Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22
St. Matthew 14:13-21
Background: The Northern Kingdom II
The position of both Judah (South) and Israel (North) placed them right in the middle of the fortunes and aspirations of the empires that surrounded them. The most dominant power that threatened the situation in Israel was the Assyrian Empire, and its leader Shalmaneser III (858-824). His raids into the territory threatened Damascus, Tyre and Sidon, and even Egypt itself. It is during this period that we meet the prophets Elijah and Elisha who struggle with the incursion of other cults and cultures in Israel. A new king rules in Assyria (Adanirari III) from 810-783, and then Assyria sinks into a period of weakness from 783-745. Israel reestablishes itself under the King Joash (798-783) and the prophetic work of Amos (who is actually a citizen of Judah) and Hosea becomes active. The bloom is short lived, however. In 745, Tiglath Pileser III takes the throne and harasses the region. Damascus is reduced to a vassalage, and the Galilee is captures. In 721, Sargon becomes King of Assyria, and in 720 captures Samaria. Assyrian policy dictated that the inhabitants were sent off to other lands, and the former Kingdom of Israel was settled with peoples from other regions (hence the “mongrel” status that the Samaritans were stuck with well into the New Testament.
Thus says the Lord:
"Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you."
|The Eschatological Banquet|
Second Isaiah, in this reading, establishes a model which will obtain until the Roman period, and which will be used by Christian theologians as they seek to describe the end time. After the long poems of the Suffering Servant, IInd Isaiah finally sounds a note of joy, and in this reading describes the Eschatological Banquet to which all will be invited, regardless of their status, even the poor and the destitute. The Scriptures are full of banquets that celebrate divine intervention and presence (the Passover, the festival of Booths, etc.) Here, like Isaiah, he describes a new creation, one that restores those who are/were exiles in the land. It is a model that Jesus will use as he describes the Reign of God, and the Kingdom of heaven. In the context of war and threats from all sides, such a vision would prove to be powerful and sustaining. Even more interesting is its “universal character” in which such feasting was not just the right of Judah, but the promise and invitation to all peoples.
Breaking open I Kings:
- What meals of celebration have you had at your home?
- What was celebrated?
- Is there a religious aspect?
Psalm 145: 8-9, 15-22 Exaltabo te, Deus
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is loving to everyone *
and his compassion is over all his works.
The LORD upholds all those who fall; *
he lifts up those who are bowed down.
The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD, *
and you give them their food in due season.
You open wide your hand *
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways *
and loving in all his works.
The LORD is near to those who call upon him, *
to all who call upon him faithfully.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; *
he hears their cry and helps them.
The LORD preserves all those who love him, *
but he destroys all the wicked.
My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD; *
let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.
The author of this psalm mirrors some of the imagery and themes present in the First Reading. It is an alphabetic acrostic, and a true praise psalm, the only psalm in the collection that makes such a claim. Judging from its universal outlook, the psalm may have been written either during or after the Exile. Verse 15 will be familiar to a great number of Christians, having served as a table prayer for many. In a period when the kingship of others threatened the religious life of Judah, a psalm that celebrated the kingship of God would be both welcome and necessary – a theological comfort and respite for the people.
Breaking open Psalm 145
1. Have you ever gone hungry?
2. Do you know what it is like to be hungry?
3. How do you alleviate hunger in your community?
I am speaking the truth in Christ-- I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit-- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
|God cuts a covenant with Abraham|
In chapter 9, Paul wrestles with his own people, the Jews. Out of reverence for them, however, he calls them by their divinely given name, “the Israelites” and then proceeds to list seven divine gifts given to them: 1) the adoption (of the nation) by God, 2) the glory (the presence in the Tabernacle/Temple), 3) the covenants (several to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses), 4) The Law – the Torah, 5) the worship that distinguished them from the idolatry and prostitution of their neighbors, 6) the promises made to Abraham, Moses and David, and finally 7) the patriarchs (and may I add as well, the matriarchs) the legacy of its ancestors. These qualities impress Paul, and yet he is saddened that they have not see nor responded to the vision of the Christ. Paul’s enlightened view (that should be read by fundamental Christians today) is that none of this is negated by God, but continues. Future readings from Romans will undergird Paul’s argument.
Breaking open Romans:
- As a Christian how do you feel about the Jews?
- What are your thoughts on Paul’s list of their gifts?
- Have you ever been to a Jewish liturgy?
Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
In the first reading, IInd Isaiah calls us to a vision of the Heavenly Banquet, and its promise. Matthew does as well. For him, the feeding of the 5,000, is anticipatory, looking forward to the Eucharist. All is heightened, both the paucity of the offering (five loaves and two small fish) but also by its abundance (twelve baskets of fragments). We should not take the details seriously here, for they are to usher us into the messianic age where words and details fail us. The lesson is that Christ provides, and that the desert (an empty wilderness) becomes a place of refreshment and purgation (just as it had been for Israel). Also noted is that the food is not merely distributed but that there is ceremonial attached. There is prayer and there is blessing, the elements common to any Jewish meal (and he took the bread, broke it, and gave thanks). These are all Eucharistic elements and referents. What is even more telling is that the simple offering of food for an individual is the source of nourishment for many.
Breaking open the Gospel:
- Have you ever leveraged something small into a benefit for many?
- How did that happen, how was it possible?
- Has someone done this for you?
After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:
Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.