reduced to mechanical process, fast, quick, and cheap.

    • Yet, God is surely in the cold can of Spaghetti-O’s with the TV on or the Quarter Pounder woofed down in the car. Sometimes we just miss it.

2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:15

Initial Thoughts

  • “You are the man” - very different context

  • Ahh….sweet hypocritical self-righteousness, goes down smooth every time...except this time.

  • Almost a direct continuation of last week’s story

  • What is missing?

    • Uriah is killed along with some other soldiers, David doesn’t care but encourages Joab to take the city

  • Direct connection to this week’s Psalm 51- the “Ash Wednesday Psalm”

  • Worth continuing the story- at least letting people know what happens in vv. 14-24

Bible Study

  • It looks like David got away with it...he didn’t

  • Any attempt to blame Bathsheba is overwhelmed by the fact that David is solely held responsible for his actions (sex and possible rape) and reactions (the cover-up and murder of Uriah)

  • David also enlists others (Joab) as accomplices in his crime

  • Nathan

    • Last time Nathan spoke to David was to tell him God would watch over him and his house and make his name great.

      • What about when we don’t want God watching over us?

    • Prophet - Perfect representation of the prophets as the ethical, moral and spiritual voice speaking to power and holding David accountable

    • Crafty - He does not accuse David directly but does so in a way in which David is forced to reveal that he knows what is right and therefore exposes his own guilt

  • Wrath of God or consequences of sin

    • “The sword will never leave your house” - this is the end of the happy days for David. The rest of his life will be marked with family strife and sorrow:

      • death of an infant son

      • his son, Amnon rapes his half-sister, Tamar

      • his son Absalom kills Amnon

      • Absalom rebels and takes Jerusalem

      • Absalom flees Jerusalem with David Harem (think 2 Samuel 12:11-12)

      • Absalom is killed sending David into grief that he possibly never recovers from

    • God forgives David, but there are still consequences for his sin

  • Sins of the father visited upon the children

    • The death of David’s son is clearly interpreted as his punishment from God

      • Is this a theological device to explain how such a horrific thing to happen to God’s chosen?

    • Psychological and family systems would suggest this to some extent, but interpreting this as the will of God is dangerous and I do not think faithful theology.

  • We have to imagine what Bathsheba is feeling in the midst of this- this could make a powerful sermon about her response, grief, victimization, etc.

Thoughts and Questions

  • God watching over us can be both challenging and comforting. We love that notion when we are afraid but what about when we are arrogant?

  • How do we interpret when bad things happen to children? Infant mortality, disability, stillbirths, etc. How do we comfort the parents without adding to their own grief and guilt?

  • Forgiveness is complex. At times we hear forgive and forget (“I will remember their sins no more”) but then we also have instances of God’s forgiveness paired with God’s judgment. How to we affirm that there are just consequences for our actions and proclaim God’s boundless love and grace?

Ephesians 4:1-16

Initial Thoughts

  • “Therefore” pushes us to review last week. Paul is making a statement here based on what came before.

    • V. 20-21 “Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all we could ask or imagine by his power and work within us; glory to him in teh church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.”

  • Now, after the therefore, is the action:

    • “Our actions are to be godly and that we are to ‘walk worthy of the calling’. To walk worthy defines the type of life we are to live so as to please and honor God for we are chosen to do good works. That is God’s calling, and our calling is to uphold god’s laws. God desires faithfulness and obedience.” ( Abingdon Preaching Annual, 2018 , 2018, p. 103)

Bible Study

  • “Two problems that seem to always plague the church concern the nature of its leadership and the elusive character of Christian unity. In this lection, the author skillfully weaves together these two significant themes in terms of Christian vocation and the oneness of the body of Christ.” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year B . p. 453)

  • Living within God’s victory means something. This begins the “So what?” section of Paul’s letter.

  • V. 1-10 Live as a people worthy of the call…

    • Live right - gentleness, humility, and patience

    • Accept each other

    • Jesus went down so that he might bring everyone up

      • “They go low, we go high.”

      • He went low so that all could be brought up.

      • No one is ‘above’ getting dirty if Jesus was willing to.

    • Common “calledness” of all believers. God calls us all to a life of wholeness.

  • V. 11-16 God gave us work to do…

    • Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers

      • All related, but slightly different.

      • Much could be made of these five roles. Unfortunately, the Church seems to have rolled all of these into one - Ordained, Professional Clergy.

    • Equip the saints… until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son.

      • I think Paul would resonate with Park Palmer’s quote in his newest book On the Brink of Everything , “Wholeness does not mean perfection -- it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” and this, “Peace comes when I understand that I am ‘only one thing among many.”

      • Growth is the goal of Christian faith.

      • God wants us to mature - to move somewhere, to grow. This is not about ecstatic conversion and enthusiastic experience. This is about a life of moving toward God - sanctifying grace over time.

    • An integral part of ‘building up’ the church, of course, is bringing about and maintaining its unity.

      • Unity over Justice?

      • Unity over holiness?

      • Any disunity is evidence that the church is immature.

        • Careful though, because it is easy to see others as causing the disunity, and they are immature.

Thoughts and Questions

  • Clergy must take some blame for allowing the roles of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher all into the one professional leader - or at some churches a multi-staff operation of trained professionals. The Clergy Guild at the same time laments that lay people aren’t more of these roles, but also have helped create a system in which the professionals are rewarded for doing these things, but we are to “equip the saints.” for this ministry, not simply keep it to ourselves.

    • Clergy must be identifying leaders.

    • Equipping and encouraging them.

    • Relinquishing power.

    • Giving keys to others, especially young people (Kara Powell)

People cannot become mature adults unless those who are mature help them become independent.

  • The kind of growth Paul is describing is hard to measure and quantify. It will not show up in your tally of “Professions of Faith.” You’re not going to get recognition or awards or speaking engagements or book deals for helping people move to maturity. Again, going to Parker Palmer’s book, when asked by a younger person about the struggle to find vocation in order to achieve great things, part of his response is: “I never saw my vocational journey in terms of ‘achieving great things.’ I saw it then as I see it now: a series of probes into my gifts and the needs of the world, trying to discover where they might intersect. Some of those probes took me to light, and others took me into dark places.” ( On the Brink of Everything , p. 40)

    • What if this is how we saw great churches. They are the ones willing to make a series of probes into their gifts and the needs of their community. Some will work and give life, others may not, and need to be pruned. This takes a constant task of understanding your church and your context. It may not feel like doing “great things,” or achieving “measurable effectiveness,” but as Palmer says later: “The standard should be ‘faithfulness.’ Faithfulness to the needs of the world, and to the offering of your gifts… The tighter we cling to the norm of effectiveness, the smaller the tasks we’ll take on, because they are the only ones that get short-term results.”

Psalm 51

  • The backstory – 2 Samuel 11-12
    • David no longer goes out with the army
    • Staying at home – his idleness leads him to see Bathsheba bathing on the roof
    • He “takes her” with no regard for her desires or will – a clear abuse of power
    • She gets pregnant
    • David conspires to trick Uriah  to come home and sleep with his wife (even getting them a bottle wine)
    • Uriah – righteous – refuses to sleep in his bed with his wife while his men are in the field of battle
    • David gets him drunk- Uriah still refuses
    • David arranges for Uriah to be killed
    • David then “graciously” marries the pregnant widow
    • “Gets away with it” until Nathan calls him to account – the sheep stealing man
    • The Beginning of the end for David
      • His sons- like David – will use people and take what they desire without regard to justice or consequence. David will never again achieve greatness due to the consequences of his actions.
      • God grants us grace but we still face the consequences of our actions
  • Aspects of lament – but this is suffering cause by the Psalmists’ own actions
    • Some of the greatest pain we experience is self-inflicted, but that doesn’t keep us from God’s grace
  • Attributes of who God is
  1. Gracious – hannun
  2. Merciful – rahum
  3. Steadfast love – hesed
  • Attributes of Humanity - Three words for Sin:
  1. “Transgressions” (vv. 1, 3, 13) is the same word as rebellion as used in Isaiah 1:2
  2. “Iniquity” (vv. 2, 5, 9) means to be “bowed down” or “bent out of shape”
  3. “Sin” (vv. 2, 3, 4, 9) or “Sinner” (vv. 5, 13) – Heb. Hata – means “to miss the target” used in Judges 20 about the slinger of the tribe of Benjamin who could “sling a stone at a hair and not miss (hata)
  • Verse 5 – the sinfulness of humanity and the need for a new heart
    • The pervasiveness of sin
    • Not the biological transmission of sin, but the acknowledgment that humans are, by their very nature, sinful.
    • Attributes about who humans are
  • Attributes of God's reaction to human sin - Three words for forgiveness:
  1. “blot out” – to wipe away, as in tears (Isaiah 25:8) or dirty dishes (2 Kings 21:13)
  2. “wash” away iniquity (vv. 2, 7) – to scrub, as in dirty clothes (Exodus 19:10, 14)
  3. “cleanse” (vv.2, 7) – to be clean, used for washing clothes and for ritual purification (Lev. 13:6, 34, 58)
  • Connection to Exodus 32-34 (Golden Calf Narrative)
    • The future of Israel’s story is in peril and will not continue- the relationship has been broken UNLESS God is willing to have steadfast love and forgiveness
    • Once again the future of the people of Israel is in peril – the King is God’s servant and the king’s actions are evil – the story may not continue UNLESS God is willing to be merciful and forgiving
      • Exodus – David – Psalmist – Exile – “A New Creation in Christ” – today
      • Story of the Hebrew People
      • Story of the Monarchy
      • Story of the Jews in Exile
      • Story of the Disciples
      • Story of the Christian Church
      • Story of the Contemporary church
      • Story of us – our church, our families – us as individuals
    • Recognition of a deep and complete sin which was rebellious, has bent David’s relationship with God “out of shape” and how deeply David’ action shave missed the mark. Only God has the power to clean the relationship and David himself.
  • Heart Transplant
    • Create in me a clean heart – to ask for a completely new thing
    • Heart – the center of being – the brain – the Spirit- the controlling essence of a person
    • There is not fixing what was broken, but God has the power of creation – the ability to make some new
    • We cannot go back, we cannot undo what was done, but we can confess and work to make something new
    • The goal of the Psalmist is to be back in right relationship – NOT to escape consequences.
  • Then what?
    • Teach, Sing and Praise God
      • “How Can I Keep from Singing?”
      • Having experienced God’s steadfast love (hesed), the Psalmist cannot help but share the story of what God has done in their lives


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.