Tenth Sunday after Pentecost 9 August 2009 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

Proper 14B/Ordinary 19B/Pentecost 10 August 9, 2009 Textweek

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33, Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Briefly I just want to recap, to look today’s readings in terms of the flow of the liturgical year, the readings Sunday by Sunday. It was five weeks ago, Pentecost 5, when we heard, “they anointed David king over Israel”. Since then we have heard about David and Bathsheba, David and Uriah, and this week we hear of David and Absalom. So we’ve been staying with that theme, that story for a while.

For three weeks we’ve left Mark’s Gospel, Mark’s Gospel is the gospel for the year, and for three weeks now we’ve put it to one side and have been reading from John’s Gospel.
Pentecost 8: "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?"
Pentecost 9: "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."
Then today, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
And we will continue for another two more weeks with John’s gospel and with the motif of Bread.

“David” is obviously an important character as we explore the Word of God in the Scriptures. “Bread” an important motif in that same exploration. We are not looking at history, we are not looking at a people from the past, nor are we reading a guide to cuisine. We are invited to see life in and through the characters and motifs of the Scriptures, to see our life in its fullest revelation, and to reflect on ourselves in the image of God.

Today we hear the tragic cry of David as he hears of his son Absalom’s death. It is one of many Father/Son stories from the Bible: Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, the prodigal Son, and today David and Absalom.... These are important stories, and within a patriarchal narrative they are representative of the most important and most intimate of relationships, hence they’re reflected in our modelling of God in terms of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Father-Son narratives in the Bible speak to the core of our being - our intimacy, familiarity, closeness, relationship. Biblical narratives that have two persons also speak of our integrity of self, our honesty, truth and our wholeness of being.

The tragic cry of David over Absalom echoes in our hearts like the untimely deaths of Romeo and Juliet; it is a cry within ourselves, it is a cry that we hear and know of within, for we know tragedy each and every day that we lose consciousness of the Divine. In a similar fashion, the Father/Son narratives of the Bible so often speak of sacrifice, and in today’s reading we hear of Absalom “left hanging between heaven and earth”[v9]. It is the very place of sacrifice, the place where in another narrative the hand of Abraham was stayed as he was about to sacrifice Isaac. It is the same place that Jesus also came to know on the cross, “left hanging between heaven and earth”. It might well be the plight of the modern world, left hanging between heaven and earth, and it is surely an experience we each know in our lives.

The interaction, the processes that these narratives tell of is the very interaction of Life, the relationship of us with humanity and us with divinity. These narratives speak of a movement, a movement from Me to We and from We to One.

When closely read, the story and the tragedy of David and Absalom seems to echo in every part of our life and our living. It’s as if this story has a background resonance to the very life we lead: the Power of the King, the apparent ability to control, the holding on and yet at the same time the loss, the movement of life that is forever beyond our control and influence. These themes that we read of in scripture represent the movements and the growing that accompanies our and every life. Like David we have the capacity to give life and the capacity to deny life; we have the capacity to share life and the capacity to withhold life.

And Paul echoes that knowing as he writes to the Ephesian church, “5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 5:2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Again we have the themes of Giving and Sacrifice and these bring the whole orientation of the gospel into focus.

The Bread that fed the five thousand is the bread of I AM: "I am the bread that came down from heaven." As we follow John’s teaching associated with the motif, the symbol, of Bread, so we come across the institution of Holy Communion, the very definition of the Church; we see the beginnings of a new way of life. It is a life that went beyond the cultural and the religious norms of the time. However, we lose that significance if we locate Jesus in history. Jesus (contrary to popular belief) is neither the Subject nor the object of salvation, rather through him is revealed the event and the process of Life. Today we hear, “49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”

What is being revealed is new world order. A faithful people, the very Children of Abraham, are asked to look again at life. Jesus’ message isn’t for those who have not already connected with their spirituality, it’s for all, and he turns to the Jewish people, the Hebrew faith, and basically puts a line through their scriptures, the Torah, the book of the father of all faith, Abraham, is no longer the way, there is another way. Look again. The Son of David, is no longer “left hanging between heaven and earth”. In Christ we see the integrity of Creator and creature. What was previously explored in terms of Father/Son relationships is now revealed in terms of the every day sustaining life-giving presence of the Divine.

In the modern world the Gospel has been overtaken by healthy distractions - organic, whole grain, omega 3, biodynamic and a myriad of other advertising labels that you can stick on bread. "I am the bread that came down from heaven." It is a simple call back to what matters. With it there is a revelation that we are to be imitators of God. Kevin Rudd has offered Australia a stimulus package, encouraging us to be consumers and so to be consumed with our own self-serving. The Gospel likewise offers a stimulus. It’s another call to be consumers and to be consumed by the very bread that feeds the divine life in all: ‘Be imitators of God’; be imitators of God.

Peter Humphris