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Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: II Samuel 7:1-14a or Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 89:20-37 or Psalm 23:1-6, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 There are at least three themes that could be picked up from two or more of the scriptures: peace, the true nature of God’s house/temple, and shepherds/sheep. My comments here will be limited to the first two. I believe that I & II Samuel and I & II Kings are an extended peace tract. You have to go back to I Samuel, chapter eight, to see it. The people tell Samuel that they want a king. Through Samuel God tells them that kings will be the death of them, placing a heavy load of taxes upon them, compelling them to work to satisfy their every whim, using them to prepare instruments of war, etc. Many year later, when the subsequent history was being recorded, the authors say, “See. It happened just as predicted.” The story ends in with the fall of Jerusalem. See what kings and warring and violence bring! Today’s scripture from II Samuel, chapter seven, is part of the story. David wants to build a fine house for God, relying on a display of grandeur instead of staying close to the Spirit of a God who needs no house in order to be present to his beloved people. Nathan is God’s voice this time. Just as Samuel said to the people that they needed no king, God’s message through Nathan is a reminder that he has been present in their midst all these years without a house. (II Samuel 7:6 and following) Neither kings nor temples are required for us to be in relationship with God. In both cases, though, God allows the people to go ahead with their plans. They have to find out for themselves that God is bigger than mighty nations and grand temples, that what he requires of them is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. In fact, when everything falls apart, one of the major themes of the prophets is that God is still there even when the external symbols of power and glory have been lost. Despite God’s not needing it, God allows the temple to be built, but not by David. His son, Solomon will be the one to do the job. We have to go to 1 Chronicles to get the reason. David says, “ . . . the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood in my sight on the earth.” (I Chronicles 22:8) God sees the temple and violence as incompatible. The building of a temple will be left to David’s son, Solomon, “a man of peace.” (1 Chronicles 22:9) The temple is to be a symbol of peace. In Ephesians, chapter two, peace is the breaking down of walls between different groups of people (vs. 14)—most notably in that day, the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus “came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off (the Gentiles) and peace to those who were near (the Jews) . . .” (vs. 17) Jesus’ message is one of peace, in which we are all one, God’s Spirit being equally available to all. (vss. 14 & 18) We are “no longer strangers and aliens.” Peace comes from a new way of looking at things. It is like living in a “new creation.” (II Corinthians 5:17) We need to adjust our vision so that we see things with new eyes, so that our vision is so radically different that it is as if we were newborn babes opening our eyes for the first time. The writer of Ephesians uses three images to convey the vision. It is like we are all citizens of the same country, world citizens one might say. (vs. 19) It is like we all lived in the same house—the “household of God.” (vs. 19) It is like we are a living temple, with Jesus as the cornerstone. We are “built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” (vss. 20-22) We, the people who make up the church rather than the physical structure, are the temple. Peace is something that is embodied in our very relationships with one another. Such peace is the sign that we are a dwelling place for God. How are we signs of peace, as individuals, as a congregation? How can we be signs of peace? The fourth chapter of the book of Ephesians talks about our calling to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3-4) We are begged “to lead a life worthy of the calling . . . with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love (vss. 1-2), ending with the declaration that there is “one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Not a bad place to start if we are to be a sign of peace.

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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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