When the pastors heard it was Lectionary Year B, they made lamentation for it. When the brief Easter passed and the fires of Pentecost cooled, the monolithic mesa of ordinary time loomed. It bore the burden of John 6. 
Some rejoiced and some mourned. Some had a plan and some gnashed their teeth weekly. Yet the Lord sent a prophet to the persons of the Revised Common Lectionary. The prophet announced to those responsible, “There once was a book unlike any other. Full of life and richness, tales of woe and joy, this book told the story of God through history, poetry, narrative, and dreams. With metaphor, song, and plain language, realities of creation are made manifest within its pages. Yet, there were forces that constricted the stories. These forces grasped at a theme and sat on it, barely let the Spirit play amongst the words that are good for teaching and bringing freedom. These forces bend and twist the Hebrew scriptures to match words from the gospel accounts without accounting for the depth and breadth of God’s-light-witness in both.”
The lectionary elves gasped at this hearing, clutching pearls and pearl tie clips, “Who would do such a thing?” 
The pastors, their calendars full of bread-themed ideas, songs, and sermon starts, pointed, “You have done this! And, thus, people do not know the arc of the gospel according to Mark. And, thus, people do not comprehend the fullness of the gospel according to John. And, thus, do dreams of bread pudding dance through our heads!” 
Okay, maybe just I feel that way. It’s only just the second week of the Bread of Life discourse. If you’ve been following the semi-continuous Hebrew Scripture readings, this week is Nathan’s confrontation with David. I gave myself a little giggle imagining a horde of pastors, eyes flashing indignantly, pointing at the compilers of the RCL and screaming, “Thou are the [men and women]!”
The reading from Exodus this week offers its own richness, not as a mere foreshadowing to the gospel text. Provision in the wilderness is a reality that still has resonance in our time. Given the very real trials and traumas of immigration in Africa (to Europe) and within the Americas at this time, what does being fed in the desert look like? Are we called to be carriers of manna (God’s providence) to those who seek freedom, hope, and healing? Even as we preach abundance again and again, many churches still operate- monetarily and spiritually- from a sense of scarcity. We also have our laments of the days gone by. Perhaps a sermon could call a congregation to account for the hope that is present within them. What is true now? What is the manna and the quail surrounding the congregation- provided by grace- that can and will sustain them?
As for 2 Samuel, I’m all for David getting called out. I’m in the front row, with popcorn, hollering, “PREACH” to Nathan. Then I’m sucking my teeth at the predictions that follow. Why do others have to suffer because of David’s sin? The later writers needed to make sense of the division, death, and disruption that came to David’s house. How could he be the king that foreshadows the Messiah with such corruption in the house? Attributing all the subsequent pain to David’s choices in this one situation is a difficult leap to make, yet it stands. Repentance does not remove the consequences of the sin. Repentance doesn’t stop the sin from affecting other people. How is God’s grief at sin portrayed in this story? The reality of costly grace (Bonhoeffer) is that it costs God to provide it. What is the cost to God in this text? Do we see it?
If I were preaching on Ephesians, I would concentrate on the phrase “speaking the truth in love”. What does that phrase mean? What does it look like when it is done? How does the true speaking of truth in love lend itself to cohesiveness in the body? I might look the local or national issues of my community or denomination. Often this phrase is thrown around as a way to bully others OR to it is reacted to very sharply, as though it meant to bully. However, this is the call of the life of faith- to acknowledge that there is a truth that comes in being on the Way of Christ. We cannot ignore that truth. We cannot make that yoke light by our own niceness or refusal to confront pain. We are called, through the power of love, to speak the truth about oneness and union and unity in the Lord.
I don’t know about where you’ll be preaching, but the great leap for the words I will say on Sunday is helping people to 1) learn to recognize spiritual hunger, 2) realize that there are real and tangible solutions to physical hunger, 3) learn how we miss the expansiveness of what God offers in Christ by “just” asking for one thing, and 4) how are we called to be inviters and sharers of the bread of life.
What do you anticipate lifting up this week? Please share your thoughts, tips, tricks, children’s sermons, bread recipes, leftover manna casseroles, love of John 6, lament over leaving Mark, or whatever else seems pertinent (loose term), helpful, and for the good of the order!

18 thoughts on “Lectionary Leanings: Yeah! More Bread! Edition (John 6:24-35)

  1. This is priceless! Of course, I’m in the NL, but on my own calendar (still doing the psalms, s l o w l y.

    For those interested in the Mark: Full Arc, he’s up this coming year in the Narrative Lectionary.

    Otherwise, let there be bread!

    (Last Sunday, for Messy Church, we made bread together, which is to say, a wonderful bread-maked made lots and lots of dough, and we parceled it out in small blobs on parchment paper, and people formed their own loaves. And then we smelled it baking while we talked about John 6:1-15. Which, I know, was last week. But it was fabulous.)

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  2. Oh That’s SO Funny!! I read this.
    And I thought, I’m not preaching this week, nor am I in RCL… however, I just love the way Julia writes!
    And Karla, thinks the same,,, & beat me to it!!

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  3. And… here’s my 2 cents on 2 Samuel, a book I love. I do think it stands. I think there is truth and wisdom in the idea of sin being visited upon generation after generation. Serious dysfunction gets passed along. I don’t believe it to be God’s will. I believe it is merely an astute observation. It makes sense that the sons of David would have learned coercion/ rape/ murder from him.

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    1. I want to deal with this text and expound on what you’ve said. I think of what the dean of students at my school once said to me, “Let us not attribute to God actions that do not belong to God.” Just because it happens doesn’t mean it is what God desires, but it also doesn’t mean that God can’t or doesn’t bring good out of it. That the “sins of the father” are visited upon the children because they learned them from the father is a VERY interesting thread to tease out in a sermon.

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      1. And there are parts that David learned from Saul before that, such as making David a military commander very young so that hopefully he would be killed – much like David places Uriah in harm’s way so that he will be killed.

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  4. Thank you! Sparks a lot of creativity for me as we worship at the campground again this Sunday. We’ve had some campers join us who are “permanent” campers as they have no home. So the tension of physical and spiritual hunger in John 6 stands in our midst. I’m imagining a worship station following communion where we make P,B &Jesus lunch bags with P,B&J sandwiches, of course, and go out to distribute them and meet the folks who are camping.

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  5. I super love the Nathan-David confrontation, and I preached one of my favorite sermons on it a few years ago (omg, must be 6 years ago), including the phrase “we perpetrate, perpetuate, and participate in injustice every day.” oh yes.

    I did this Ephesians text last week in the form of a Bible Study in the sermon slot. A few of the questions we talked about during that time, in case they might be helpful to your own thinking this week…mainly because I wish I’d thought of some of them earlier in the week!…

    *truth in love, humility and gentleness, bearing with one another in love…
    –how is this different from simply being nice? How might we tell the difference between love and niceness?

    *the work of growing to maturity is not only the work of those set aside to an office or task (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers) but of every member of the body. We cannot grow up as a body without each person within the body also maturing into Christ. If one member is not functioning or growing, then the whole body’s growth is stunted. –how can we encourage and nurture the growth of others, so that the whole body might grow?
    –related: Children of God—How would you describe children? What does it mean to be child-like? We are called children of God, and Jesus says we must become like children…and Ephesians tells us to grow up. How can we be child-like but not childish?

    *Equip the saints… “equip” is from the greek word meaning “the setting of a bone”—so to equip the saints is to restore us to alignment with Christ’s work. Four offices are set apart to equip the saints: apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers. (greek is pastor-teachers, one office not two separate gifts.)
    –What kind of equipment do you need in order to grow in your faith? What kind of equipment does the Body of Christ need in order to grow up in faith?

    *What is the calling to which we are called? (some commentator said:–the ongoing reconciliation of all creation to God and to each other in Christ, into whom we are growing)…we know that God has already reconciled the world to himself in Christ, and we also know that this reconciliation goes on and on in every act and word, when we speak with humility and work with gentleness, when we love one another as we have been loved, when we grow up in our faith.
    –How does practicing humility, gentleness, and love lead to reconciliation? How does it lead to maturity?

    It was a good conversation, though I did have several people say “you ask such hard questions!” Yes, yes I do. There was one moment when people were uncertain about the idea of “calling”–that took more unpacking than I anticipated. But I’ve had several conversations since Sunday that show people are thinking about it, so yay!

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    1. I’m really engaged in the idea of equipping as bone-setting. Interesting. I had no intention of doing anything with the epistle, but now there’s quite a bit rattling in my head from your questions.

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  6. Ephesians. Something about unity. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten. Kids are at daycamp this week, praise the Lord, so I have some time to think about it. So, thanks, Teri, for those questions. That ought to get me started.

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  7. Looking at Nathan’s story and how it holds a mirror up to David’s iniquity. I have spent most of today writing it on and off [I have the house to myself and peace perfect peace].

    Our ‘Wondering Together’ approach to the Word is a children’s story that teaches a lesson and hopefully everyone will ‘get’ how it does tell us what to do but it reflects what we should do.

    Our relfection/ sermon; Starting a bit with how readers of To Kill a Mockingbird liked how it held up a mirror to racial injustice and they saw themselves as reflections of Atticus – standing for justice and right but now the new book, Go set a Watchman, shows how racism doesn’t need to be as blatant to be just as present and pervasive and so the mirror this story holds up is not as easy to look into. Readers don’t like it, because it shows how easy it is to live with white privilege and get slowly conformed and swayed into racist beliefs. it isn’t easy to look into the mirror and see what you don’t want to see about yourself and your community.

    Here, where I minister, the race issue is not so much about colour, but how locals adapt to migrant workers from other parts of Europe coming to work the land [work that in the living history of my older members – was work for the younger people of the town – despite the obvious fact that the younger people are not applying for that work, are unwilling to do that work and are not doing that work despite the farmers needing workers to pick the fruits, tend the crops etc]. So just flashing a mirror, ever so subtly and briefly, into a reflection we don’t like to admit.

    Then moving on to how stories show up mirrors of real life – what do we see? What are we forced to see? Do we like what we see? What do we need to do about what we see? what are the repercussions?

    Then looking at the consequences of our sin – and I think I might use Teri’s ‘perpetrate, perpetuate and participate’ phrase if that’s ok.

    Ending with the good news – which is that God forgives. David is forgiven straight away. no ifs and no buts; he is forgiven. He needs to live with the consequences but from the moment he confesses – God forgives him. I think I will end with just a time of prayer to confess our deepest darkest painful sins – the ones we don’t confess to ourselves, nevermind God. And shine a mirror to our own story but being forgiven, straight away and without limit, for those things that seem too awful to be forgivable.

    Am still working on it – but it feels good to be working with the Spirit so early in the week!

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  8. I’m focusing on the last three verses of the John passage…”what the world needs”…is “the life-giving bread”…and playing with the great Howard Thurman quote:
    “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

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