The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, 29 July 2018

Track One:
II Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14


Track Two:
II Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-19

Ephesians 3:14-21
St. John 6:1-21

Background: Hittites in the Bible

There are mentions of Hittites in a broad spectrum of biblical literature from Genesis through the period of resettlement following the edict of Cyrus the Mede.  Whether each of these actually represents the culture that developed in Asia Minor is questionable. There seems to be some relationship with those called the “Canaanites”, and they are mentioned in Genesis 10in the so-called “Table of the Nations”. In the Flood Story they are seen as the children of Heth. They are mentioned in the Story of Abraham, when the patriarch purchases a burial site Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite. We also know them in David’s army, especially Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. Some argue that these are not true Hittite or people of Hatti (centered in central Anatolia), but may be instead Chittim, the name “Hittite” being a corruption of that nomenclature. Others see some of these Hittite references as acknowledging a Canaanite group that may have been related to the peoples from Anatolia. 

Track One:

First Reading: II Samuel 11:1-15

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So, Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

We are met in the beginning of this pericope with a clever pun. The going forth of kings to war indicates that it is springtime, but the author/editor uses a word for kings melekim, that can also be read as “messengers” (mal’akhim). David does not go out to war, but does send out a messenger, Joab. Perhaps we are being acquainted with a much older David, who has retired from the field of battle, now ensconced in Jerusalem. Joab, his general, is sent to the battlefield. It is a pattern that will be repeated later in the story. What we have here is more than story, but a glimpse of the politics of Israel, and the reality of the circumstances of David’s life and psyche. 

That David might see Bathsheba from his roof-top indicates the density of Jerusalem, and the social position of Bathsheba and Uriah, living so close to the royal palace. We know not only her husband, Uriah, but her father Eliam as well, a further indication of her social standing. Although Uriah is identified as a “Hittite”, which could mean anything given the ambiguity of the term (see Background, above), his name indicates that he is a pious member of society. Uriah means “YHWH is my light.” As the story develops, we see this righteous man in contrast to a besotted king. 

David is impulsive in this text – he sends, he fetches, she comes, and he lays with her. The Hebrew construct of this sentence (see the third verb in the sequence) indicates that David is not acting alone, but that Bathsheba is complicit as well. The true innocent in the story is Uriah, who loses both wife and life. The story also functions as a royal genealogy because Bathsheba becomes pregnant but loses this child. The second child, Solomon, will become heir and king.

Breaking open II Samuel:
  1. How does this story change your impression of David?
  2. Why was this story included in the biblical canon?
  3. Where do we see this story in our time?

Psalm 14 Dixit insipiens

     The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." *
All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;
there is none who does any good.
     The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all, *
to see if there is any who is wise,
if there is one who seeks after God.
     Every one has proved faithless;
all alike have turned bad; *
there is none who does good; no, not one.
     Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers *
who eat up my people like bread
and do not call upon the Lord?
     See how they tremble with fear, *
because God is in the company of the righteous.
     Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted, *
but the Lord is their refuge.
     Oh, that Israel's deliverance would come out of Zion! *
when the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

The psalm’s attachment to the first reading, becomes a commentary on David and Bathsheba, “the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” This is not a theological observation but rather a judgment about the moral character of “the fool”. The author is looking at those about him and is seeing as to their character. God is looking as well, observing the behavior of the people. The results are damning – “There is no one who does good/ There is not even one.”There are victims here, although the author does not cast himself as one. The actual victims are ‘devoured like bread.’ Finally, in the last verse there is a plea that God would come and restore fortunes.

Breaking open Psalm 14:
  1. What is the cynicism that you see in your life?
  2. What do you see in our society that is problematic?
  3. Have you been “devoured like bread”?


Track Two

First Reading: II Kings 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So, he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

Here we have a brief episode from the Elisha cycle, which follows his experiences with the “Shunamite woman” who is barren, and who then is promised a son. The purpose of this reading in the lectionary is to foreshadow the Gospel reading – the Feeding of the Five Thousand. In the reading we see themes of abundance and blessing, as the prophet who has been so generously treated earlier in the chapter is then generous to a people who are hungry. The question that the servant asks seems common to disciples, “How can I set this before a hundred people.” Prophets stretch the notion of possibility for those who cannot see it.

Breaking open II Kings
  1. What are the needs of your life?
  2. What is the abundance of your life?
  3. Is this a miracle or a moment of sharing?

Psalm 145:10-19 Exaltabo te, Deus

10    All your works praise you, O Lord, *
and your faithful servants bless you.
11    They make known the glory of your kingdom *
and speak of your power;
12    That the peoples may know of your power *
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13    Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; *
your dominion endures throughout all ages.
14    The Lord is faithful in all his words *
and merciful in all his deeds.
15    The Lord upholds all those who fall; *
he lifts up those who are bowed down.
16    The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, *
and you give them their food in due season.
17    You open wide your hand *
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.
18    The Lord is righteous in all his ways *
and loving in all his works.
19    The Lord is near to those who call upon him, *
to all who call upon him faithfully.

This is an acrostic psalm of thanksgiving, and the purpose of this excerpt is to underscore the graciousness of the readings about Jesus and Elisha. It is a familiar psalm with its prayer of thanksgiving, ‘The eyes of all wait on you…” Thus, is God’s generosity celebrated and praised.

Breaking open Psalm 30:
  1. How does God provide for you?
  2. How do you provide for others?
  3. Who are the needy around you?

The Second Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

We move from Paul’s agency as the messenger of the new Kingdom, God’s new creation of society and humankind to his leading us in prayer. The prayer and doxology are begun with a gesture of prayer, “I bow my knees before the Father.” This is not only an indication of the addressee of the prayer, but of the provenance of the household of faith. Paul will be concerned with the coming together of Jew and Gentile in both faith and prayer. The language of the prayer is rich in liturgical expressions, “the riches of his glory,” “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” and “filled with all the fullness of God.” One word links this reading (quite unintentionally since this is a lectio continua) and that is in the phrase, “to accomplish abundantly far more.” Thus, it is not only the prophet or the agency of Jesus that is called to generosity, but the whole people of God as well.

Breaking open Ephesians:
  1. How is creation renewed for you?
  2. What is your prayer life like?
  3. What do you understand by the word “abundance”?

The Gospel: St. John 6:1-21

Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Suddenly we leave the Gospel of Mark and his relating of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, to hear what John has to say about this instance. In the Gospel of John, the evangelist places Jesus at important liturgical feasts in the Jewish liturgical year. Here John sees Jesus in relationship with the Passover. The scenes in the pericope connect Jesus to themes in the Hebrew Scriptures – Jesus says, “I am” (“It is I”), the feeding of Israel with manna, the ascent of Jesus (Moses) to the mountain. This is essentially a eucharistic text focusing on the gift of Bread (“he took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them.”). In the succeeding scenes Jesus will portray himself as “the Bread of Life.” The cosmic nature of this identification is underscored in the final scene where Jesus walks to the boat and alleviates the fear of the disciples. 

We have a similar situation to that in Mark – the people are hungry and needy but are also pressing Jesus for healing and blessing. The focus of the meal may be more than that of feeding hunger, but the general need of the people, and the size of the community in need. Jesus does not provide the food, it is already available in the hands of one of the communities. Like Elisha, his small contribution feeds the whole lot.  Jesus recognizes the prophetic action among the people.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. When have you had to deal with too little?
  2. When have you had to deal with too much?
  3. What did you learn from these situations?

Homiletic Question: Who is the prophet among us? Who is the young boy among us? How do we deal with the abundance that we already possess?

Possibility 1:               Recognizing the prophesy (message) of abundance (Reading I, Once).

Possibility 2:               Recognizing that things are being made new. How are they new in our abundance? (Reading 2)

Possibility 3:               Where is the eucharist (Thanksgiving) in our abundance? (Gospel)

Possibility4:               What fears accompany our abundance? (Gospel)

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

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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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