Proper 16B (OT 21)
Voice in the Wilderness: Jeff Nelson
Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
Last week of John 6. Next week back to Mark 7
What about verse 70-71?
Literary context: Grumbling.
Jesus feed the crowds.
They cross the lake to Capernaum, Jesus walks across.
On shores of Capernaum, they followed him.
At some point, he goes from shores at Capernaum to the Synagogue.
V. 41: “The Jewish opposition grumbled about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’”
V. 42-59 are response to the grumbling opposition, explaining what he means by “Bread of life”
Now it is the disciples who grumble.
Borrowing a lot from Charles Cousar: four important pieces of this text.
The message of Jesus is difficult and offensive
Either Jesus is a cannibal, which is gross (and a common insult and misunderstanding the early church faced)
Or Jesus using symbolism and metaphor,
“Believing and knowing” means that you must participate in his death and crucifixion.
Being with Jesus means that you are on the side of the crucified - the most shameful and humiliating place to be. This is a difficult thing to accept.
The Spirit enables the disciples to accept Jesus’ words.
Being willing to go that low is actually impossible, unless empower by the Spirit.
“Flesh is useless” is not a knock on material things or on something as narrow as ‘sins of the flesh.’ This not pure gnosticism. It means that you cannot simply reason yourself to understanding Jesus.
There is something about following Jesus that is not reducible to mere understanding, logic, or contemplation.
Seeing with eyes of the Spirit allows them to see what they need to see - that the only way to true life is through Jesus, which includes death.
Unbelief must be taken seriously.
Judas was a real scandal for John
How could Judas have betrayed Jesus?
Was Jesus duped? No, because he knows everything
Was Jesus wrong about picking Judas? No, because he can’t be wrong
It must be part of God’s plan from the start
John is the most explicit about Judas
Only Gospel that calls him treasurer
Only Gospel that names Judas as one upset about the anointing oil
Disbelief was not just something the early church faced, but something that Jesus had to deal with intimately.
If Grace is so great, how can anyone resist it? (Irresistible grace)
Shown in stark contrast to Simon Peter’s witness.
Judas=unbelieving, an obstacle to belief
Peter=Faithful, the Rock, and willing to follow.
It’s all about grace
Thoughts and Questions
What part of Jesus’ message is offensive?
Is your message offensive? If so, who are you offending?
Wealthy who do not use it for others.
Government that does not care for those on margins.
Are you just preaching to the choir each week? Sometimes it is okay to encourage those who are doing the work of the Kingdom. Sometimes those who are eating the bread of life, just need another portion. That is okay. But sometimes people need to be offended.
How do we respond to the grumbling of the disciples?
How do we take it when people leave?
Are we willing to let disciples walk away when the message is offensive?
Are we willing to ask “Do you also want to leave?”
Discern between constructive criticism and people grumbling in face of the truth. It is very easy to get on your high horse and just see that all criticism is someone else’s problem. Yes, there are toxic churches, but sometimes churches have legitimate complaints about ineffective pastors. It can be hard to tell the difference.
Last week in Ephesians. Next week: 5 weeks of James before 7 weeks of Hebrews
Literally the opposite of “When in Rome”
Uncomfortable with this passage in the way it is often used
To justify militaristic, protectionist discrimination against those considered to be the “forces of evil” and the “darkness of this age”
While explicitly not about taking up arms against the “enemies of flesh and blood” this passage has been used to justify all sorts of violence against the “enemies of God” and the “forces of evil”
Ephesus is in Asia Minor, part of the Roman Empire, where Christianity was illegal until 313 CE
Even if not persecuted by the Romans, there would have been harassment and discrimination from other religious communities and authorities
New temple built to honor and worship the Emperor Domitian
Cultic center of goddess Artemis
Challenges of living as a Christian in a pagan community
How to live as a Christian in a pagan, oppressive community?
Do not revolt violently against your neighbors (6:12)
Do not respond to violent and militaristic might with violent militaristic opposition because your concern is spiritual
Who is my enemy? Sin, evil, death which is as much inside ourselves as it is in the other
Standing firm on one’s convictions
Archie Smith Jr. - there is a difference between stubbornness and sanding firm
Stubbornness - will not listen to different ideas, rejects alternatives, refuses regardless of any facts or change in situation to change position, is not self-reflective or discerning, does not change and does not grow
Standing firm - willingness to listen, debate, consider alternatives to reach a higher goal without sacrificing basic principles. MLK Jr - non-violence, Margaret Sanger - women’s rights
Armor of God
There is real evil in the world - institutional, systemic, authoritarian evil, such formidable forces require spiritual weaponry.
“It is the suprahuman dimension of power in institutions and the cosmos which must be fought, not the mere human agent." Walter Wink, from Naming the Powers. vol. 1 in The Powers (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 85-87; quoted in Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).
“In unmasking the powers, one thinks of segregation, apartheid, fatalism, the Mafia, addiction, bondage of the will, totalitarian states, a celebrity culture of glamorized Bad Girls and Boys, serfdom in the medieval period, attempted bribery of legislatures through large campaign contributions, and genocide. Depersonalization creates a long gray line of faceless folk who think of themselves as no more than a Social Security number. One thinks of Nazi philosophy, unbridled nationalism, violence, hunger, racism, obscenity, addiction, brothels in Mumbai, nuclear weapons, and tobacco companies.” Peter Rhea Jones, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).
Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word of God
“Stand” used four times in vv. 11-14 is a word of active resistance, used for get in into military formation
First “having taken” (aorist past participle) upon truth, righteousness, peace and faith, we can receive or take (imperative participle) salvation and the word of God
Christianity is a history of violence against others
325 legalization of Christianity leads to the mass persecution of “heretics”
431 - 3rd Ecumincal Council in Ephesus the church is divided over the nature and person of Christ declaring one another to be tools of the devil
Crusades, 1942 Inquisition and ethnic cleansing of Spain, Witch Trials, Pogroms, killing of unitarians during the reformation, Christian justification of slavery, 30 years war, 100 years war, and on and on.
Kathleen McVey - the church's basic positions about war: pacifism, just war and holy war all stem from an interpretation of spiritual warfare against the powers of “this present darkness”
Christians are called to a gospel of peace
The armor of God is used to protect the Christian and strengthen them for a mission of love and grace
The ONLY offensive tool is the “sword of Spirit, which is the word of God”
How might we use the word of God to combat evil and sin both inside and outside ourselves?
Thoughts and Questions
“Where do you see the spiritual darkness operating against God's power of love in today's world? In our own minds, or in the embodied "others"? Can Christians be extremists of love, peace, and boldness (6:20) in bringing peace in these present evil days (5:16)?” Haruko Nawata Ward, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).
All sorts of violence and atrocity can be (and have been) justified by citing the “present darkness” or by labeling others as the “forces of evil”.
These are the arguments used both by the extreme right and the extreme left
Dedication of the Temple, highly edited by lectionary readings.
What gets skipped?
Details about getting the chest from where David kept it to the Temple.
Physical description of Holy of Holies.
Solomon paying tribute to God and David’s relationship.
Solomon appealing to God’s justice in dealing with righteous and wicked.
History lesson about Moses.
Public leadership (as opposed to last week, which was a private exchange)
Designates the inner sanctum of the Temple as the “Most Holy Place”
Reveals that God’s presence is real - smoke, mist so thick the priests cannot see.
Nature of public prayer
Communicates to God
Praise and thanksgiving.
Gives praise for eternal and all-powerful nature of God.
Reminds God of the promises, and thanks God for fulfilling them.
Please for continued relationship, and for God to hear the prayers of the people.
Asks for forgiveness, when needed.
Communicates to People
Teaching, reminders, and confession.
Reminds people of relationship between God and David, who is “My Father.”
Reinforces Solomon's rightful place as King.
Reminds people that “I” am the one that built the Temple.
Solomon aligning himself politically and spiritually with God. All of the action is of God, through David, then through Solomon, then to the people.
God’s Dwelling Place?
Solomon makes it explicit that God is not living here. “But how could God possibly live on earth? If heaven, even the highest heaven, can't contain you, how can this temple that I've built contain you?”
this is not about containing God, it is about giving access to God to the people.
The place of worship is a place that the people may encounter God, not a place where God is contained. This is in contrast to how many other ancients understood their temples.
Thoughts and Questions
How does your pastoral prayer look like Solomon’s speech? What is good about public prayer? What is the problem with it? What does public confession look like? What place does confession have in corporate worship?
Where does God live? What is special about a church? A sanctuary? The candles that are lit? The big Bible on the Table? Is there something about a church sanctuary that is more holy than other places? What activities should happen here?
How do we treat immigrants? This can be taken on the very modern national level. If we call ourselves a Christian nation, founded on the laws of the Old Testament, how does that affect the way we treat immigrants? If believe, as Solomon says, that people will come from “a distant country because of your reputation—because they will hear of your great reputation, your great power, and your outstretched arm,” will we then, as is commanded, “do everything the immigrant asks.”
If you do not want to take the national route, then what about “immigrants” in your community? New people in town, new people in church? New ideas in your own thought processes?
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@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.