Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, August 5th, 2018

In the state where I grew up, students, teachers, and school officials still have another five weeks of summer vacation before the start of the new school year.  Where I am now, however, the school year starts in four days.  Therefore, this upcoming Sunday is our Rally Day/Back to School Sunday.  We will have a blessing for all students, teachers, and other school employees as they begin a new school year.  We will also have a community meal followed by a time of games and activities as one last summer bash before the work of the school year truly begins.  As we go through the week, I will be looking for ways to connect these passages to the new beginning that many are experiencing this week.

We are also on week 2 of the "Bread of Life Discourses" in John 6.  The day after the Feeding of the 5,000, a crowd travels follows Jesus to another community and initiates a conversation, hoping that Jesus will reproduce the miracle he did the previous day.  But Jesus takes the conversation in a different direction...

As always, after each reading, I leave my commentary and questions in italics.  If you have an insight to share or a question to ask, please leave it in the comment section below!

Exodus 16:2 - 4, 9 - 15

2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.   3 The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."

4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.

 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, "Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, 'Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.'"   10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.   11 The LORD spoke to Moses and said,  12 "I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'"

 13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.   14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.   15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

- Exodus 16 is the second story after the Israelites’ dramatic escape from Egypt (ch. 14) and the resulting celebration (ch. 15).  In the first story, the Israelites’ complained against Moses that they did not have enough clean water to drink.  Now, not only are they complaining about the lack of food, they are also claiming that life was better as slaves in Egypt!  It took that little time for the people to complain against Moses and against the Lord.
- The Israelites are in the midst of change.  But now the change is getting difficult and the people are ready to quit.  How often do we initiate change in our lives and in our communities only to quit when the process of change becomes difficult?  As one speaker at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering claimed, we must be willing to be uncomfortable if we are going to lead any type of change.
- The Lord’s provision of quail and manna (literally “What is it?”) lasted throughout the Exodus until the Israelites were established in the Promised Land and were harvesting their first crops.

Psalm 78:23 - 29

 23 Yet he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven;
 24 he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.
 25 Mortals ate of the bread of angels; he sent them food in abundance.
 26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind;
 27 he rained flesh upon them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas;
 28 he let them fall within their camp, all around their dwellings.
 29 And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.

- Psalm 78 is a poetic telling of Israel’s history from the Exodus to the appointment of David as king.  Much of this psalm focuses on the Exodus.  In this portion, we hear the account of the Lord providing food in the wilderness.

Ephesians 4:1 - 16

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.   4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,  5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift.   8 Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people."

 9 (When it says, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?   10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)   11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.   14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.   15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.

- This Ephesians passages presents two main messages.  The most popular message is that the Lord gives each of us spiritual gifts.  While our gift(s) may not be listed in verses 11 and 12, this list (and any other list in the New Testament) is not meant to be all-inclusive.  That being said, what does it mean to be an apostle (literally a person who is sent out), a prophet, or an evangelist in our current context?
- The second message that we may skip over in our rush to talk about spiritual gifts is that these gifts are given to build up and support the united Body of Christ.  If our gifts are causing division within the Body of Christ, then either these gifts are not spiritual gifts or we are not using our gifts in accordance with our calling.

John 6:24 - 35

24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"   26 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.   27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal."   28 Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?"   29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."   30 So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?   31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"   32 Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.   33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."   34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

- It appears that the people say the right thing.  When Jesus speaks of the “true bread from heaven” that “gives life to the world,” the people respond “Sir, give us this bread always.”  (John 6:32 – 34)  This is a very similar conversation to the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:13 – 15) where Jesus claims that he will provide water that becomes an internal “spring of water gushing up to eternal life” and the woman responds “Sir, give me this water…”  So why was the woman received positively and the crowd that followed Jesus to Capernaum received negatively?
- The crowd asked Jesus, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?  What work are you performing?”  (John 6:30)  Though the question seems innocent enough on its own, it betrays the crowd’s purpose.  Most of the people in the crowd were present when Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 people/families with the food meant for one or two people.  The people have already received the sign to see and trust Jesus’ message!  They should not need another sign from Jesus to prove that he is the one sent by the Father into the world.
- What are the Greek terms for “hungry” and “thirsty” in John 6:35?  Are these terms significant in terms of symbolism?

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