Musings on the Lectionary Readings

for Proper 12 - Ordinary 17 Sunday

(paired to the Gospel)

July 27, 2003

by Philip W. Gilman                                                                                                                                                                       








Psalm 145: 10--18

·        All Your works shall praise You, O LORD,

                and Your faithful ones shall bless You.

            They shall talk of the majesty of Your kingship,

                and speak of Your might,

                to make [YHWH's] mighty acts known among [all people]

                and the majestic glory of [God's] kingship. (10-12)


2Kings 4: 42--44 & John 6: 1-[-14][suggested]


·        A man... brought the man of God some bread of the first reaping-- twenty loaves of barley bread....  And [Elisha] said, AGive it to the people and let them eat.  His attendant replied, AHow can I set this before a hundred men?@  But he said, AGive it to the people and let them eat. (2Ki. 4: 42..43a,b, sic)


·        It was near the time of Passover, the great Jewish festival.  ...Jesus said to Philip, 'Where are we to buy bread to feed these people?'  He said this to test him....  Philip replied, 'We would need two hundred denarii to buy enough bread for each of them to have a little.'  ...Andrew... said... 'There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what is that among so many?'  Jesus said, 'Make the people sit down.' (Jn. 6: 4..10a)


Both readings mention barley bread, which is significant.  For Elisha, it was the time of the first reaping; for Jesus, around the time of Passover.  Both authors are directing our thoughts to the "Omer, a measure of the newly harvested barley, [which] was brought to the Temple on the second day of Passover."[1]  "According to the Talmud (Rosh HaShanah 13a), the Jews first offered the Omer and then ate the new crops. .... It was the offering of the Omer which lifted the ban on the new crops."[2]  "It was the ritual of the Omer, the offering of a measure of barley, the earliest of the new cereal crops, that marked the harvest season."[3]


Perhaps therein you will find some "food" for thought.


Gehazi, Philip and Andrew exhibit three very human traits by their responses.  Gehazi thought of himself and demurred, lest he be humiliated.  Philip spoke with the voice of pragmatism, accompanied by a subtle sneer at Jesus' presumption.  Andrew gave a factual report, but his editorial question conveyed a gently sarcastic skepticism.  Common to all three gentlemen is their doubt: "This just can't be done.  There isn't enough here."


Elisha and Jesus, on the other hand, expressed trust: absolute, blind faith in God's grace, benevolent provision, and power.  "God is love", they proclaim; God cares equally for every one in the crowd, even "the least of these".  Just as the Sovereign LORD God does not follow mankind's rules of arithmetic and the multiplication tables, so neither may we expect, and preach, that the Sovereign LORD God will follow mankind's rules of membership, belonging and exclusion.


·        The eyes of all look to You expectantly,

                and You give them their food when it is due.

            You give it openhandedly,

                feeding every creature to its heart=s content.

            The LORD is beneficent in all [Her] ways

                and faithful in all His works. (Psa. 145: 15-17)


Eph. 3: 14--21


With this in mind, then, I kneel in prayer to [God], ...that through faith Christ may dwell in your hearts in love. .... [M]ay you... be strong to grasp what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ's love, and to know it....  So may you be filled with the very fullness of God. (14..19)


·        The LORD supports all who stumble,

                and makes all who are bent stand straight. (Psa. 145: 14)



(Comments to Phil at )

[1]  Bloch, Abraham P.  1980.  The Biblical and Historical Background of Jewish Customs and

    Ceremonies.  New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., p.241.

[2]  Bloch, Abraham P.  1978.  The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days.

    New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., p.115.

[3]  Bloch, Abraham P.  1978.  The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days.

    New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., p.180-1.