The Season after Pentecost: Proper 13, Year B

Jesus is the bread of heaven

  • 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
  • Psalm 51:1-3
  • Ephesians 4:1-16
  • John 6:24-35

Following the feeding of the five thousand (last week’s Gospel – John 6:1-15), we hear a lengthy section in which Jesus explains the true significance of that miracle. The Lectionary follows these teachings over the next four Sundays.

The crowd that follows Jesus still seems to think of him as a potential nationalist leader like Moses, who will lead them in the struggle for liberation. Jesus is very aware that their motives are misdirected and that they have misinterpreted the dramatic sign of God’s power and compassion in the feeding miracle. Jesus skillfully uses their emphasis on the provision of food to make his own point that material bread is a perishable commodity. Even the manna of Moses in the wilderness would not keep beyond a day.

In the Eucharist we are given the bread “which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33 Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 12, Year B

 Food for mind and body

  • 2 Samuel 11:1-15
  • Psalm 14
  • Ephesians 3:14-21
  • John 6:1-21

Jesus’ compassion for the people leads him to respond with food for mind and body. Today’s Gospel reading of the feeding of the five thousand expresses the significance of the Holy Eucharist.  In this account from John, Jesus has crossed the Sea of Galilee, where the crowds continue to follow him because of his healing of the sick. As with other miracles reported by John, Jesus takes the initiative. Upon seeing the large crowd coming to them, Jesus asks Philip how they are to feed all these people. Philip thinks of the impossibility. Andrew notes a boy who has a little, but certainly not enough when there is so much need.

The report on the miracle of the bread and the fish is about what happened to somebody who gave all he had. It is, of course, a story about Jesus multiplying all that bread and fish. But whose bread did he multiply? Whose fish did he divide? It all started with the real hero of that story: one small boy. I think that Jesus praised that small boy who had given all he had . . . When you are asked for something you think you are unable to give, thing of that small boy of this story, and think of the twelve baskets full of food given to him because he gave all he had. Joseph P. Donders (The Jesus Community: Reflections on the Gospel for the B-Cycle, Orbis Books, 1981)

Jesus takes the child’s loaves and fish and shows the unbelieving disciples that he can satisfy the needs of an enormous multitude from an inconsequential source. No matter how meager these resources appear to human understanding, they prove to be more than enough when Jesus takes charge of them.

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 11, Year B

Jesus’ compassion

  • 2 Samuel 7:1-14a
  • Psalm 89:20-37
  • Ephesians 2:11-22
  • Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Jesus knows that a tough schedule leads to burnout, so he seeks a time and place where the disciples, after their training mission, can relax and rest (6:30-32). However, when they arrive at their retreat site, they find more work to do. Without rankle or resentment, Jesus teaches and ministers to the people’s needs, spiritual and physical.

The portion of scripture that we don’t hear in today’s gospel reading (6:35-52) is Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5,000. (We hear John’s account of this next Sunday.) Even though Jesus is in need of a period of withdrawal, he realized the need of those who followed him was greater than his own. They were hungry for the truth he could impart, and were as confused as a sheep that have no shepherd (v. 34a). In his compassion, Jesus again began to teach them.

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 10, Year B

Death of a Prophet

  • 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
  • Psalm 24
  • Ephesians 1:3-14
  • Mark 6:14-29

When the disciples began to spread the word of Jesus, the authorities took notice. Herod, terrorized by his guilty conscience, believed that Jesus was John the Baptist returned from the dead. In those days it was believed that the spirit of those who had died a violent death worked through others. He was sure Jesus had come to plague him for executing the prophet in order to save face with his friends and to appease the vengeance of his bitter wife. Herod knew that John was a “righteous and holy man.” He wanted to protect the Baptist, but when his image as a powerful king was called into question, he abandoned his concerns for the Baptist’s welfare to protect his own reputation.

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 9, Year B

Sent Out For God

  • 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
  • Psalm 48
  • 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
  • Mark 6:1-13

Beginning in Chapter 6, Mark’s story of Jesus moves out beyond the familiar territory near the Sea of Galilee. Skepticism abounds in Jesus’ hometown. Why? Perhaps because his teachings cut through old understandings. “He taught them as one having authority” (1:22); that is, he comes with a radical, new message that departed from the teaching that the people expect from the synagogue. Jesus’ message always offends those who prefer old religious ways and refuse to risk by welcoming the new way of God’s kingdom (Luke 5:39).

Jesus’ neighbors had a certain expectation of his potential – he would follow in his father’s (Joseph) footsteps as a carpenter. What had been happening in this town in which Jesus grew up these past 30 years? Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 8, Year B

God’s Power to Heal

  • 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
  • Psalm 130
  • 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
  • Mark 5:21-43

Today we have two remarkable stories of healings by Jesus, one story told within the other. In both cases, the individuals involved have come to Jesus out of their desperate need along with faith in his power to help them.

Jesus has just returned from the country of the Gerasenes and is teaching a crowd in Capernaum. Jairus, described as one of the leaders in the synagogue, comes to him and falls at his feet in a gesture of respect. He tells Jesus that his daughter is at the point of death. In verse 23 we hear of his faith in knowing that if Jesus only lays hands on her, she will be made well. So Jesus heads out, with the large crowd following him.

Within the crowd is a woman who has suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years. She finds her way to Jesus, and reaching from behind, touches his cloak, believing that a simple touch will relieve her of her disease. Immediately she is healed, but Jesus feels his power leave him at the same moment and stops to ask, “Who has touched me?” Imagine the scene – would you come forward and admit this? In fear and trembling, she steps forward; instead of reprimanding her, Jesus commends her faith and tells her to go in peace. Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 7, Year B

tempestadHe-qiPower and Faith

  • 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
  • Psalm 9:9-20
  • 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
  • Mark 4:35-41

Today we have two great stories from scripture: David & Goliath and Jesus stilling the storm. In both cases, there is a power of unimaginable strength that appears to be in control of the “human condition.”

Goliath, the behemoth Philistine, intimidates all by his physical appearance and battle prowess. He evokes fear and dismay to all he approaches. However, David (the youngest son of Jesse as we heard in last week’s Old Testament reading), volunteers to fight him – without armor for protection or a dangerous weapon of war. Instead, with just five smooth stones and a sling he calls on his radical faith in God’s protection. David slays Goliath with one stone’s throw. This act is a witness to the power of the living God, through whom the seemingly weak are able to overcome the powerful.  Continue reading

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