Hebrew Scripture: 1 Samuel 15:34–16:13 (Anointing of David)
Psalm: Psalm 20 or Psalm 72 (for Victory / for King Solomon)
Christian Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:6–10, 14–17 (11–13) (Living in faith)
Gospel: Mark 4:26–34 (Parables/scattering seed & mustard seed)
Just taking a few moments to be present to the text and notice things. Maybe you noticed them too, or maybe you notice something else! I'd love to know what it is. The NRSV is online at: http://bible.oremus.org/
Hebrew Scripture Reading
I am noticing the word anoint, anointed. And I am noticing that God is tricky--sending Samuel with the cow.
ANOINT: Tyndale Bible Dictionary: To pour oil or ointment onto a person or object in a ritualistic fashion. The Hebrew word for anoint first appears in Genesis 31:13, where it refers to Jacob pouring oil on the stone of Bethel (Gn 28:18–19). At a later time the ceremony was repeated (Gn 35:9–15). The ceremony was clearly religious, signifying induction into sacred use. As a religious act, the anointing was meant to endow the anointed one with the quality of the deity involved. From ancient times the Hebrews inaugurated officers of their national community by pouring special oil on the head of the person designated for office. The same practice was used to set objects apart for special divine use. Messiah is the term for "anointed one." Christ is the the title derived from the Greek word for "anointee."
Samuel also moves from grief for Saul to engagement with the community--even while bad leadership was still in charge. Hmm. Something is there. Also, for doing the right things, there wasn't a lot of immediate positive feedback. Bummer. I wonder who is listening to God in your community? I wonder who is responding to God in your community? I wonder where you are in this story?
Both Psalms are for leaders. The first is for David and the second for Solomon. In Psalm 20, there is an interesting interweaving of prayer to God for the success of the king but with occasional references to the "we" that are praying on behalf of the king. The last line: "Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call." Watch the plural and single pronouns popping up!
Psalm 72 is praise for Solomon because "he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper." Pretty cool! Maybe we should bounce this Psalm and what this leader is adored for against our present day leadership.
I'm most interested in verse 14. "For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died." What was Paul talking about? For Paul, death means unification with God...going home. So it is a good thing. This is an interesting both/and set up for being both in the Kingdom on Earth and the Kingdom Next. We are in the flesh, here, but because the One died for all, we have all died and gone home. It is a new creation. Kingdom Now but Not Yet. Living into the beauty of God's love. It definitely sets up the values of being a follower of Christ v. a follower of the culture. P.S. The values of Corinth were "intensely consumerist." I wonder where the church is standing in correlation to the common culture? I wonder if we are inside the culture or outside of it? I wonder if we are brave enough to challenge consumerism, greed, violence? I wonder if we care?
Whee! Parables. :-/ John Dominic Crossan recently published a book on the parables of Jesus: The Power of Parable. The subtitle is "How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction About Jesus." Now I wish I had read it. Regardless, this first parable is weird. What are we saying? That the Kingdom of God will be cut down with a sickle? The second parable, the mustard seed, is funny because, really, is the mustard plant the "greatest of all shrubs?" Even in 30 CE in the middle east? Looking at the Greek, it is simply becomes greater than the other "vegetable plants." Anyway, we usually get caught up in the mustard seed (small) to plant (really big) metaphor. What if the real point is that the Kingdom of God sprouts out so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade? What a beautiful image of God! God, the mustard plant, caring for the birds of the air. I kind of love this.
BUT..."Mustard seed was the kudzu of Palestine." Now this commentary I'm reading is a crack-up. Paraphrasing: Farmers do their best to kill the mustard plant, but the more mustard plant, the more birds, the more birds, the more mustard plants spread." And yep! The Kingdom of God is like that! An annoying plant (blackberries?) that keeps on growing and we are doing our best to kill it. Hmm. And another note, "birds of the air" was a metaphor for non-Jews or "people not like us." And we are trying to kill the plant. I wonder where our church is in that! I wonder what signs of the kingdom we are trying to stamp out? I wonder if we are successful? I wonder where each of us is in that? Oy.