Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

  • 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 and Psalm 130 •
  • Ephesians 4:25-5:2 •
  • John 6:35, 41-51
    For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This is Newton's work.  His third law of motion.  Science.
    You reap what you sow.
    We are strangely connected and affected by our choices, well past their implementation.  Sometimes the connection between action and reaction is separated by so much time and distance that we cannot really see the connection between the two.  It is lost in our history somewhere. 
    But our actions always (always!) have consequences.  Some consequences are "positive," others not so much. Sometimes we go through life completely unaware of a chain of events in which we were participants. Knowing this - being aware that all of our choices affect others - has the power to ground us in something bigger. 

    Are there filters through which you would like all of your choices to pass? Are there times when you need to sort back through the chapters of your life to see how things are connected?  Are you able to be graceful with yourself when you realize that some choices cause harm?

    We are in a season when all you hear in the media is the discord among political groups as they grapple with what is best...and best for what or whom is often debatable.  And in the heat of that, it's easy to start casting your own stones, stating things in strong ways, making choices for or against people and ideas. Regardless of the outcome of any one election or the vote on any one bill, we all end up having to live with one another, with the consequences of our choices in the process, with the words that we have said and the choices we have made along the way.  How then do we guard our hearts and our tongues so that we are able to reach out to one another as beloved children of God - no matter what happens next?

    In our Hebrew scripture for this week, King David asks his military leader Joab to deal gently with Absalom.  David's family story is better than any daytime soap opera written. Absalom has fled his father's wrath after killing his brother Amnon, a murder committed in rage that Amnon raped Absalom's sister Tamar. But David later forgave Absalom and brought him back to the kingdom but would not speak to him.  (Did you follow all of that?  It's complicated.  And sort of feels like the fall out from David's poor life choices earlier...and each bad choice by each family member keeps digging a deeper pit of despair for the whole clan).  Joab has had a bitter falling out with Absalom in previous chapters.  Absalom encounters Joab and his armor bearers in the forest, and as he is trying to flee, Absalom is "hung" when he is caught up on a branch.  Joab orders one of his men to kill Absalom, and the man refuses, having heard King David order Joab to deal gently with Absalom.  Joab takes matters into his own hands and uses three spears to pierce Absalom's heart.  WOW.  It's like a bad shoot-em-up mafia flick.  Here is a whole group of people who have gotten so wrapped up in personal passion and power that they cannot even begin to untangle the knot back to the first offense!  And it is the downfall of an entire Kingdom in many, many ways. 

    Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus includes advice for living in harmony together.  Juxtaposed against the chaotic saga of David's clan, it feels like a reminder of what is good and true and right.  Deal gently, speak the truth, do not go to bed on your Anger but work it out.  But it's hard.  It's hard to get caught up in the emotion of whatever is going on to remember the big picture.  It's hard in politics, it's hard in church leadership, it's hard in our families.  How often are we able to stop as the emotion starts to take over, to take that breath and remember that those we are dealing with are precious in God's sight (regardless of how we think of them in that moment).

    Jesus, in John's gospel, is offering himself as the very bread of life.  Compared to Manna, he has something to offer that nourishes beyond bodily need.  Jesus is invoking God's covenant, that one made with Israel, and extending it to all who will follow.  Not just the Jew.  Not just the gentile.  Not excluding the sinner or the tax collector or the Roman.  It's as if Jesus is reminding them that they can get wrapped up in their differences, or they can remember that all shall be taught by God.

    Sometimes we think that the choices we make are life and death choices.  But surrounding every choice is a web of relationships and beings affected.  Is the choice the thing? Or the surrounding relationships?  In a season of polarized debate, hateful language, absolutes, are we willing to sacrifice our common humanity to be "right?"

    may the words of our hearts
    and the meditations of our hearts
    be holy and acceptable
    to You,
    for you are
    our Rock and
    our Redeemer.

    © laura & matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org - We share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.


    Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12), Year B

    2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a and Psalm 51:1-12
    Ephesians 4:1-16
    John 6:24-35

    We pile up degrees and titles and certifications and experiences and as a result often think quite highly of ourselves. But sometimes all of the accolades and accomplishments blind us. We get praised and rewarded for knowing and doing, and sometimes we are blind to what is present. We get caught up in the confidence that we know how things work and lose the ability to see things in a new or different way.

     Sometimes we need some help seeing what is in front of us. David needed help seeing what was in front of him. He had just used his kingly power to have the husband of his pregnant mistress killed....and did't see anything wrong with it. It took Nathan the prophet shining a light on the situation from a different direction for David to comprehend what he had done. He thought he understood the order of things [the king can do whatever he wants], but he needed to be reminded that his power had limits and he had responsibility to those above and below him.

    Paul is another classic example of someone who needed help seeing what was in front of him. In this particular passage from Ephesians we see him working to help the followers of Jesus in Ephesus understand who Jesus is and how their lives are different as a result. It was all available to them, but those folks needed someone to help them see it.

    And in the passage from John we see Jesus helping people see what is in front of them. The disciples asked, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" and Jesus responded, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent." Jesus is showing them that they already have all they need right in front of them, they just need to believe and trust it.

    help me to let go
    of the things that,
    while I think make me
    wise and
    wonderful and
    in fact blind me
    and hold me down,
    keeping me from You
    and Your Way.

     © laura & matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org - We share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.


    Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12), Year B

  • 2 Samuel 11:1-15 and Psalm 14 •
  • 2 Kings 4:42-44 and Psalm 145:10-18 •
  • Ephesians 3:14-21 •
  • John 6:1-21

  • In yoga, a person practices a progressive series of poses and each pose builds and expands in some way on the previous pose.  After 20 minutes or so of stretching in ways some believe unimaginable, it can be relatlively easy to balance on one foot, hands aloft, one foot tucked against the pubic bone, bent knee turned out - tree pose.  Tall and elegant and in the midst of a very good practice, still, straight, strong, balanced. 

    But it's much, much harder (impossible for some) to do tree pose in the middle of the day without a lead up of stretches and bends and poses.  Try it.  One day, while grocery shopping, running errands, making dinner, drop what you are doing and try to do tree pose.

    Not so easy.  Wobbly.  Weak. 

    Balance comes when we work toward it with intention, with appropriate self-care, with self-love, when we let go of things that do not matter, and focus on becoming that balanced being, that tall, unwavering tree.
    As we were thinking about balance, we recognized it connected to this week's lectionary readings with a word that captured us: Satisfied.  What does it mean to be Satisfied?  And does being Satisfied have anything to do with our balance? Our ability to stand firm and straight and strong? Our ability to stay standing despite the wind, the chaos, the temptations and disappointments, the political wind?  Are we centered deeply enough, Satisfied with who we are and what we are doing to become a tall and elegant tree, arms aloft like branches?

    From the Hebrew scriptures, we read the familiar story of David and Bathsheba.  Let's focus on just a few facts in the story.  First, it is the spring of the year when Kings go off to battle, and David is at home looking out over his city.  What's up with that? Somewhere he went from being the commander of the armies to guy who stayed home.  He sees Bathsheba bathing on her roof and sends for her...one thing leads to another.  There is also a connection here between engagement and Satisfaction. It seems when folks do not have specific responsibilities driving them, they are less Satisfied. Next thing we know, David is concocting crazy schemes to try to get Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, to lay with his wife - all of this while Uriah is neck-deep in a battle in which David is not actively participating.  What's going on in David's life?  We can't really know.  We know that God has promised David a legacy.  We know that David is in a season of battles with surrounding kingdoms, winning fame and fortune along the way. We haven't seen David praying much in this "season."  And it makes us wonder just where his priorities were...what focus was absent from his life that caused him to be at loose ends on his rooftop?

    The second Hebrew text and the reading from John's Gospel both deal with miraculous feedings.  It was in the John passage that we were captured by that single word, "Satisfied."  Jesus has been traveling and teaching and now faces a really large crowd.  They have been listening passionately while day draws on.  The disciples want to send them home, but clearly Jesus senses the importance of their gathering and he insists that the disciples attend to the crowd's need for food and drink.  The disciples can't imagine how the meager loaves and fishes they have identified will do the trick.  Jesus blesses the food and it is distributed....each having "as much as they wanted" and being Satisfied.  We haven't looked closely at different translations (confession!) but we were so drawn to this single word that it seemed God was present in the text in our reading.  SATISFIED.  What does it mean to be Satisfied...not Satiated.  Not full. Satisfied. 

    We are a society that expects to be full to the brim - to have life that is overflowing with meaning, to have plates overflowing with food, to have cars overflowing with gas.  Is it possible that we expect too much and in our expectation we are distracted from the things that really matter?  Is it possible that David was drunk with political success and had forgotten that he was God's chosen leader and God had promised him good things?  Is it possible that we are focused on our credibility, our possessions, our status in such a way that we forget that we all share a common call from God?  That we are all part of the same covenant?  That we are God's beloved creation called to share what we have so that all may experience the Kingdom of God? Are we Satisfied?  What parts of us need stretched so that we can find that stately, firm, tall and mighty balance?

    For this reason 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.
    (Ephesians 3: 14 - 21)

    © laura & matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org - We share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.