The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, 24 June 2018

Track One:
I Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20


I Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16
Psalm 133

Track Two:
Job 38:1-11
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

II Corinthians 6:1-13
St. Mark 4:35-41

Background: Philistines

We meet the Philistines at several points in the Hebrew Scriptures. There is the so-called “Table of Nations” in Genesis, but prior to that we have evidence at Rameses III’s temple at Medinet Habu. There they are called the peleset, a similar word exists in the Hebrew, p’léšet.In Genesis they are friendly to Abraham and seem to be differentiated from the bellicose peoples identified in the Deuteronomic history. They seem to have originated in the Aegean and settled along the Mediterranean coast of modern day Palestine. Their principle cities were Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Edron, and Gath. Archaeological evidence seems to suggest an intermarriage of these peoples and indigenous peoples (the Canaanites) at some point. The best realization is that this region was not static, but rather a vibrant mix of peoples, trade, and culture.

Track One:

First Reading: I Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

[The Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.]

David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So, Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lordbe with you!” Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So, David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Please see commentary and notes following the alternate First Reading below.

Psalm 9:9-20 Confitebor tibi

     The Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed, *
a refuge in time of trouble.
10    Those who know your Name will put their trust in you, *
for you never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.
11    Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion; *
proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.
12    The Avenger of blood will remember them; *
he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.
13    Have pity on me, O Lord; *
see the misery I suffer from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gate of death;
14    So that I may tell of all your praises
and rejoice in your salvation *
in the gates of the city of Zion.
15    The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, *
and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.
16    The Lord is known by his acts of justice; *
the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.
17    The wicked shall be given over to the grave, *
and also all the peoples that forget God.
18    For the needy shall not always be forgotten, *
and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.
19    Rise up, O Lord, let not the ungodly have the upper hand; *
let them be judged before you.
20    Put fear upon them, O Lord; *
let the ungodly know they are but mortal.

In the Septuagint, this psalm and Psalm 10are presented as a single work. It’s transmission to us in the accepted text is a bit muddled. Psalm 9 begins as an alphabetic acrostic but is interspersed with other verses and interpolations. Psalm 10 seems to continue the acrostic, but then abandons it, only to pick it up again later in the psalm. Liturgically, we need to wonder and explore its connection to the David story that precedes it. The psalmist rejoices in the protections that God offers, “O you who lift me up from the gate of death.” But there is more than that, for being saved the psalmist can now praise the God who lifted him up, “so that I may tell of all your praises and rejoice in your salvation.” The wicked have another fate, one of going down to the Pit, to Sheol. Thus, the allusion to the fate of Goliath can be read into the verses of this psalm.

Breaking open Psalm 9:
  1. What do you find oppressive in your life?
  2. How do you attempt to rid yourself of this oppression?
  3. How does your faith help?


First Reading: I Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16

On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.

The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So, Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Whichever of these readings you will use in your liturgy, it would be good for you to read them as a unit including the elided verses. In this way you can see the large scale of the saga, the coming together of the Saul legend, and that of David. It is set as a folktale and has a common structure with a great deal of literature in which communities are threatened by some force or person and are saved by an unlikely hero. The question that we have to ask ourselves here is what exactly the role is that David inhabits, and what does this tale tell of his character and personality. Is he the proud hero hoping to gain a princess, or is he a theological hero, honoring the God of Israel? Layered on this is the realization that this is the beginning of royal history, stories about the nation and its great leader. There are so many levels to this story both political and theological. 

If you wish to study these verses, you might want to take time and look at the speeches that David makes. How does he use words, what is his primary focus and intent? What does he say about Israel, what does he say about God, and finally, what does he imply about Saul? These are very important avenues of approach in appreciating all of the aspects of this story.

It is the second of the alternative lessons that directly connects David with Saul and introduces that relationship with Jonathan. In a way, this part of the saga really speaks about covenant – specifically the covenant between the two men, David and Jonathan. David becomes the hero in a different dimension here, loved by Jonathan, the people, and by Michal. Saul only stands by in admiration, an emotion that soon fades into fear and dread. At the end of these two pericopes David stands firmly in our attention, leader, hero, and the beloved.

Breaking open both readings from I Samuel:
  1. When have you defeated something greater than you?
  2. Who has stood by your in difficult times?
  3. How is God a part of either of these situations?

Psalm 133 Ecce, quam bonum!

     Oh, how good and pleasant it is, *
when brethren live together in unity!
     It is like fine oil upon the head *
that runs down upon the beard,
     Upon the beard of Aaron, *
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.
     It is like the dew of Hermon *
that falls upon the hills of Zion.
     For there the Lord has ordained the blessing: *
life for evermore.

The psalm here seems to suggest that the real focus of the first reading is the relationship of love and respect between Jonathan and David, or perhaps between the people and David. Give the bellicose times in which David and Jonathan come together, this psalm seems to depict that exact opposite – a time of peace and prosperity. The oil running with abandon down the head, over the collar and onto the beard is a scene of abundance and luxury. This wealth is what the psalmist sees as God’s wish for God’s people.

Breaking open Psalm 133:
  1. What are your images of peace?
  2. What are your images of prosperity?
  3. Where are they found in your own life?


Track Two

First Reading: Job 38:1-11

The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

"Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb?—
when I made the clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed bounds for it,
and set bars and doors,
and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped'?"

In Job we do not wrestle with community concerns, or national history, or covenant theology. What we have is an individual who struggles with life and what life has given him. This man, in the setting of unequalled Hebrew poetry and image, could have come from a dozen different cultures or languages, that is the beauty of this fine example of Wisdom Literature. Here, however, he sings from the Hebrew tongue, and engages us with his deliberations that all too often differ from the opinions of other biblical authors. In our pericope for this morning, Job’s cynicism is met with God’s evidences to the contrary, as God reminds Job of the Creators ancient role in ordering the earth. The argument is quite ancient, and we hear echoes of other Creation Stories in the taming of the waters and of setting bounds.  All of this will help us understand the Jesus story that follows in the Gospel. For a moment, however, let us stand in wonder of a creating God who shapes and forms the context of our existence and worship of God.

Breaking open Job:
  1. What are signs of God’s power in your life?
  2. How does nature make you wonder about God?
  3. Where does nature touch you most profoundly?

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 Confitemini Domino

     Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *
and his mercy endures for ever.
     Let all those whom the Lord has redeemed proclaim *
that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.
     He gathered them out of the lands; *
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
23    Some went down to the sea in ships *
and plied their trade in deep waters;
24    They beheld the works of the Lord *
and his wonders in the deep.
25    Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose, *
which tossed high the waves of the sea.
26    They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths; *
their hearts melted because of their peril.
27    They reeled and staggered like drunkards *
and were at their wits' end.
28    Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29    He stilled the storm to a whisper *
and quieted the waves of the sea.
30    Then were they glad because of the calm, *
and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.
31    Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.
32    Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people *
and praise him in the council of the elders.

The verses chosen from this psalm also augment the Gospel reading for this day, but the real theme is larger than that. Take some time to read the psalm in its entirety, noting the salvation given to the wandering peoples. It is in the later verses that we meet the threat of the sea, and the power of God evident over the chaos of the sea. Even there, when people foolishly challenged the power of the “Great Green” (as the Egyptians called it) God still steps in with the power to save and to calm. It is this power and intent on the part of God, that the people are bidden to praise.

Breaking open Psalm 107:
  1. Where in life have you wandered?
  2. How have your wanderings challenged you?
  3. Where were you protected?

Second Reading: II Corinthians 6:1-13

As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return-- I speak as to children-- open wide your hearts also.

There is a “sometime” attitude amongst modern day Christians – the thought that if times are troubled there will be a time when all will be brought into order – but not yet. Paul, however, calls us to realize that the time for this order, this peace, is now. ‘See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation.” Should we think that the troubles of our times can wait (Paul outlines them in one of his famous lists, “afflictions, hardships, calamities…”) Paul reminds us that we are the opposite of these troubles, dying yet living, etc. The final line of the pericope must capture the imagination of our ability to serve others, save them, and remind them of God’s intent, “Open wide your hearts also.” Putting off to the future the goodness of God’s reign seems to miss the point, according to Paul. Now is the time.

Breaking open II Corinthians:
  1. Is heaven in the future or is it now?
  2. In what ways do you see it now?
  3. What do you hope for in the future?

The Gospel: St. Mark 4:35-41

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke first takes Peter and then later Paul and invests them with the look and works of Jesus. They become known in their deeds which emulate the Savior. In this story, Mark does the same thing for Jesus, only here Jesus is made to emulate the Creator who has power over wind and wave (see especially the first reading and the psalm). What will follow this story are other examples of Jesus’ power, signs of his relationship and mission to and of God. 

The popular image that we seem to have accepted in our time is one of Jesus as friend, buddy, neighbor, and fellow traveler. Mark corrects our view. Jesus here is a figure of power, and Mark uses ancient images and traditions to make that clear. Mark is giving the reader or hearer clues to the Secret of Jesus – what he really is and what he is here to do. As a spiritual exercise, you might want to read the story of Jonah, and the power that God displays in that story. In Mark’s story, however, it is not an individual who has been called, but rather the disciples who have been called, and who struggle to follow. Perhaps the storm represents or makes real the minds of the disciples as they engage in knowing Jesus and his place in their lives. There is fear, and a realization about the immanence of death. Jesus calms all of this, and only deepens their wonder.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What needs calming in your life?
  2. What storms do you see in the lives of others?
  3. What kind of prayer can you make for calm and peace?

Preaching Proposal:       How might we realize the possibility of salvation now rather than waiting for future manifestation?

Approach 1:                     What simple things are around us with which we might confront our troubles? (David and Goliath)
Approach 2:                     What relationships do we have that are evidence of God’s relationship with us now? (David and Jonathan)
Approach 3:                     How has God ordered our world, so that we realize God does care for us? (Job)
Approach 4:                     Where might Paul find salvation in our time? (Second Reading)
Approach 5:                     Why does Jesus sleep? (Gospel)

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday: 

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving­kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2018, Michael T. Hiller


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