Year B, Proper 14
Many voices are heard in our scripture texts this week. This is true in some ways every week however the variety of emotions in these texts is deep and wide. There are voices lifted in the pain of grief and anger, in songs of joy and lament, in raw supplication and exhaustion, in gentle and not so gentle exhortation. What voices do you hear in the narrative set of lections in 2 Samuel and Psalm 130? What do you hear in the second set of four lections? Which ones call out to you most keenly? How will you interpret and express these voices in worship and education this week? What is each voice telling you about the nature of God and our human relationship to the Holy?
In our second set of lections many voices speak of bread and the gut feeling of hunger pains, the emotion of longing for sustenance, the delight in abundance when bread is delivered to the physical and spiritually hungry. “Elijah knows the pains of actual hunger in the desert as well as the longing for the sustenance of God’s presence. God sends presence and food through an angel messenger. Jesus continues to speak to the crowds about “the bread of life.” Those who were longing for spiritual as well as physical bread last week are not so sure this week that they approve of Jesus’ answer and offering of himself as God’s bread of life. Like the ancient Israelites in the wilderness they are skeptical and complaining. Jesus reiterates, “I am the bread of life that came down from heaven.”
In the UCC daily devotional delivered to my in-box on July 30, Rev. Talitha Arnold writes on “the bread of angels” attested to in Psalm 78:25. “Mortals ate of the bread of angels; God sent them food in abundance.“ Her reflection reminds us of the “angels” in our everyday lives who bring God’s message of love as they feed people in their communities. I gained new imaginings on how we might be “imitators of God” as the writer of Ephesians exhorts us to be. Jesus is the ultimate bread of life from God, yet as we follow him and emulate his ways of love we too can deliver – can be – God’s bread of life for the world. Check out her thoughts to see how they resonate with your reflections on our texts this week at http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_the_bread_of_angels. Who are the bread-baking, bread-delivering messengers of God in your community?
Blessings on your story journey,
There is a wonderful version of the I Kings story in Robert Hartman’s book, Angels, Angels All Around (Batavia, IL, Lion Publishing: 1993,31-38) entitled “Angel Food.” Robert Rayevsky’s illustrations illumine Hartman’s humorous, poignant and thought-provoking stories of angels in the Bible. The re-telling of I Kings 19:4-8 features “a very special angel” sent from God, hand-picked for ministering to a prophet on the brink of giving up his ministry and his life. “An angel more like your mother than your father” who has an apron with a large spoon in one pocket and a large wooden bowl in the other. And “she” has a shopping list in her big, gentle, capable hands. Hartman creates an imaginative riff on the story as the angel gathers fresh wheat, olives, eggs, and water from a mountain stream to make the bread for Elijah. And throughout the story she hums a heavenly hymn as she works. Hartman’s books re-telling many Bible stories can be found on Amazon.com.
Our text from Ephesians emphasizes, among many instructions for Christian community, the integrity of our words and speech. “Putting aside all falsehood, let us speak the truth to our neighbors..” “Do not let evil talk come out of your mouth…” How do we use our voice to give voice to loving community? There is a Jewish story entitled “Feathers” in Elisa Davy Pearmain’s book, Doorways to the Soul. It is a folktale widely told and can be found in several collections of wisdom tales from around the world. The story tells of a rabbi who “cures” a man of his habit of gossip and slander. I found the story at two sites on the internet. Check out:
- http://www.joi.org/celebrate/yomkippur/feathers.shtml This version is told with a child as the gossip.
Another possibility is to craft a story from your own experiences of the bread-baking angels that Talitha Arnold refers to in her reflection. When have you received ministry from one of these angels? Who are the angels that go unsung (and often want to be unsung) in your congregation? Can you fictionalize a story telling about one of them? Psalm 34:8 sings, “O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.” Who creates refuge in your community? Whose ministry creates literal figurative tastes of the presence of God among you?
The first two texts this week further our summer-long narrative on King David. They are full of anguish, grief and pain as we hear the last portion of the story of his son, Absalom’s, rebellion and death and the psalmist’s cry of lament. As I re-read the Abasalom story in II Samuel 13-18 I wondered what other story could be told to echo or illuminate this tale.
In William R. White’s, Stories for Telling (Minneapolis, MN, Augsberg Publishing: 1986, 123-127) I found several stories on anger and revenge. One is entitled, “The Poison Cake”. It holds a folk tale that emerges in many traditions. One person in a village, usually an old woman, is misunderstood for their ways of wisdom. This person becomes so irritating to a noble man or woman who takes pride in their “good actions” that they concoct a poisoned cake to give to the wise woman hoping to be rid of her annoying and misunderstood wise sayings. The woman in her generosity shares the cake unknowingly with the son of the noble person who is a soldier returning from war. When he dies the parent is left contemplate the aphorism, “The man who makes holes falls into them himself.”
“The Poison Cake” is a hard story to hear as is the story of Absalom. Still it speaks poignantly of the insidious nature of revenge. You can find one version of tale on line at http://www.uexpress.com/tell-me-a-story/2009/6/14/the-taste-of-cake-a-jewish . If this story does not speak to you but you do want to tell one on the corrosive effects of anger or revenge check out http://www.wisdomcommons.org where you can find stories and proverbs for a variety of virtues and anti-virtues.
©Jane Anne Ferguson, 2015 and beyond. Text and photos may be used by permission only.