Scripture Introductions

Pentecost 2 June 14. 2009 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
(It seems to me that it can help our understanding on a Sunday morning, if we are told or reminded of some of the background. You may want to modify, correct, adapt or replace these, but the intent is, I believe, to honour the Bible and the intelligence and interest of our congregations.) As we often do, we come into the story in mid-stream, between two kings: Saul and David, but, in the rush to get to David, Saul is dismissed from the stage with barely a word. Saul, however, had been a favourite of Samuel. Samuel had "discovered" Saul by accident, had recognized his attractiveness and ability and had anointed him, ready to become the king that Israel needed [2] in the face of the Philistines, who were better organized and had superior weapons. [3] Saul led Israel against the Philistines, but his bouts of energy followed by periods of depression, combined with his paranoia created difficulties. Samuel was reluctant to recognize that Saul had become a liability until there came an outright clash of authority between prophet and king. With Saul in decline, Samuel was led to anoint David. At the time, this, of course, would be considered treason, so a cover story is carefully prepared. (Ramah, "height," was Samuel's birthplace and home town.) Let's listen to the clandestine meeting between the prophet and the young man who would become the king-ideal, in: I Samuel 15: 34 - 16:13 You may want to hold your acclaim until after the Gospel reading, or, perhaps, say something like, "May we hear the story with respect, and be encouraged to weigh how God works in history and in our lives."
The Psalm is a blessing and statement of faith in Adonai[4] God. (One's name is more than a "handle." It is part of one's being. So the reference to the name of God is really a reference to God. While this may have been a prayer and presentation to the king prior to battle against possibly more powerful foes, especially the first verses can readily apply to us in tense situations.) Let's... Ps. 20 (VU. P.742)
In the Epistle reading, we find Paul living dangerously, with deep faith and a conviction that we should view life in terms of our faith, as new beings in Christ. (It may be a great message for us in the midst of a recession, and a reminder of where to place our confidence.) Let's listen, as Paul explains, in: 2 Corinthians 5: 6 - 10 (11-13) 14-17 May the Spirit help us to see ourselves in this new light.
In the Gospel reading, we hear Jesus telling parables of the Rule or Realm of God. While one tradition pictured God's Rule as a dramatic intervention in the world, Jesus tells stories in which we don't know how things happen and the results can surprise. While we often think about the Realm of God as the afterlife, Jesus spoke of the kingdom as being on earth. (I have trouble making up my mind about the last verse, and whether it speaks of the privileged position of the disciples, or their lack of insight!) Let's rise to honour and be open to the Good News for us in: (Or: Let's listen closely for the Good News for us in: ) Mark 4 : 26 - 34 May the Spirit help us be aware of God's realm growing among and around us. It is appropriate to follow the readings with thanks and praise.
  1. With thanks to CAM (I must take responsibility for typos!)
  2. Typically, there are conflicting stories or theories about kingship in Israel. In one, we hear of God instructing Samuel to anoint a king. In the other, we find the prophet warning the people against such a step, and giving a graphic description of the steps a king will take in making people his servants. 1 Samuel 8:11ff/
  3. The Philistines had a monopoly on iron, while the Israelites were still working in bronze.
  4. "Adonai," usually translated, "The Lord," represents the personal Name of God, YHWH.
(Comments to Stew at