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.


    Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

    Here is a little discovery you have likely made in the relationships in your own life: There is often a significant difference between help that is requested and help that is imposed.

    An example shows up in our home every once in a while:

    A - I have a real problem on my hands. I need to get X, Y, and Z done and I don't have the time to do them all.
    B - Oh, no problem. I will do Z for you...and on the way I can also do Y.
    A -  Uh...I did not ask for help, I was just naming my frustrations.


    A - I have a real problem on my hands. I need to get X, Y, and Z done and I don't have the time to do them all. Could you please help me and maybe do Y or Z?

    Now, if you do not notice the difference between these two situations, the rest of this reflection may be lost on you. 

    What we are highlighting here is the concept that sometimes each of us thinks we know what is best for someone else and we begin to offer a solution or our help without it being solicited. Yes, it is true...sometimes this is not a problem...unsolicited help is sometimes offered and accepted without a problem. However, often, this is not true. 

    Often, many of us (in most situations) prefer to ask for help when we know we need it. Sometimes unsolicited help is actually unneeded help. Sometimes unsolicited help is well-intentioned, and ends up being insulting or damaging. Remember the middle school jingle, 'When you ASSume, you make.....'

    This week we have fantastic examples to hold up against one another to illustrate ways and reasons we should all pay attention to our surroundings and motivations.

    In the part of David's story we see this week, we find him planning to impose his help on God. David had just gotten settled in his new home and he thought it would be a great idea to build a house for God. God responded through Nathan the prophet that God was not interested in David doing this. God reminded him that God had done a fine job providing for God's self and also for the Israelites and if God needed a house to live in, God would build a house.

    And in the part of Jesus's story we see in Mark, we find people coming to Jesus and directly asking and begging for help. We see at other points in the ministry of Jesus him directly asking people, "do you want to be healed?". There seems to be something important about people actually being able to name their own needs. 

    It seems to be a high level of respect that any of us can offer to another to allow him or her to name his or her needs for us rather than us making an assumption about what is needed. Maybe it is an important way for us to love one another by just being present with someone until a solution arises in response to a need.

    In a letter from Paul to the church at Ephesus, he explains how the covenant of God, through the teaching, healing, death and resurrection of Jesus is available to all.  As partners without identity other than "Christian," we become the building blocks, the flying buttresses, the rafters and the roofing for a "house" that could include all.  It's hard to know how to include if we aren't able to be present, to listen and to really understand the other - not to help them in the way that we want to help them, but in the way that they need help.

    help us to listen and feel
    not just to you 
    but to those around us
    so that we might hear and feel
    your call
    to a better place,
    focused on goodness,
    rather than doing.

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


    Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (Proper 9)

    We don't know about you, but there are times (more often than we wish) when we wonder if we have what it takes (wisdom, courage, strength, etc) to do and be the things we are called to do and be.

    Some days the expectations seems so high and the task at hand so important...and we feel so weak and frightened.

    Some days we wonder if we have what it takes to do and be the things we are called to do and be.

    And gratefully, we have people in our lives who remind us that even though we might not have everything we might hope for, we have enough for what we need to do and be what we are called to do and be.

    Think of David. He had been called to be King right after his mentor Saul. He likely needed encouragement from time to time to remind him he would be able to be the servant and leader he was called to be.  We know that he made some bad choices and had to work his way through that.  And in this passage from 2 Samuel, we see some of the folks from his kingdom offering him the encouragement he needed. They remind him of what he had done in the past and they anointed him as their king to encourage him going forward.

    Look at the conversation between Ezekiel the prophet and God. God imbues the prophet with confidence and the power of God to go out and share God's message. With the way the instruction was given to him, Ezekiel obviously knew God was on his side and that should be enough to help him do and be what he was called to do and be.

    In Paul's second letter to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth we see him struggling with whether or not he could be and do what he was called to be and do. We see him wondering if he has the ability to keep his boasting in check and he finds he is given the needed encouragement from God to be able to do and be what he is called to do and be.  And he seems to understand that being overtly powerful is not the answer - being humble and willing will help him to be and do what he's called to.

    And if Mark's gospel we see Jesus entering his hometown after having done miracles and healings in a variety of places. And while he was home his ability and who he was were questioned. We have to imagine it was hard even for the Son of God to be second guessed by people that he knew and loved. From that place he prepared and equipped the disciples to go out clean up unclean spirits. He put his confidence in them that they could go out and do the work that they were called to do. They were commanded to take nothing with them and to go forward in confidence that what they needed would show up.

    Sometimes we let our doubts hold us back.  Sometimes we limit ourselves by not believing that God is ever-present.  Sometimes we think we have answers and in fact the answers we need come from a higher place.

    in a world that call me to be everything
    all the time
    in every place
    with all the toys,
    help me to remember that I am yours
    and you are with me
    all the time
    in every place.
    And that is enough.

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