Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Wednesday Thoughts on the Lectionary Readings for Sunday, July 22nd, 2018
Our lectionary readings this week play on the image of a "shepherd" and the multiple levels of meaning of that image within Israel. Sometimes, a shepherd is just a shepherd. But at other times, a "shepherd" is actually a symbol of a king, the one who "shepherds" the kingdom and its people. The way we hear a passage can change depending on whether the "shepherd" is a true shepherd or a reference to the king.
I have added my responses in italics below each reading. I invite you to share your questions, insights, and responses in the comments 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.""
The Lord is having a hard conversation with the leaders of the Israelites. The Lord is pointing out that the leaders are the ones who have caused the people to scatter. This is likely a result of the leaders/kings worshipping other gods, which encouraged the people to worship other gods. The Lord will soon act to establish a new king from David’s lineage and bring the Lord’s people back into the “flock.” We now look back at this passage and hear this as a promise of Christ.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff-- they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.
Psalm 23 is the most popular psalm. When paired with Jeremiah 23, we hear the proclamation that “the Lord is my (king).” How does the psalm change when we exchange the word “shepherd” for “king?”
Ephesians 2:11 - 22
11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called "the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision"-- a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands-- 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
“So then” means that this passage is building off of the intro we heard in last week, where the Lord does all things for us in Christ, as well as the statement in Ephesians 2:8 – 9 that we are saved by grace through faith as a gift from God.
Christ has broken the divisions between different nations and other ways of dividing us into groups. In Christ, there is only one group: the children of God.
The Lord builds us together as the body of Christ/the Church. The current generation of the Church is built upon all of the previous generations of the Church and the cornerstone of Christ.
Mark 6:30 - 34, 53 - 56
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
We are skipping over some big stories in this chapter. The gap between verse 34 and verse 53 includes Mark’s accounts of the Feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus Walking on Water. We will pick up the Feeding of the 5,000 next week, but we will hear John’s account of it.
Mark 6:30 picks up with the disciples telling Jesus “what they had done and taught.” They are returning from a period of time when Jesus sent them in pairs to other communities to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven had drawn near in Jesus and to heal the sick and cast out demons just as Jesus has been doing.
Mark 6:56 mentions that people were being healed just by touching the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. This was the same item that the bleeding woman touched before her healing. If it was not apparent before, it is now apparent that the woman who was unclean because of her bleeding did not cause Jesus, or his cloak, to become unclean. Instead, she was healed…and Jesus, through the cloak, continues to heal others.