Year B — Proper 12 (the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost)

Commentary for July 29, 2012
Click here for today’s readings

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Boy, oh, boy! What can we say about King David and his wandering eyes?

There are any number of approaches possible for preaching this text; certainly, “be sure your sins will find you out” is a tried and true message. The futility of trying to “hide from God” (a la the story of the Fall in the garden of Eden) might be another. Seeing if you can find somebody else to take the fall for you (“go on down to your house, Uriah, and ‘wash your feet’ –[wink, wink]”) is another fool’s errand.

I am struck by the depth of the desperation that ensued as David sought any remedy other than honest confession for his sin. Those in the recovery community learn — at a price, to be sure — that every offense is only made right by an act of atonement. Responsibility must be accepted and amends must be made.

You can’t send Joab to do your dirty work for you.

Psalm 14
I recently re-watched Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien (all three movies — it was a holiday!) When I read this psalm, I get a visual image of the “all-seeing eye” of Sauron flashing in my mind. 

(Of course, you can Google it and find an image — or you can just go here.)

I’m not certain that this is what the psalmist had in mind with his line, “The Lord looks down from heaven…” — but there is something to be said for the pervasiveness and thoroughness of God’s vision when it comes to considering the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.

2 Kings 4:42-44
The Hebrew Bible version of loaves and fishes: loaves of barley and fresh ears of corn (well, at least of grain — what else other than corn comes in ears?)

At any rate, Elisha’s miracle — based on a word from the Lord — foreshadows the trust that Christ would call forth from his disciples on the hillside. Little is enough — and more than enough! — when God is in the mix.

Psalm 145:10-18
This is one of the most encouraging psalm texts in scripture — and that’s saying a lot! Both God’s words and actions are intended for good (v.13.) God is near to “all who call” on God. Truly.

Ephesians 3:14-21
Love, strength, grace, glory, riches — Ephesians is filled with these “power” phrases, available as Christ dwells in the hearts of believers. Indeed, in the fullness of God’s good intention — its height, depth, and breadth — there is very little that God cannot accomplish. Certainly, more than we can imagine (if not always exactly what we have imagined!)

John 6:1-21    
No rest for the weary — and, on this occasion, no food, either.

John’s telling has Jesus slyly testing the disciples. They are excellent foils for his plans to illustrate what faith in God looks and acts like. Jesus works with very little (compare the relative bounty in Elisha’s story, above) but leads the disciples to see that God provides not just enough — but much more than they ever could have imagined (see Ephesians, above.)

For the disciples, it’s personal. When the lesson has ended, they each have their own basket to carry away — a reminder of God’s sufficiency in the time of need.

The second episode, with Jesus walking on water in the midst of a storm (and transporting not only the disciples, but their boat, to safety with Mr. Scott-like efficiency) illustrates even further how little we need fear when God is the strength of our lives.

It’s tough in the midst of our own storms — admittedly. But let the words of Christ dwell richly in us: “It is I; do not be afraid.”

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

I was recently invited to preach for a “Homecoming” at a former parish, Friedens Lutheran Church in Gibsonville, NC. I have to confess that I said yes partly out of ego and partly out of a desire for some good North Carolina home cooking at the after service “covered dish dinner,” (what Midwest Lutherans call a “hot dish.”) When it comes to congregational dinners, rural and small town Lutherans in North and South Carolina are much more southern than they are Lutheran.

We’re talking about fried chicken and country ham biscuits and pork barbecue and fresh boiled corn and creamed potatoes and field peas and cornbread and greens and squash and thick tomatoes the color of blood and sliced as thick as a hockey puck. And cakes and pies and fruit cobblers and . . . oh my; my cholesterol just went up a few points writing that Faulknerian sentence. (Oh yeah, the iced tea; thick and brown and cold and sweet enough to rot your teeth,)

There is something about a good church dinner that reminds us of what the Kingdom of God is supposed to be like. Everybody’s there, even the ones who aren’t there very often, or who don’t like the pastor, or who are at odds with others in the church about this, that or the other thing that is of vital importance right at this moment, but which will be forgotten in a year or two.

In the face of the “Fellowship Meal” in the “Fellowship Hall”; all of that seems to fade away and there we are together, sampling each other’s food and admiring each other’s children and asking after each other’s health and listening to each other’s stories and enjoying each other’s company.

In the southern evangelical churches of my youth, we didn’t really have Feasts or Festivals in the liturgical calendar sense, just Christmas and Easter really. But we had “Feast Days” anyway. We found many opportunities to celebrate with a feast. Homecoming with “dinner on the grounds;” numerous family reunions, held at the church after service and everyone invited (and would have come anyway, since we were all related by marriage or something); the first Sunday night of a revival, the last night of Vacation Bible School, etc. etc.

We knew instinctively that eating together in that way was something the church was supposed to do. And we knew that it was about more than food, it was about more than good fellowship and camaraderie and community spirit. Deep in an unarticulated part of our souls, we knew it was about God, and about growing in God’s grace and about growing as the Body of Christ, and about remembering that we were more than just some folk who liked to get together to sing hymns and listen to sermons; we were God’s children gathered around God’s table. We are a people of the feast.

This connection between God and community and feasting is reflected in several of our scripture lessons for today. In Second Kings we read a story about Elisha and the feeding of a hundred men with a limited amount of food. It is a parallel story to the feeding of the 5000, even down to there being a collection of leftovers.
Psalm 145:15-16 reminds us that, “The eyes of all look to thee, and thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest thy hand, thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing.”(RSV)
There are many things going on in the Gospel lesson, but one of the important ones is a reminder that God is a god of abundance and blessing, a god who calls upon God’s people to be a community of abundance and blessing as well.
For a few years I travelled the country as a church consultant, working with churches from Seattle to Savannah, from Northern New England to Southern California. They were also across the board denominationally; from high church Episcopalians to low church Quakers. There was one thing all those congregations had in common; they liked to eat together. The real differences between them were not matters of geography or liturgy or theology. Their differences had to do with who was invited to eat with them. The churches who vigorously pursued opening the feast to everyone, especially those who took the feast outside the walls into the community, were healthy churches. The congregations who were mostly interested in eating with each other, and who only grudgingly allowed others a seat at the table, were dying a slow death.
Our calling today is to open our hearts, open our doors, open our tables. Invite one and all to join the feast of God’s goodness. And when we are afraid that what we have is too little, we must remember the little boy and offer up what we have, trusting God’s abundance and blessing
to make it enough.
Amen and amen.

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