Proper 13 Year B

Exodus, God Provides, by the Rev. Tom Harries

Beginning with the Manna and the reference in the gospel to the feeding of 5000 one could talk about all the ways God provides for us through creation and the environment.

To me the most stunning one is oxygen in the air. We all breath every minute from birth to death without thinking about it, yet we could not live a moment without the whole process that keeps oxygen in the air.

Similarly with water. You can fast quite a while, but without water you can last only a few days.

Only a small portion of the world’s water is fresh.  It is extremely important to be good stewards of it.

Reflection on Psalm 51: 1-13, by the Rev Dcn Helen Hanten

Psalm 51 is a lament by someone who has sinned greatly, and is praying for cleansing. It is a psalm ascribed to King David, written when the prophet Nathan came to him, after David had taken Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, for himself. The story about how all this happens is found in 2 Samuel, just before the passage appointed for today’s Old Testament reading. David has been deceitful in getting Bathsheba pregnant, but has tried to make it appear that her husband has fathered the child, although Uriah has been away from home with the army the whole time. David has arranged to have Uriah killed in battle, and then takes Bathsheba to be his wife. A later child of this union will be King Solomon.

If this was, in fact, written by King David, it is hard to imagine a lament and guilt stronger than is expressed. But one important thing, he is not just asking God’s forgiveness for his sins, but also a cleansing of the heart. Verse 6 says: “You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.” And in verse 10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” It is a prayer for a new way of thinking, a new way of being.

These verses form a model for prayers by those people who profess to care about, and care for the earth. It is not enough to say we have been careless in the past, and ask God’s forgiveness. It is not enough be diligent in adding up carbon credits and measuring tons of paper recycled. Our whole way of thinking about God’s creation as a sacred gift has to become the “wisdom in our sacred hearts.”

When this has happened, our own commitment as well as our teachings will help others understand the fragility of this planet Earth, our Island Home, and honor with thanksgiving God who has provided it.

Reflection on John 6: 24-35, by John G. Gibbs, PhD

Readings in the Gospel according to Mark (Propers 1-12, 17-28, Episcopal Standard Lectionary) are here interrupted by 4 readings from John 6 (Propers 13-16). A superb guide into the sacramental territory of John 6 is William Temple’s Readings in St. John’s Gospel (London: Macmillan, 1952 reprint of 1945).

According to Temple, the eucharistic teaching of the Fourth Gospel (which never mentions the Institution of the Eucharist) comes to clearest expression in the image of the True Vine (John 15), which brings to mind the wine. On the other hand, for John as for Mark what matters most in the Bread imagery is our feeding upon Christ, “so receiving and assimilating Him that He becomes our very life” (Readings, p. 80).

That life, moreover, is not confined to the “Real Presence” in the Eucharist, for: “The Word of God is everywhere present and active” (p. 81). What we offer at the Offertory is bread and wine, which are already full of symbolic meaning as “the gift of God rendered serviceable by the labour of man…” While deep reverence is due to that means of grace, the sacrament is not a matter of magic or materialism. As Temple comments: “…it is very easy to confine our reverence when we ought to extend it, and to concentrate it only on this focal manifestation of the divine Presence, instead of seeking that Presence and Activity also in the Church, which itself is called the Body of Christ, and in all the world which came to be through Him (i, 3)” (pp. 81-82).

What has most claimed my attention in 6:24-35 is  “the bread” that conjoins heaven and world: “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (v. 33). What turns bread and wine into the sacrament is the Incarnation, which was a movement down from heaven that brought into worldly affairs that different quality of “life” that we call “eternal.” The “food” that really sustains us and that “endures” in us toward the different quality of life that Jesus incarnated, is something that comes to us as a gift from God (v. 32).

The Bread of Christ is Life, and All of Life is Communion, By Tom Mundahl

Excerpt: Most important in our reading of the discovery of manna in the wilderness, then, is a recovery of God’s purpose for creation. Both the gifts of food and the limitations surrounding Sabbath observance reveal a God who provides food and  time for rest to maintain freedom not only for humans, but for all creatures (Exodus 20:10, Deuteronomy 5:12-15). “The world of God’s creation, including the distribution of food resources, is to be so structured that ‘those who gather little have no lack’” (Fretheim, p. 186, Exodus 16:18, 2 Corinthians 8: 15). Our challenge in serving creation is to learn and to help make this “distributive justice” real not only for humankind but also for otherkind. This will require attentive and loving listening to what we call “the natural world.”

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The Choice before us is Stark, by Dennis Ormseth

Excerpt: “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” John 6:27. “Food that perishes,” “food that endures” or more simply, as Raymond Brown translates this favorite verb of John, “food that lasts”: What is the meaning of  this distinction? The verb is menein, meaning to remain, abide, stay, or dwell on. John likes to use the verb menein, Brown points out, “to express the permanency of relationship between Father and Son and between Son and Christian.”

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