Scripture Introductions

Pentecost 5 July 5. 2009 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
Remember the old saying, "Text without context is pretext?" It seems to me that introductions are intended to provide context. (You may want to skip what is in parentheses, as just too much detail - or, perhaps, not enough!) In our first reading, we find David at Hebron, not 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem, a place of many stories with links all the way back to Abraham. This places it in Judah, and there he received leaders from Israel, in the North (Israel and Judah have not always trusted each other!). They come to acclaim him, to claim kinship, and offer allegiance. He is now the acknowledged leader of North and South, of Israel and Judah. But he needs an appropriate capital. Jerusalem would fit wonderfully, but the city maintains its independence and seems impregnable. Its inhabitants taunt him in their security, until a detachment of volunteers infiltrates the city through the water system, and the city of Zion becomes the city of David. (Jebus was the name of the city which became Jerusalem. The Jebusites were a separate group, which gradually merged with the Hebrews. Zion referred originally to the rock on which early Jerusalem was built. The name gradually came to refer to the whole area of Jerusalem. The "Millo" was a relatively vulnerable part of the defences of Jerusalem. ) Let's listen to this under-stated story of action, diplomacy and accomplishment, in: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 While you may wish to reserve your acclaim until after the Gospel reading, you may wish words after each reading, and may say something like: God help us hear the story and look for God's will (of peace!) in today's events as well.
In the Psalm, we hear of amazement at Jerusalem, and of God's praise. Psalm 48 (VU p.772)
In our Epistle reading, Paul confronts boasting of spiritual gifts. In the language of the day, he responds with an oblique reference to a man in Christ, probably himself. Then he goes on to talk of some chronic personal problem. (There have been many attempts to define this "thorn in the flesh," but the precise identity does not change the message.) It helps keep him from being too proud, and even enhances his faith in Christ, and his ministry. Let's listen, as Paul explains, in: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 May we trust God to use even our thorn in the flesh to bring us blessing. Amen.
(If David was in the south, and Paul spoke of a trance, Jesus is back home, in Galilee, in the north, which had been Israel!. The location is less important than the off-hand reception he gets. ) In today's Gospel reading, we find Jesus ready to bring Good News and blessing "back home." But, in stark contrast to the acclaim of David, his former neighbours are unimpressed: conquerors, it seems, get more attention and acceptance than teachers and healers. Jesus' work is hindered, but this does not stop him healing some people! He continues his wandering ministry, and sends out his disciples to extend his work! He gives them authority over unclean spirits, but, otherwise, they are as vulnerable as he was. Let's rise to honour and be open to the Good News for us in: (Or: Let us listen closely for the Good News for us in: Mark 6:1-13 May we be open to God's blessing, even in setbacks and disappointments. Amen.
  1. With thanks to MRR.
(Comments to Stew at