Monday, July 28, 2014

Virtual Bible Study: Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

As I prepare to preach this Sunday, I invite you to be a part of my sermon preparation.  These are the four readings which the Revised Common Lectionary assigned to this Sunday:

Isaiah 55:1-5

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:13-21

Take a few minutes to read through these passages.  Because the Isaiah 55 and the Matthew 14 readings may be very familiar to you, read through these two passages a second time to prevent the "I know this story" bias.

As you read these passages, what catches your attention?  What word/phrase/image sticks with you?  Did anything catch you by surprise?  In the familiar stories, did you pick up on a detail which you did not notice when you have read this passage in the past?

Please share your answers to these questions, along with any other insights, in the comments section here on as a comment on my Facebook page.  I will respond to all comments and ask follow-up questions.  While I have some thoughts which I will share during the discussion, my main interest here is to read and hear your thoughts and opinions on these passages.

So how do these passages speak to you today?


  1. My physical thirst and hunger may not always be satisfied but through Christ I am fully satisfied. As the strain of the week burdens my soul, it is great to know that Sunday, I will be refreshed with his body and blood to begin again. The feeding of the 5000 was told to the children at VBS last week, I remember saying to them that Jesus fed lots of people with the fish and bread but Jesus continues to feed us today through communion and the Holy Spirit. I know they didn't get it but I do!

    1. Yes, Anonymous! I have been turning over some ideas on how to connect the sacrament of Holy Communion to the story. I need to pick one of them in the near future.

  2. Been preaching a few weeks in a row now, and the last few Gospel texts from Matthew have been mostly parables... in some ways this week's reading is not Jesus telling parable but Jesus as parable.

    The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who, upon receiving news of his loved ones gratuitous murder at the hands of the worst kind of selfishness humanity can muster, goes searching for solititude that he might mourn (this is key to the passage, IMO), only to have a crowd of people go ahead of him to that place. Upon seeing the crowds, he is not irritated, or angry, but filled with compassion, and he spends himself in service of their needs and the healing of their ailments all the way until the day is almost over. Even then, instead of sending them on their freshly mended ways to fend for their own evening meals, he summons the power of community and miraculously feeds all (and then some).

    Isn't God always just like that with us? If we look at the world around us today (for the last few weeks this has been especially clear) is there any doubt that God's heart is grieved at what we humans inflict upon each other? Would it be any wonder if God wanted to throw in the towel and withdraw to himself? And yet God's spirit draws us together (and is there any doubt that God's had was in the crowds' following Jesus in this story?), and God has compassion for us (+), extends his healing presence, and feeds us with the bread of life again and again and again.

    1. That's an interesting take that I had not thought of. Thank you for your comment.

  3. The abundance of God's grace and theology of abundance is the central image for me in the gospel. Initially, I was struck by the "You give them something to eat." After some meditation, now I am jarred by the "do not send them away" and Jesus making it clear at the end of the passage that he sends.

    How does that tie into the abundance of God's grace? Obviously the feeding. And also all the Kingdom of Heaven parables regarding the harvest etc. Instructing the disciples not to send the people away is a test, not only for them, but all of us because we often do not trust in the abundance of God's grace.

    What is interesting is that this is also on the heels of mourning regarding John the Baptist. Jesus is getting away to pray and mourn. He is seeking peace and not necessarily focused on "doing" but on "being" in the midst of intensive opposition to the Kingdom of Heaven being ushered in. All the while, the people are increasingly following and seeking. He feels compassion. This all illustrates the abundance of God's grace. How fitting that we have this scripture on communion Sunday. Jesus tells us not to send them away. There are not baptisms in the sea before the feast. There is healing. "Come unto me all..."

    The challenge for us is that when we are not trusting in the abundance of God with our church budgets, the amount of laborers, or even when we are deciding to have a feast (lent for example), are we celebrating the abundance of God with joy. Imagine the joy the disciples felt in this feeding! When they doubted, God's abundance and covered covered them, filled them, and strengthened them for their journey that lie ahead to. Surely, this memory and experience for the disciples changed everything regarding how they 'discerned the body' while celebrating the communion meal together, in homes, etc. Imagine the joy and smiles in their hearts, the warmth and fire they felt as they looked forward to the heavenly feast with Jesus! The Passover is completely inverted here. In lieu of death passing us over, we are celebrating the abundance of life in Christ.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I love your point concerning the abundance of life as an inversion of the passover of death.