Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, July 29th, 2018

This week is the start of the Revised Common Lectionary's five-week study of John 6, the "Bread of Life" discourses.  The event that kicks off this chapter is John's telling of "The Feeding of the 5,000," which offers plenty of angles for a sermon but also carries the risk of inserting details from Matthew's, Mark's, or Luke's account of the story.  Where a pastor or preacher goes with this passage depends greatly on what is happening in the life of the pastor/preacher and what is happening in the life of the community where the pastor/preacher serves.

As you read through John 6 and the other readings below, what draws your interest?  What stands out to you today that you either never noticed before or you have noticed previously but never found to be of significance before this reading?  Do you have a question about this story that no one has ever adequately answered?  What do you take away from this telling of the story?

After each reading, I will share my thoughts and responses using italics.  I invite you to share your questions and reflections in the comment section below.

Jeremiah 23:1 - 6

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.  2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD.  3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.  4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.

5 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."

“Baal-shalishah” is translated roughly as “master of three” or “three masters/lords”

Typically, the first fruits offering is taken straight to the Temple.  It seems significant that this unknown man deviated from this tradition (requirement?) and gave a portion of it to Elisha.

Considering that one person would travel with 2 or 3 loaves (read – dinner rolls) for a day’s journey, this offering of 20 barley loaves could feed 7 – 10 people without the Lord’s intervention.

Psalm 145:10 - 18

 10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your faithful shall bless you.
 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
 12 to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
 14 The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
 16 You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
 17 The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
 18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 

Psalm 145 praises the Lord’s generosity in all things.  One specific claim is that the Lord “gives them their food in due season.”  The Lord generously provides for each of us; if we do not have “enough,” then either something has disrupted the Lord’s supply line or we need to re-evaluate what we define as “enough.”

Ephesians 3:14 - 21

 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3 reads like the end of the letter; instead, it is merely the halfway point.

Here, the Lord’s generosity includes the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit as well as the love of Christ.  I also note the claim that the Lord is able to “accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”  This is demonstrated by the Gospel reading.  This is also something that we need to hear today, as our concern over whether we have “enough” for the Church to survive threatens every new idea and call for ministry.

John 6:1 - 21

 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.  3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.  4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.  5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?"  6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.  7 Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little."  8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?"  10 Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.  11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.  12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."  13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.  14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."
 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.  18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.  19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.  20 But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."  21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

According to Philip, 200 denarii would not be enough to give everyone a snack, much less a meal.  1 denarius would purchase the daily food for one person.

The five loaves and two fish sound like a meal for two people (parent and child, perhaps?).  Jesus provides generously for the people, turning this meal for two into a meal for over 5,000 people!

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