There’s nothing simple or easy here. These texts lean toward heartbreak, holiness, and hunger in a loop that doesn’t want to end. We begin with the story of Absalom’s death.It’s an odd one made odder by the verse selection of the lectionary. I have trouble tracking with these stories of King David’s wars and this one is no different. I’m not sure whose fighting whom or exactly why. Fortunately, this isn’t the point of the story. In this text we get a little snippet of Absalom’s rebellion against his father and David’s attempt to protect him. The battle lines may not be particularly clear, but David’s heartbreak at the death of his son surely is.
Heartbreak could be a tough sell for an August sermon, but I’m thinking it could go quite well with passage from Ephesians. The Ephesians are called to a holy life and given very clear examples of what that might mean. If David’s family and those in his army, had lived without deceit and lies and not let their anger give way to sin, Absalom might have lived. Heartbreak is the inevitable outcome when we treat each other with disrespect and forget that we are agents of God’s love in the world.
If heartbreak and holiness aren’t quite what you want to take on as a sermon topic, then we are back to bread. Elijah flees for his life and then decides to lie down and die. Of course, this does not happen. An angel of the Lord shows up with bread and water that will nourish him on his journey, a journey that is presumably a sacred one. What nourishes us for this sacred journey we are on?
The Gospel text answers that question – the bread of life – of course. It’s not all that easy, though, is it? On a good day, we might grasp a bit of what Jesus is saying when he says that if we eat we will never be hungry again. Most days, though, we’re hungry. We are baffled by the Mystery that is our God. We want to laugh at the people who didn’t recognize the Christ in their midst, but how can we laugh when we so often do the same? I want to figure out how to get enough of the Bread of Life so that I am nourished for the journey and not always having to be reminded of whose I am and of the responsibility to feed those around me who are also sometimes overcome with hunger. I guess this takes us back to the advice given in the Ephesians passage. You know, be nice to each other and be “imitators of God.”
I’m not sure hunger is any better than heartbreak and holiness for a sermon, but these are the texts this week. The places we could go with heartbreak and hunger are numerous when we look around the world in far places and nearer ones. The response to both seems to be a life of holiness and our very human reluctance to trust the Bread enough to be nourished, sustained, and transformed for the duration of this sacred journey.
Please share where your thoughts are leading you with these texts. Are you tired of the bread and focusing on one of the other readings instead? Are you offering more bread?
Photo by Erika Sanborne. Used with permission.
9 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Heartbreak, Holiness, and Hunger”
Hi, Rachael! We’re midway through a series on Favorite Bible Stories, and this week I have Daniel in the Lion’s Den, which I have never preached. Fortunately, when preparing to teach from the Narrative Lectionary I did a full read of Daniel and even did a little homework, including finding notes from an OT class in seminary. My starting point is giving some context – why did people need this particular kind of hero – and then asking what kind of hero we need for the problems we are facing today.
But that is all fairly amorphous at the moment, except for the title: “Holding Out for a Hero.”
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There was an NPR story the other day about the Marvel universe upholding socialism over capitalism with all of those super heroes – it was interesting to hear and reflect on as I drove.
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Martha, I’ve never preached that story, either. I like your take on it – asking what kind of hero we need today. The resurgence of Superhero movies of recent years indicates that, at least culturally, we are looking for a mythic hero who will save us from all evil…
Thinking about bread and different types of hunger and how we respond to hunger. I’m also drawn to the idea of God drawing us God-ward. In a summer of pulpit supply at different churches each week, I’m looking forward to being with the same church for the next two weeks and I’m also looking at how this week’s readings lead into next week’s.
Kate, sounds like you have great ideas. A colleague recently pointed out that those early crowds knew physical hunger very differently than most church-goers today and what that might mean for preaching these texts. Enjoy two weeks in a row in the same place!
I have lived where hunger is a very present reality and plan on using at least one story from there. Right here and right now, with mid-summer gardens overflowing and grocery stores a short drive away, it is hard to imagine hunger with no hope of the hunger going away.
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I have the downfall of David this week – I’m hoping I have enough for an entire sermon, but no one has ever complained about a short sermon, esp in August 🙂
Amy, I doubt you will get any complaints about a short sermon and I’m betting you’ll find enough to make it longer than you think 🙂
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