Proper 4B (OT 9)


Featured Musician: Claire Hitchins

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan


Mark 2:23-3:6

Initial Thoughts

  • Welcome to Ordinary Time! In Latin, the name of this time is tempus per annum translated as time during the year.

  • First of 8 weeks of Mark  (until John butts in at the end of July)

  • This is a long stretch to reflect on Jesus’ life and ministry

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • What has already happened:

      • 1:1-15 Baptism of Jesus (remember, no birth)

      • 1:16-20 Calling first disciples

      • 1:21-46 Healing and growing popularity

      • 2:1-12 Heals the man through the roof and forgives sin

      • 2:13-17 Eating with sinners and tax collectors

      • 2:18-22 “New wineskins” and fasting.

    • Ch 1 Jesus grows in popularity through healing

    • Ch 2 Jesus  grows in controversy through forgiving and hanging with the wrong people

    • By the end of this passage, “the Pharisees got together with the supporters of Herod to plan how to destroy Jesus.”

      • Reveals just how early Jesus was stirring controversy.

      • Pharisees and Herodians appear to have some commonalities. John the Baptist has already been arrested by Herod. In Luke 13:31, Pharisees come to warn Jesus about Herod’s desire to kill him.

  • 1 Samuel 21:1-9

    • In the midst of dispute between David and Saul

    • David in need of rations for his troops.

    • Ahimelech tells David he has no regular bread, only holy bread. He gives it to David only because David promises that his men have abstained from sexual activity.

  • 2 Sabbath controversies

    • Plucking Grain

      • Jesus refers to the story in 1 Samuel. He interprets Scripture for those whose job it is to interpret Scripture, pointing out their inadequate reading of this story.

      • Point of the story for Jesus - David broke the law when he needed to because of circumstances.

      • Moral relativism or interpreting the Law?

      • It has long been a part of Jewish tradition that Law could be broken in times of emergency. Be careful not to caricaturize the Legalism that is represented here.

      • Jesus and his disciples are simply walking through a field. There is no sign that they were starving. Plus, David was trying to survive while Saul was pursuing him.

      • Sabbath is still respected - simply in its proper place.

      • Lord of the Sabbath does not mean that the Sabbath is abolished.

        • “Christians who acknowledge Jesus as Lord should keep the sabbath in the same spirit that Jesus exhibits in these stories. The parishioner who has only recently been released from the hospital should not feel compelled to attend church. But those who never consider corporate worship an important part of faith should reconsider whether Jesus is Lord for them.” (Pheme Perkins, New Interpreters’ Bible VIII, p. 559-560)

    • Healing a withered hand

      • Jesus does not abolish the sabbath. “Rather, he insists that the principle of doing good should govern behavior on the sabbath.” (Ibid., p. 557)

      • Jesus heals in anger and grief.

      • Anger and grief is an interesting mix of emotions. Here, Jesus heals the man while ‘deeply grieved.’ He is hurt and angered by their unyielding hearts. They saw only a Law to be followed, not a man in need.

      • Similar to how this series of healings started in Mark 2:1-12. There though, the legal experts are merely “grumbling among themselves.” Now it has come to a head.

      • The very next healing is done in a crowd and the people shouted, “You are God’s Son.” This forms quite the contrast to how the Pharisees react.

      • The crowds of people see Jesus for who he is. The religious leaders see him as a threat.

  • Note on the Pharisees:

    • “Christians have a special obligation to avoid anti-Semitic stereotyping of the Pharisees and other religious authorities as bound by intolerant legalism… The Pharisees, scribes, and other religious authorities performed a socially necessary function of interpreting the Law so that people could use it to shape their lives. Disputes over proper interpretations of the Law are as necessary a part of their social and religious landscape as are Supreme Court decisions in the United States.” (Pheme Perkins, New Interpreters’ Bible VIII, p. 559-560).

Thoughts and Questions

  • “I consider this one of the key texts in all of the gospels to understand Jesus’ relation to his tradition, particularly to the law. Jesus’ operating principle is that the Sabbath (and, with that, I am reading all of the law and the rituals of holiness) was created for humanity, and not the other way around.
- The idea that ‘humanity was made for the Sabbath’ continues to be a wildly popular theology that God created the law and humanity needs to live up to it or else we are lost. In that theology, God is chiefly known as holy, and humans have to achieve a certain level of holiness – through following laws or practicing purity rituals - to be acceptable to God.
- The alternative theology, which Jesus poses here, is that ‘the Sabbath was made for humanity.’ In that sense, God is chiefly known as love and the laws and purity rituals are for humanity’s own good. Or, even better, they offer ways that humanity can respond to God’s grace with gratitude.” (Mark Davis, Left Behind and Loving It)
  • What is the Sabbath to you? We Christians have moved the Sabbath to Sunday, but what else have we done to it? Is the Sabbath just another day? Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, do we even give Jesus that day?

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)

Initial Thoughts

  • “Here I am Lord” based on this text and Isaiah 6

  • Read it all!

    • This is about both the beginning and ending of a call

    • v.1-10 are about responding to being called

    • v.11-20 are about trusting in God

Bible Study

  • Context

  • The Word of the Lord was rare and visions were not widespread...sound familiar

    • Eli’s sons were taking the best parts of the sacrificed meat without waiting for the fat to burn off. Oh and they were having sex with women who want to pray.

  • Call

    • Samuel hears the call but does not understand what it is or who it is from

    • Intergenerational- both Eli and Samuel are needed for God’s call to be heard and responded to. Samuel hears it, but Eli understands it

    • Eli’s eyesight might be failing, but his faithful is not - like many of our seniors who continue to live faithful lives

  • Response

    • You servant is listening the response to God’s call is not grand speeches or marches- it begins with listening

    • God is going to make “both ears...tingle” - what does this mean? Two Tingling Ears - Donna Shaper (from Feasting on the Word)

      • Ear of Fear: Cancer, war, death, car accident, financial ruin

      • Ear of Hope: Children are safe, hungry are fed, earth is restored, loved ones are well

  • Justice - A word of fearful judgment or of forgiving reprieve?

    • Eli seems almost relieved to hear this message - perhaps the guilt and waiting for God’s judgement was gnawing at him. Also perhaps we was ready to be done (think Simeon from Luke 2)- perhaps he was ready to know that his priestly and prophetic work was being carried on by another

    • What is Eli’s sin? Being passive - not speaking out against his sons’ abuse of power

      • The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

    • Call is not all about privilege, but about being faithful: speaking truth to power

      • Samuel must first speak God’s justice against Eli, his mentor/father-figure

      • MLK Jr. speaking out against racism, but also against the Vietnam War

      • Bonhoeffer - hung  

      • Oscar Romero - shot while serving Communion

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • This is a great story of intergenerational cooperation and faithfulness - how are we modeling this in the church? How are we encouraging our older members to help our younger members hear where God is calling them?

  • Listen- we need to teach ourselves and the church to listen to what God is saying to them. Spiritual direction is more about listening than responding.

    • How can we share the advice of Eli, “Speak for your servant is listening?”

  • Absolution is not simply a let bygones be bygones/forgive and forget ordeal. Eli receives absolution, but there are consequences to his actions and the actions of this sons.

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

Initial Thoughts

  • A little background on 2 Corinthians:

    • Written about 50 CE, several months after 1 Corinthians and Paul’s visit to Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:5-7)

    • Actually Paul’s third letter to the Corinthians. Paul refers to his second letter written in tears and anguish (2 Corinthians 2:4). This “letter of tears” is lost

    • Paul’s relationship has become increasingly strained

    • Paul is addressing claims from other evangelist who have better backgrounds (were one of the 12) or better gifts

    • According to Luther Seminary professor, Mary Hinkle Shore, Paul chooses his words carefully to prevent the relationship from deteriorating, but is also having a hard time keeping his emotions in check. Furthermore he is constantly framing his letter in the theological concept of God’s reconciling work in Christ

Bible Study

  • V. 5-6: End of a defense against those accusing Paul of lifting himself up as the example to be proclaimed and followed

    • Remember- Paul’s relationship has become increasingly strained

    • He is constantly defending himself over and against others (who actually knew Jesus when he was alive)

    • He refocuses on the heart of his message: Jesus is Lord, we are called to serve one another (be slaves to one another)

  • V. 7-12: Life through death

    • Treasure - not referring to the immortal soul in a mortal body, but THIS treasure (see v. 6) which is the light of God in Christ which shines both in and through us

    • The light of God grants Paul the resilience to keep going despite being afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. It isn’t Paul’s resilience but God’s

      • Paul is not to be commended for his resilience, because it doesn’t come from Paul it comes from God

    • Jesus too was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, it was his way of life that led him to and through death

      • So too does the Christian path of living faithfully lead us to affliction, confusion, persecution and possibly even death- but it is only in being faithful that we truly live.

    • In short- the way of life may (and probably will) lead to suffering and even death, but it is God’s light that both enables us to live faithfully and gives us the strength to endure.

      • “Paul of course does not deliberately seek suffering. It comes as he lives as a Christian and results in the life of Jesus being seen in him” - Ernest Best Interpretation: Second Corinthians.

      • It is in being faithful-even unto suffering and death, “carrying the death of Jesus”, that we proclaim the life of Jesus.

      • Martyr literally means “witness”.

        • “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” Tertullian

  • Sum it up

    • Great faithfulness is not to be found in great human acts, but in God working through humans

    • Our lives contain the love and grace of God like an earthen pot contains water. We do not own the love and grace any more than the pot owns the water, we simply have the privilege to carry it and share it. In fact, just as a pot is made to carry water- so we are made to carry the love and grace of God.- John Riggs, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.

Thoughts and Questions

  • What is the purpose of what the church does? Is it to raise money or recruit more members or follow in the way of Jesus Christ? How often do we put following Jesus last in the list thinking “we need to survive” in order to serve Christ? Paul argues that in our persecution (real persecution not the BS “War on Christmas”), suffering and perhaps dying we are proclaiming Jesus. Perhaps we need to be willing to suffer and die more (as the church) or at least focus first on faithfulness and if the church local or denominationally dies- so be it.

  • “Christian life and discipleship are frequently confused with good citizenship, appropriate decorum, and following socially acceptable norms and lifestyle. Doing good seems to be a part of doing well.” Martha Sterne, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.

    • Martyrdom is so often associated with religious (and often Islamic) extremism

    • True martyrs do not seek martyrdom, but rather refuse to compromise their religious beliefs for the sake for survival

    • Who are our martyrs today? Perhaps Colin Kapernick who lost everything he ever wanted (vocationally at least) because he refused to compromise his beliefs in order to keep his job.

  • We are clay jars filled with heavenly light. Our contents (the light of God) strengthening our fragility. We may get chipped, cracked, smudged and scrapped- but not destroyed.

    • “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”


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”).