Lectionary Commentary

Journeying through the Revised Common Lectionary

Readings, Commentary, and Discussion Questions for June 17, 2018

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6

CORRECTED

 

 THE READINGS

First Reading: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 Alternate Ezekiel 17:22-24
34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.
16:1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”
2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.”
And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”
5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.”
9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.”
10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?”
And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.”
And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”
12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Worth Noting: With the anointing, David became, quite literally, the Messiah, the anointed one, the host of God’s Spirit. Christian. Does your community include an anointing in its baptism ritual? If so, what does the ritual signify?

 Psalm 20 Alternate Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
1 The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your offerings,
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices.

4 May he grant you your heart’s desire,
and fulfill all your plans.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

6 Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with mighty victories by his right hand.
7 Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright.

9 Give victory to the king, O Lord;
answer us when we call.

Worth Noting: The Psalm raises the prudential and political question of the degree of reliance to be placed on the Lord. Verses 6 through 9 affirm that victory is the Lord’s, that an enemy’s reliance on chariots and horses will fail (just as they failed when the Egyptians pursued the Hebrew people). Should politicians be urged to foreswear the use of arms in the expectation that the Lord will deliver the people? How would citizens know on whose side God is fighting? (See Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes his aid against the other.”)

 

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13], 14-17
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord – 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. [11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.] 14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Worth Noting: Either this is a dense passage or we’re dense. For instance: Does Paul say here that the death of Christ has an impact on all creation (verse 15: “one has died for all; therefore all have died;” verse 17 “everything old has passed away . . . everything has become new”) regardless of what and how one believes?

 Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Worth Noting: Why would Jesus speak to the crowds in parables – deliberately and often frustratingly ambiguous stories and sayings – but explain everything in private to his disciples? Why not speak plainly to everyone? Was it favoritism?

 CONNECTING WITH THE SCRIPTURES

Entering into the Scriptures

What do people mean when they say “For the love of God, do it!” Are they urging some action impelled by God’s love that inspires us to take action, or are they referring to our love for God? When Paul refers to the love of Christ, is he talking about “Christ’s love” or “our love towards Christ”? I think it makes a difference. Certainly, there is a difference of kind and degree; Christ’s love has to be infinite while ours finite, limited, conditioned. (2) Christ’s love makes all new – and just maybe Christ’s love makes exactly everything new, even those things and people that do not recognize Christ’s role in creation.

 “Love Changes Everything”

One effect of Christ’s love, is that those who respond to it, those who choose to follow Christ, see the world differently. In his second letter to the Corinthians, quoted above, Paul talks about the one in Christ has become a new creation. Thus, Paul says that “from now on” he will “regard no one from a human point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). Now Paul sees the world with God’s eyes – and expects his friends in Corinth to do the same. In the last verse of the reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul proclaims a transformation of the individual as a consequence of living in the love of Christ. Christ followers looking at creation – humans, animals, vegetation, rock formations, stars and the universe – through and with Christ’s eyes, become lovers and seers. Perhaps no one has personified this transformation better than Francis of Assisi who like Christ saw himself as one with creation.

 

Questions for Discussion

When reading the Bible, are you always able to keep straight what style of literature (poetry, history, short story, and so forth) you are reading? How does that help you make Scripture relevant to your life?

The current description of the universe – expanding at an accelerating rate for 14 billion years, and composed of 4 percent matter that we can see, and 96 percent mysterious and invisible dark matter and energy – shatters our mind, leaves us in awe of the Creator’s powers and ingenuity, and certainly forces us to see the world anew. Do such insights help you to see the world in a new way? Are you more taken by the world seen with the naked eye?

Paul says that in Christ’s love he no longer sees others “from a human point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). Isn’t that really the only point of view we can have? What would be the point of view of one immersed in Christ’s love?

For a PDF version of this week’s Journeying, click 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.
“Wheatfield under Thunderclouds,” by Vincent Van Gogh (1890) may be found in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
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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