Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Power to Do Evil, to Take Life vs. . . .

 Power to Bless, to Enhance Life
Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 26 July 2015
Proper 12 Year B: 2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21
I am pregnant.”
I wonder if Bathsheba's terse message, “I am pregnant,” forced David to sit down when he received that shocker in our first lesson. We know he gets busy trying to fix the situation; he is pregnant with ideas. Our scriptures are pregnant, not with child, but pregnant as another of the dictionary's meanings: “rich in significance, possibilities, consequences”1.
We see consequences & significance in our scriptures today. We see contrast between King David's abundant resources, his self-indulgence, his murderous action & the life-giving actions in our Gospel, grace that springs from meager resources, the wisdom Jesus has to go away by himself when people want to make him king.
Our first serving of scripture today is rich in irony & repetitions: 9 times we hear the word send or sent, 5 times we hear go down or not go down about Uriah going home. The 4 times we hear that he does not go down to his house emphasize his steadfast2 character. The 6th time we hear the word down is in David's order to his commander to put Uriah at the front lines & desert Uriah so that “he may be struck down & die.” We see irony as Uriah carries his own death sentence in the letter David writes.
Earlier in this lesson we see irony: while the soldiers are fighting, the king [who usually goes & fights] stays home, takes a nap & makes a mess of several lives.
(W)hile (his )army besieges Rabbah,3
David... besieges Bathsheba4.”
The Jewish Study Bible tersely title this Chapter “Adultery & Murder”5 & notes that it is unusual in ancient literature to criticize the king. It is unusual that both Bathsheba's father & husband are named. Her dad, Eliam, may also have been a soldier like her husband, Uriah the Hittite, who is not an Israelite & whose name in Hebrew means, as Harper's Bible Commentary notes6, “YHWH [God] is my light”. This foreigner is a man of light, a man of honor7, more honorable than King David.
What if Uriah knows what David is doing
& what David has done?8
While his fellow soldiers must sleep camped outside, he refuses to enjoy the comforts of home. Notice: He sleeps where the king's other servants sleep. With communication going between David to get Bathsheba, her message to David, David's message to his commander to send Uriah home, someone else must know something.9 Perhaps Uriah hears the truth as he honorably denies himself a comfortable & comforting bed.
Think of the difference between Uriah's lack of comfort & David's lack of honor, David's lack of turning to God for guidance. David's horrid taking of an innocent, loyal man's life contrasts to the loyalty of Uriah. What contrasting generosity we see in our Gospel's sharing of the meager resources available to Jesus. These meager resources turn into abundance through the self-giving of Jesus & of the boy who shares his 5 loaves of bread & 2 fish.10 Jesus works through this demanding situation when he could easily send the people home.
The disciples see a problem. Jesus sees an untapped abundance, a resource that will offer plenty of leftovers to collect to share with hungry folk who aren't there. The disciples use baskets for the leftovers – perhaps baskets like this.

For leftovers at home we use dishes or storage items like this.11 We use a traveling kit like this to share the abundant bread & wine that we have when we gather at this Holy Table. We share it with our brothers & sisters who cannot be here & in emergencies.
We know from experience the grace we receive in the bread & wine even though we may not be able to explain the transformational, healing nourishment. We can't explain how 5 loaves of bread & 2 fish can feed 5,000 & provide plenty of leftovers. The thousands of people gathered with Jesus don't demand to understand how the miracle has happened before they eat.
Notice: The disciples have just participated in this major miracle & they quickly forget to trust when life gets stormy. The gift from the Holy Spirit that we receive in Holy Communion strengthens us for our journeys, for the battles we have, for the difficult, self-indulgant people in our lives, for the storms we face.
The gift of the Holy Spirit reminds us that we are not alone in life's storm-tossed boat. The Holy Spirit reminds us to see things differently: to see like Jesus sees. Where there seems to be lack, Jesus sees abundance.
Jesus abundantly gives us our daily bread:
the physical & the spiritual nourishment we need to serve where we are
as Jesus' healing, nourishment-giving hands.

Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Ed.: Merrill C. Tenney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 3 June 2015.
Loque, The Rev. Canon Frank. 8 Pentecost, Proper 12 (B) – 2009. Accessed: 24 July 2015. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2009/07/26/eighth-sunday-after-pentecost-proper-12-b-july-26-2009/
What to Do withthe Leftovers”. http://www.sermons4kids.com/leftovers.htm. Accessed: 23 July 2015.

1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary. Accessed: 25 July 2015.
2 Jewish Study Bible. P. 637.
3 Note: Jewish Study Bible notes Rabbah is modern Ammon, capital of ancient Ammon. P. 636.
4 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 294.
5 Ibid. Jewish Study Bible. P. 636.
6 Ibid. Harper’s. P. 295.
7 Ibid. Jewish Study Bible. P. 637.
8 Ibid. Harper's.
9 Ibid.
10 Note: I wonder when Jesus & the disciples eat.
11 Idea from: “What to Do with the Leftovers”. http://www.sermons4kids.com/leftovers.htm. Accessed: 23 July 2015.

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