- 1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) & Psalm 130
- 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
- Mark 3:20-35
Over the next several weeks, the OT lectionary readings will be drawn from 1 & 2 Samuel. This series began last weekend, but in some years (such as 2012) the usual readings are displaced by Trinity Sunday.
- Proper 09 – 1 Sam 3:1-10 (11-20)
- Proper 10 – 1 Sam 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20 (11:14-15)
- Proper 11 – 1 Sam 15:34-16:13
- Proper 12 – 1 Sam 17:(1a,4-11,19-23) 32-49
- Proper 13 – 2 Sam 1:1, 17-27
- Proper 14 – 2 Sam 5:1-5, 90-10
- Proper 15 – 2 Dam 6:1-5, 12b-19
- Proper 16 – 2 Sam 7:1-14a
- Proper 17 – 2 Sam 11:1-15
- Proper 18 – 2 Sam 11:26-12:13a
- Proper 19 – 2 Sam 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Following that extended series of readings from 1 & 2 Samuel, we shall have two readings from 1 Kings to complete the series about the reign of David with a brief mention of his successor, Solomon, and the Temple in Jerusalem:
- Proper 20 – 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
- Proper 21 – 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11) 22-30, 41-43
During that time the NT readings will initially be from 2 Corinthians, followed with a series from Ephesians, so Paul will be a major feature of the lectionary cycle over the next couple of months:
For the Gospel readings we return to the liturgical gospel for Year B, the Gospel according to Mark.
First Reading: Beware of kings
The passage in 1 Samuel 8 is one of the programatic speeches inserted at various points in the national narrative that extends from Joshua through to 2 Kings. This extended block of material is constructed from materials of diverse origin and date, including popular stories, official lists, songs, legends, and more. The whole body of material is then organised under the rubrics of a consistent “deuteronomistic” theology that is articulated in Deuteronomy and then reiterated at various points, such as the speeches a placed on the lips of key characters by the editors.
Samuel’s speech to the leaders of Israel when they demand the appointment of a king (“so we can be like all the other nations”) is a classic expression of the tension between prophet and ruler, between charismatic and priest, between Evangelical and Catholic. These tensions run deep and have ancient roots in the religious tradition of the Bible. Neither is eventually elevated over the other, although historical circumstances may have conspired to give the prophets the last word as they seem to have been the ones who survived to write the story. That story has shaped the religious and political imagination of Jews and Christians for many centuries, and now seems self-evident.
Whatever the precise historical circumstances of this speech, it stands as a powerful description (and indictment) of self-serving power:
He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.” (1Samuel 8:11–17 NRSV)
Second Reading: Looking beyond the immediate
The brief excerpt from 2 Corinthians 4 stands in stark contrast with the self-serving power dynamics of the ancient (and modern) tyrant.
Paul is expending himself for the sake of his converts, even to the point that he feel his own physical existence is wasting away. The power to persevere in this sacrificial manner is derived from his underlying confidence in the final outcome.
It seems that Paul is empowered by a sense that beyond this life there awaits a state of such blessing and “glory” that no suffering here and now is too great a price to pay. That idea sits awkwardly with his otherwise strong sense that salvation is a free gift, flowing from the graciousness of God, and not something able to be earned. Here he at least feels the weight of responsibility and an obligation to do all that he can for God’s sake and for the sake of God’s people.
At a time in Christian history when the promise of an afterlife is losing both its credibility and its power to compensate for suffering in the present experience, I wonder how we are reimagining the concept of an afterlife? For some people it remains the very heart of their religion, while for others it seems a primitive survival of excessive individualism to imagine that we shall have distinct and personal “afterlives.”
And for the growing number of Christians who place little if any stake in personal survival after death, what is it about the future that inspires us with the courage to spend ourselves for the sake of others here and now?
Gospel: Binding the strong man
The Gospel for this week brings together several seemingly unrelated themes, including some harsh teachings that seem intrinsically “anti-family” — as well as a classic text that no-one really understands.
The chreiai (pl. ) were ancient rhetorical devices that used a story (often involving some kind of conflict) to provide the context for a significant saying (often a pronouncement) by the hero of the story. It may be some help at least to recognise that what we have here is as much a standard literary form as a remembered event from the life of Jesus.
In this complex conflict scene, Jesus is misunderstood on multiple sides: by his opponents, but also by his family and his disciples. The crowds thought he was going crazy, his family come to take him away for treatment, and the religious experts condemn him as demon-possessed. Interestingly, very few Christian readers seriously entertain the idea that Jesus could have been mentally disturbed, and that his public behaviour — including his treatment of those close to him — was inappropriate. Our Jesus has to be perfect in all respects, and cannot have ever had to deal with depression, delusion, or doubt.
Of course, for anyone who is living with any of those common conditions, a Jesus who was no stranger to such brokenness would be an even more realistic saviour.
There was a radical and abrasive edge to Jesus. Had we been alive then, we may not have wished to spend too much time with him. He disturbed the comfortable, which often seems to be the price of comforting the disturbed.
Sometimes Barabbas seems a better bet.
Could that be what Jesus meant by the “blasphemy against the holy spirit”?
The lower case is intentional as Jesus was not speaking of the third Person of the Trinity, but rather the awesome power of the Spirit from YHWH that swept sensible people off their feet and turned them into whirling dervishes.
Is Saul among the prophets? (1 Sam 10:12)
Is Jesus crazy?
Are we moribund in our proper ways?
- 023 All Sins Forgiven: (1) Gos. Thom. 44; (2) 2Q: Luke 12:10 = Matt 12:32a; (3) Mark 3: 28-30 = Matt 12:31,32b; (4) Did. 11:7.
- 081 Strong Ones House: (1) Gos. Thom. 35; (2) Mark 3:27 = Matt 12:29 = Luke 11:21-22.
- 105 Jesus True Family: (1) Gos. Thom. 99; (2a) Mark 3:19b-21,31-35 = Matt 12:46-50 = Luke 8:19-21; (2b) 2 Clem. 9:11; (2c) Gos. Eb. 5.
- 121 Beelzebul Controversy: (1a) 2Q: Luke 11:14-15,17-18 = Matt 12:22-26; (1b) Matt 9:32-34; (2) Mark 3:22-26
Liturgies and Prayers
For liturgies and sermons each week, shaped by a progressive theology, check Rex Hunt’s web site
Other recommended sites include:
See the following sites for recommendations from a variety of contemporary genre: