Scripture Introductions

Pentecost 8 July 26. 2009 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
I wonder about the personal slant we bring. This week, for example, with the story of Bathsheba [2], we can portray her as victim or hussy, depending on our stance. Can we see her as a real person, in a real, tense situation? Somehow, by God's grace, she becomes a significant part of our Salvation Story. Matthew includes her as ancestor of Jesus in Chapter 1[3]! It is worth reading her story through the rest of the book, until, in league with Nathan, the prophet who challenged David, she confronts the dying David and ensures her son's crown. Incidentally, I struggle to find a connection between our first reading and, especially, the Gospel, unless it is that God uses ordinary folk as means of grace. Again, there are bits in parentheses, which you may just want to skip. Of course, you can skip all this, but I hope that you provide a setting for the readings, rather than have them sparkle without context.
In our first reading, there is a certain cynicism about kings going to war, as if war were royal entertainment. [4] (But David does not take to the field as he did in his youth. Now, as king, he can command and another lead. ) There follows part of the story of Bathsheba.. It has inspired movie plots, analyses of power, pictures of her bathing, statements about the use and abuse of women, and surprise at the way God sometimes works, since Bathsheba will become the mother of Solomon. (There has been debate about Bathsheba's part as seductress or victim, and also about David's sin: whether it was primarily sexual, ritualistic [5] or covetous, or the misuse of power, or all of them and more. We may note that Bathsheba is apparently powerless in the situation.) (Bathsheba's father is named. He appears again in Chapter 23, suggesting that Bathsheba may be the daughter of one of David's "Mighty Men." Uriah, who bears a Hebrew name, ("The Lord is Light") is a Hittite, and may have been a mercenary! He is certainly so dedicated and macho that he wouldn't think of time with his wife while the army is in the field! (If there has been debate about Bathsheba and David, there have been questions about Uriah.) From the cynical opening about kings and battle, to the even more cynical sacrifice of Bathsheba's husband, the story is well crafted and told. Let's listen to: 2 Samuel 11:1-15 We may wish to hold our acclaim until after the Gospel reading, or use traditional words, or we may say something like, "God bless this reading, and help us be alert to the impact of choices in our lives."
(The Psalm appears in two different forms: one refers to "The Lord," and the other to "God," paralleling the usage in the J and E traditions. Both use the expression which has fuelled the joke that the Bible says, if we take the expression out of context, "There is no God." One version is labelled a "Psalm of David," but the other links it to the time when David and Saul were fighting each other, and someone tells Saul where David is hiding! From David's point of view, this would be the work of a fool, indeed.) The Psalm(s) link folly and sin with alienation from and disbelief in God. Let us.. Psalm 14 and 53 (VU p.735)
In the Epistle, we have an extended benediction and an ascription of praise. Let's listen in humility and hope, as the author shares his faith, in: Ephesians 3:14-21 May the Spirit help us see God at work in our lives."
The Gospel reading starts with the word" after," which should invites us to wonder, "after what?" If we check back, Jesus, one Sabbath, has healed a man who had been ill for years. This leads to accusation and discussion of God at work, Jesus' healing, and so on. Today's reading speaks of Jesus' popularity, and his compassion for people, even in terms of everyday needs like lunch! It speaks, also of Jesus using a simple gift to work wonders. It implicitly invites us to trust that God can use whatever we offer as means of God's Grace. It is, if you will, a model for Communion, with the promise of grace for all seen in the twelve baskets left over. (the optional verses tell of Jesus walking on the water, either a statement of fact, demanding our acceptance or doubts, or a wonderfully useful metaphor for our life in faith, when we don't always know "where the rocks are" but have to step forward, anyway,"[6] with Jesus' confident invitation to join him!!) Let us 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: ) John 6:1-15 (16-21) Thank God for the message of Jesus feeding the multitude, and may we, in hearing, also be fed. Amen. It is appropriate to follow the readings with thanks and praise.
  1. With thanks to CAM.
  2. "Bath" = "daughter" of "Sheba," "Seven," "oath," , even "promise."
  3. Though not by name, as if uncomfortable with the thought?
  4. News reports are full of conflict, oppression, bombs and human bombs, while we keep being told that war is hell and accomplishes nothing! Is any or all of this linked with some political "spring of the year?"
  5. She was still unclean after her "period, which would make David unclean, and likely horrify any righteous Jew of the day..
  6. I have found it a wonderful metaphor, remembering the story of the three clergy who went fishing and two walked ashore, while the other nearly drowned until they pulled him up, saying, "Should we tell him where the stones are?" It fit when I would go from hospital room to hospital room, not knowing what would meet me, and trying to make sure that I did not respond out of the previous visit's dynamics.. And so on.
  7. Thanks to NC for this emphasis.
(Comments to Stew at