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Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: II Samuel 11:1-5 or II Kings 4:42-44, Psalm 14:1-7 or Psalm 145:10-18, Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21 II Samuel, chapters 11 & 12 do not give us David’s finest moment. From the roof of his mansion, he looks across and sees Bathsheba taking a bath. He wants her, and, what the king wants the king gets. One little problem: Bathsheba is the wife of one of David’s warriors, and—Bathsheba ends up carrying David’s child. David arranges for her husband, Uriah, to be sent into harm’s way on the battlefield, where he is killed. Bathsheba becomes David’s wife. A son is born, but the son dies. It’s part of the price David pays for his erring ways. There are lots more subtleties and complications in the story, but that’s it in a nutshell. Our first response may be outrage. We may want to scream at David as a sex-craved male beast. We may want to focus on his abuse of power. It is clear in this story that David is a cad. Scripture so often goes out of its way to show us the dark side of some of the biblical “heroes.” What we see, I believe, is that God finds a way to use us despite those moments of weakness in our moral behavior. It’s not something to be offered as an excuse. It’s just the reality of things. The universe, life, whatever divinity you see in it, is made up of people like us. There’s no one else. Whatever good things, whatever “divine” purposes, are accomplished will be done by the likes of us. Although I’m still happy if someone wants to rant and rave about David’s gross misbehavior, we all need to be reminded of Jesus’ words in John 8:7---“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone . . . ” Immediately following this story (toward the end of II Samuel, chapter 12), another son, Solomon, is born to David and Bathsheba. Without her, there might not have been a Solomon. As one who's been through divorce and had a son born late in life in a second marriage, I often ponder this dilemma. If I had not been divorced, would he have been born? You can drive yourself crazy trying to think about such things. Why is anyone born—as opposed to not being born? The point is not to dismiss, or justify, the bad things that happen in life, but to say, sometimes good things occur as a result, may, in spite of, them. When Joseph is reconciled to his brothers after they have tried to do him in, he says to them, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good . . .” (Genesis 50:20) The alternative passage from the Hebrew scriptures, II Kings 4:42-44, is a parallel to the Gospel lesson from John, the feeding of the five thousand. In John, there are five barley loaves and two fish. The “miracle” is not quite as great for Elisha in II Kings. There are twenty loaves of barley and an unnamed number of “fresh ears of grain” to feed a hundred. How are we going to understand the story? Most of us have difficulty getting our minds around it as a straightforward “miracle,” but if that’s what you want to try to do, go ahead. That’s not the way John usually treats miracles. They are there as “signs,” pointing to some deeper truth about God’s ways and Jesus. A common way of trying to “explain away” the “miracle” is to suggest that others came forward and shared what they had—sort of an early “potluck.” It makes for good preaching. If we all pitch in with what we have, there’ll be enough. God can only use what we have and what we are willing to give. If it’s just a small basket of food, it will be enough. In both the II Kings and John, there is skepticism. We don’t have enough to do this. Can we perhaps see these stories as being about our lack of faith and confidence in what we have to offer, even if it doesn’t seem like much? We live in a culture where more always seems better, where realizing we have “enough” is hard to admit. If God doesn’t have anybody else, maybe we can start by offering what we have, warts and all, as they say, to be used in God’s service, so that the entire world receives a share of the blessings God intends for us all. A beginning point might be to hear the prayer from Ephesians 3:14-21 as if it were being prayed for us, and every human being. It is an expansive prayer that encompasses “every family in heaven and on earth” (vs. 15), “rooted and grounded” (vs. 17) in a love that is beyond measure (vs. 18). It is a prayer that we may all “be filled with . . . the fulness of God,” that his power may “work within us . . . to accomplish abundantly far more that all we can ask or imagine.” (vss. 19-10) So be it!

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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