Lectionary Commentary

Journeying through the Revised Common Lectionary

Readings, Commentary, and Discussion Questions for June 3, 2018

Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 4


First Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20] Alternate: Deuteronomy 5:12-15

1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
4 Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!”and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
6 The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’”
So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
[11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.”
He said, “Here I am.”
17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.”
18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”
19 As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.]

Worth Noting: Spiritual counselors help discern our gifts, as Eli did for Samuel. Who has been important in your life for identifying your gifts? Is that person still in your life?

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 Alternate Psalm 81:1-10
1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O LORD, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them – they are more than the sand;
I come to the end – I am still with you.

Worth Noting: The psalmist sings of God’s foreknowledge of her existence and activities. Is that a matter of rejoicing?

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Gospel: Mark 2:23-3:6

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?”
 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.”
4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?”
But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”
He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Worth Noting: In stories of controversy between Jesus and Pharisees, we can ignore Jesus’ willingness to engage those with whom he disagreed. How does your community handle differences in viewpoints:
Are they ignored for the sake of harmony? Are they aired respectfully? Do people simply avoid those with whom they disagree?


Introduction to 2 Corinthians

For the next seven weeks, the Lectionary continues reading from 2 Corinthians. Corinth at this time was a major seaport linking trade from as far as India in the east to Rome in the west. As an international city, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Egyptians – really, just about anybody from anywhere – could be found in Corinth. In 51 C.E., just when Paul was working there, Corinth hosted the biennial Isthmian games, an All-Greece festival and athletic competition every bit as important as the quadrennial Olympic games. Corinth was, in other words, a happening place.
Historians conclude Paul founded a community of Christ followers in Corinth about 50 or 51 C.E. Sometime after Paull left Corinth, he wrote to the community, in response to questions they had on the proper behavior of Christ followers (1 Corinthians 7:1) and in response to reports from “Chloe’s people” about certain bad behaviors (1 Corinthians 1:11-12). According to 2 Corinthians 12:14 and 13:1, Paul is preparing for this third trip to Corinth, sending this letter to Corinth with Titus and a second unnamed delegate while Paul finishes work in Macedonia (perhaps Thessaloniki or Philippi). He writes to accomplish three things. First of all, in a previous letter, probably not 1 Corinthians but now lost, Paul treated the shortcomings of the community harshly (2 Corinthians 2:1-4). One could not say that in 2 Corinthians he actually apologizes for the language, but he writes to assure the Corinthians of his care and compassion.
He writes as well to urge the community to be generous in their collection for the benefit of the Jerusalem community (2 Corinthians 9:1-8). In fact, he is coming to Corinth with representatives from the Church in Macedonia whom he wishes to impress with the Corinthian generosity.
These matters he treats in chapters 1 to 9. In chapters 10-13, Paul’s language changes abruptly as he fulminates over the Corinthians acceptance of the teachings of so-called “super apostles.” Paul never gives his opponents the benefit of directly quoting them. One can only surmise from Paul’s comments that they are missionaries for Christ who rely on credentials that include a rich Jewish heritage and impressive rhetorical skills. Paul asserts his own Jewish heritage and considers rhetoric (and good looks) false credentials:
Because of the abrupt change in tone and substance between chapters 9 and 10, and because of other abrupt changes elsewhere in the letter, readers have been wrestling for the last 350 years with the question of whether 2 Corinthians is composed of two or more letters. A majority would now say that it is composed of at least two letters, chapters 1 to 9 and 10 to 13. As the Lectionary readings are to a great extent “stand alone,” the divisions are not particularly apparent and have little bearing on the interpretation of the readings themselves. As a consequence, Journeying will ignore this particular academic imbroglio.

Entering into the Scriptures

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus debates Jewish practices with Pharisees, including practices to honor the Sabbath. In the selection above, two issues arise: Is it legal to pluck food from growing wheat on the Sabbath to maintain nourishment? Is it legal to heal on the Sabbath? Questions about Sabbath practices have been common throughout Jewish history – probably since Moses brought the two stone tablets down from Mt Sinai. How should we “keep holy the sabbath”? In Mark, Jesus takes one side of this very Jewish debate while the Pharisees take another.
First of all, the teaching from centuries before Jesus’ time to today is that any Sabbath prohibition may be broken to preserve life. Women in labor may be driven to the hospital to be met by a medical team mandated to work for the safety of mother and child. The principle of preserving life extends to taking medicine when ill or when the medicine prevents serious conditions. It may be that Jesus could have argued that this same rule justified his apostles’ plucking and eating wheat on the Sabbath.
The tricky part comes with the healing of a non-life-threatening condition. Healing can involve lots of work – preparing medicines, carrying them great distances, and so forth. In general, this kind of work was discouraged. Would the specific healing Jesus accomplished in Mark – simply asking a man to stretch out his arm fall within this prohibition? Since no one did any work, the answer is no. But the precedent of healing on the Sabbath could have troubled the bystanders. Here, Jesus takes a stand uttering a principle that legitimate needs of humans take precedence over the Sabbath regulations.
What were the prohibitions on healing on the Sabbath

“Suffer the Little Children”

Do adults tend to give short shrift to the spiritual gifts of the young? Often the young express easily and intuitively the love of God; often they display rare insight into the motives of their elders. Even so, their place in the community is to receive adult wisdom. In these readings, Samuel received his divine vocation as prophet while still a boy. The Psalmist acknowledges that God created her in her mother’s womb. Children, young people, actively participate in the kingdom of God. Is it not therefore, incorrect to say “you are the Church of the future”? Should we not say “you are the Church”?

Questions for Discussion

What are the gifts that young people bring to your community? Do they complement gifts of older generations? Are they limited to acting in youth groups?
Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for man. How so? How does your community honor the Sabbath rest? Is it (in fact) possible to honor the Sabbath in a community that does not?
Paul seems to equate his death in Christ with life for the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 4:12). Does this make sense? Is Paul referring to anything but death through Baptism? What deaths have you experienced that brought life to others?

For a PDF version of this week’s Journeyingclick here.


Dennis Haugh has enjoyed working with adult seekers for over 20 years. He aims to engage academic and general audiences for the New Testament. To hone his skills and burnish his credentials, he earned his PhD in Biblical Studies in the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology joint program.  He appreciates any correspondence: dennishaugh2011@gmail.com.

Unless expressly stated otherwise, all quotations from Scripture are taken from the New Revised Standard Version, © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
Journeying through the Revised Common Lectionary © 2018 Dennis Haugh. Recent postings may be accessed at https://www.sttims.net/journeying-through-the-lectionary/.


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