David et Goliath, Edgar Dégas. Painting ca. 1864. Public Domain.
Revised Common Lectionary Readings
See the texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for these days at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes. Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário comum revisado (português)
1 Samuel 17 (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49. The shepherd, David, uses the implements of his trade and the power of the Lord to defeat the giant warrior, Goliath. "The Lord does not save by sword and spear" (verse 47).
Psalm 9:11-20 (UMH 744). God defends the afflicted by catching oppressors in the traps they have made. As alternate responses, consider TFWS 2075 (sing twice at each response point) or 2172, singing a full verse and refrain of the hymn at each of the responses.
2 Corinthians 6:1-13. Tension abounds. Paul argues that his suffering for the sake of the gospel provides all the credentials he needs for the Corinthians to listen to him. The ball is in their court, now.
Mark 4:35-41. Jesus treats a storm the same way he treats demons. He rebukes it, and tells it to shut up. Then Jesus corrects the disciples for their fear — not just of the storm, but of what Jesus did to end it.
Worship Planning Notes
The Season after Pentecost continues to invite us to support disciples as they grow in personal holiness and live out the ministries the Spirit has empowered them to offer.
If you are using the Revised Common Lectionary as the biblical foundation for helping your congregation live out the purpose of this season, you will be in the midst of one of three series at this point. The saga of David focuses on the nature of leadership. The readings from 2 Corinthians focus on dealing with conflict. And the gospel readings from Mark enable us to join Jesus as he disciples his disciples by, and in this case, on the Sea of Galilee.
Today is also Father’s Day in the United States. How will you help your congregation challenge and honor fathers well in light of the series you are pursuing and the Scriptures offered today?
Youth 2015 begins this coming week! This a major gathering of United Methodist youth from across the connection, this year focused on living the means of grace. Find ways to be in prayer in worship and at other times for the thousands of United Methodist youth who will be attending this event, including those from your congregation, cluster, or district, June 24-28 in Orlando.
Independence Day (US) falls on a Saturday this year. You may choose to recognize it in Sunday worship on July 5 or in special worship offered on July 4. The Book of Common Prayer (1979) provides readings for this day. The Revised Common Lectionary and The United Methodist Book of Worship version of the RCL do not.
Old Testament: The David Saga
Week 3: “The Battle is The Lord’s”
God’s design for leadership isn’t like that of the nations, even if the people want a king like all the nations. Today’s reading from 1 Samuel and response from Psalm 9 make that plain.
A king like all nations would come against an opponent with a larger army and better firepower. Might and power would win—the kind of might and power only a king could muster by laying heavy taxes on the people and conscripting their sons into his army.
That’s not how the God of Israel, nor David, the king-to-be, would save the day. The kind of leadership God exercises is more like that of a good shepherd defending the flock. David, himself a shepherd, puts away the weapons of the established king and picks up the modest but effective tools of his trade, a slingshot and five small stones, to defend the honor of his God and his people against Goliath, the champion of the Philistines.
And it is enough.
Because, as David wisely notes, “the battle is the Lord’s” (17:47).
How often do we picture the best leaders as solo heroes in battle who overcome all odds and obstacles with the power of their charisma or superior skill? Are the best pastors those who start a church in their living rooms and in three years draw the biggest crowds? Are the best deacons those who mobilize the most voters to rally and vote for some political cause? Are the best Sunday school teachers or class leaders those who wow others with their knowledge or personal holiness? Are the best musicians those who can hold a high note the longest or inspire the loudest and longest applause at the conclusion of their solo or ensemble performances?
It does take good leadership to do all of those things and keep doing them over time. But the best leaders in God’s eyes, in whatever walk of life, are those who, like David, recognize in whatever they’re called to do that any growth, any victory, any success is because of God’s work throughout their own lives and in the lives of those they lead.
There was no false humility in David’s understanding of what was at stake in his challenge of Goliath. He was confident and never downplayed his skills with the tools he had. These are skills he had honed through years of practice. He’d taken down bears and wolves, either of which could be stronger than a human, even one as large as Goliath. So David wasn’t operating on “blind faith,” nor did he see himself as an underdog in this fight.
What he saw was his people threatened, and, perhaps above all, his God being dishonored. What he saw was with the tools and skills he had, he had been well-equipped to defeat Goliath. What he saw was technology and size do not determine the outcome in a battle. God does.
David brought his best gifts, honed not in battle, but in shepherding. God did the rest.
In Your Planning Team
Last week was about seeking after and trusting God’s leadership.
This week is about acting on it.
The story of David and Goliath is one of the best-known in the Bible. It’s also one of the most misapplied. Too often it’s framed as “Underdog Beats the Odds-on Favorite.” But nothing in the story suggests David is any kind of underdog. An unusual choice for an armored giant, perhaps, but not an underdog. David knew his way around a slingshot, and he’d dismantled bears and wolves. No one disputed that.
And no one disputed his passion to get the job done.
He had the gifts, well-honed. He had the passion. And he had the humility to recognize whatever he would do on the battlefield wasn’t for his glory, but for God’s and for the welfare of his people.
Gifts. Passion. Laser focus on God and neighbor, not himself.
These are what it takes to act as a godly leader—all of the above.
Find hymns and songs that give thanks for the gifts God has given and that extol human efforts to hone them. Find people in your midst whose passion matched with their own gifts and the gifts of others get great things done, and tell or let them tell their stories. Lift up fathers (on this day, in particular) or other leaders who care for the flock entrusted to their care, whether family or wider community, and are ready to stand with them and, when needed, for them. And in all you do this day, in song, prayer, and sacrament, declare boldly God’s love and saving power.
Epistle: Forging a Way through Conflict
Week 3: The Proof of Endurance
During the past two weeks, we’ve seen Paul building his case for why, despite the conflict in the relationship with some in Corinth, he is still an important leader for them. Two weeks ago, he noted how the very things some used to discredit him were actually signs he was an authentic disciple of Jesus. Last week, he reminded them they couldn’t use “worldly” or Corinthian cultural standards to judge him or themselves at all, and didn’t need to, because all the baptized had been made new creatures in Jesus Christ.
This week, he rounds out his plea for a hearing with a veritable symphony of ways he has consistently shown himself to be a reliable and fruitful leader, both among them and away from them. He has gone through all kinds of external fire for the sake of the gospel and for their sake (verse 4), yet continued to do so with remarkable internal spiritual strength (verses 5-10) because he has learned to rely on Christ -- just as he has sought to teach them to do.
And with that, he puts a period to his plea for a hearing.
The ball is now in their court. What they will do is up to them (verses 11-13).
If you’re just reading along in 2 Corinthians, you may not catch the “full stop” that happens here. Instead you may think Paul simply quickly changes subjects to talk about “not being unequally yoked with unbelievers” (verse 14). What we see here, however, is one of the places where Paul had put down the manuscript, or where another of the pieces of the Corinthian correspondence is dropped into place.
What the lectionary helps us see and experience this week is the power of the period, the full stop perhaps lost in the letter’s later compiling.
Paul’s invitation to the leaders in Corinth is also Paul’s invitation and guidance to us, especially when we find ourselves in conflict. There is a time to make your case. And there is a time to end it, and leave room for the other to respond. It is in such time given after the full stop that we may allow ourselves and others the grace to let our hearts become more open to one another, even when our conflicts have turned our hearts against one another.
In Your Planning Team
The reading from 2 Corinthians this week fairly bristles with signs of the conflict between Paul and the Christians in Corinth. Consider offering a reader's theater reading to bring out the strong contrasts this week’s reading offers. Have one reader read through verse 5, being sure to slow down through verses 4-5 to allow the congregation to feel the intensity of what Paul describes. Have a contrasting voice read verses 6-7, again with deliberation, but perhaps with a bit more energy. In verses 8-10, have the readers alternate the contrasting parts.
Then have both readers read verses 11-12 in unison, and one reader, alone, read verse 13.
Here’s how this might play out, using an adapted version of the public domain World English Bible as the text:
Reader 1: Working together, we strongly encourage you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For it says,
“At an acceptable time I listened to you, in a day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.
We are giving no cause for offense of any kind to make sure the service (we offer) may be not blamed.
(more slowly) but in everything we are commending ourselves as servants of God, (with pauses) in great endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in labors, in watchings, in fastings;
Reader 2 (again, with pauses): with purity, with knowledge, with patience, with kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
Reader 2: by glory
Reader 1: and dishonor, by evil report
Reader 2: and good report;
Reader 1: as deceivers,
Reader 2: and yet true;
Reader 1: as unknown,
Reader 2: and yet well known; as dying,
Reader 1: and behold, we live; as punished,
Reader 2: and not killed; as sorrowful,
Reader 1: yet always rejoicing; as poor,
Reader 2: yet making many rich; as having nothing,
Reader 1: and yet possessing all things.
Readers 1 and 2: Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians. Our heart has opened wide. We are not constraining you, but in your own affections you constrain yourselves. So now in return, I speak as to my own offspring, you also, open your hearts wide.
Questions to Discuss:
- How does the process of moving from conflict to constructive conversation happen in your congregation or community?
- How do you as a congregation, or as leaders in the congregation or wider community, help to model such engagement of conflict?
- Specifically, how do you and people where you are model “putting the period” and awaiting response?
It can be difficult to give thanks when you are in conflict. It can feel artificial, or even like a diversion or cover up.
In reality, it is not. No matter how serious our conflict, there are always things for which we can give thanks to God, and things we can express appreciation for in one another. If you do not celebrate the Great Thanksgiving, be sure still to make room for a substantial act of giving thanks in worship today.
Gospel: Discipleship by the Sea
Week 3: Rebuking a Storm and Terrifying Disciples
Mark presents a familiar story-- the calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee.
Nearly every film made about Jesus includes this scene as a defining moment. So do the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).
The geography of the Sea of Galilee makes it especially susceptible to sudden violent storms. This is part of the reason that the gospels generally describe Jesus and the disciples sailing more or less along the shoreline rather than directly across the open body of the sea. If you were closer in, you could make a tack for the shore and ride out a sudden storm with minimal damage.
But in this story, Jesus says, “Let’s set out for the opposite shore.” That meant sailing directly across the sea. And worse, it was getting dark, which meant the temperatures were more unstable.
That a storm would suddenly arise on this sea under these conditions is unremarkable. What is remarkable is that Jesus would lead his ship and the others with them to cross this sea at this hour. He had to know he was likely leading them into serious danger. Meanwhile, he went to sleep on a pillow, leaving the disciples to face the violent storm on the open sea.
This kind of experience is the heart of many initiation rites and survival training programs across many cultures and times. When they face danger together, initiates learn both the limits and the depth of their resources.
These disciples learned their limits right away. The storm was too big for them. And it was too big for them even to be respectful of their master. Their words (“Don’t you care we are about to be capsized?”) reveal panic and disrespect at once.
What happened next slammed them against more of their own limits. Jesus told the sea to “shut up,” just like he had told demons before, and the wind stopped and there was an immediate calm. Jesus’ probing questions teach them even more. “Why are you so frightened? Do you have no faith at all?”
The words used here are important. Jesus first asked why they were frightened. And immediately they move from fright to what the Greek puts as being “afraid with a great fear.” The RSV translation, “filled with awe” is too tame. Jesus’ question and action moved them from “circumstantial panic” in the face of real physical danger to what we might call “existential” or “holy terror.”
It was then, in the face of such holy terror, that they could ask the right question: “Who is this man, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Discipling involves helping disciples to learn their own limits, and in finding them, to discover also the power of God who transcends them. And when they do, that can shake them to the core.
Today is not a day to rebuke your worshiping community for lack of faith. Jesus does not rebuke the disciples. He rebukes the storm. He tells it to shut up, and it does.
That’s what terrifies them.
Demons calmed or cast out of people had become routine.
This was different. Demons were just another spiritual force, relatively limited in the destruction they could cause. This was wind and sea, elemental forces of nature.
“Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
There is little in this story that fits a domesticated Jesus or a domesticated Christianity. This is Jesus, weird and wild. This is Yoda sending Luke Skywalker into a cave, knowing he won’t prevail. This is Morpheus telling Neo to leap across a chasm to a building on the other side. This is a mother bird forcing her barely fledged chicks out of the nest to fly. This is a father climbing with his child to the top of the high diving board and saying, “Jump.”
In Your Planning Team
The value of much of what you will say and do in worship today will depend on the serious attention you give to challenging disciples in your congregation to “cross over to the other shore at nightfall” during the coming week.
By all means gather and share in worship stories of folks in your midst who have been to the limits in their discipleship and found God ready to help when their resources were gone. Especially focus on those stories where not just individuals, but groups, have done this. Talk with folks who have been on mission teams, or home-building projects, or camp and retreat leader teams. They should have good stories to tell.
But the point of this story, as the point of this season, isn’t to talk about how others experienced God at their limits. It’s to do what Jesus did in this story. It’s to drive people to those limits and see what the people, with their best resources, and the Spirit will make happen. This isn’t testing God. This is testing our mettle as disciples of Jesus.
It’s not even about proving ourselves to be faithful to God. God doesn’t need us to prove ourselves faithful. We’re justified. Instead, it’s about letting God show to us what God is capable of through us and with us. It’s about letting the Spirit continue to perfect us in love. And that happens best when we’re tested together, just as Jesus tested his disciples that night.
Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship (BOW) with links and other suggestions
Opening prayer: BOW 464 (Mark), BOW 466 (2 Corinthians)
WORD AND RESPONSE
Scripture response: UMH 534 (stanza 2), "Be Still My Soul" (Mark) UMH 512, "When the Storms of Life Are Raging"
Concerns and prayers: BOW 164 — prayer that begins "Almighty God ..." (Mark)
BOW 546 — Blessing of persons who suffer (Mark)
Collect for Christian Families (Father’s Day, 437)
Litany for Fathers (Father’s Day, 441)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
Prayers of Confession and Pardon: BOW 479 (2 Corinthians) — add pardon
BOW 490 (2 Corinthians) — add pardon
Dismissal with Blessing: BOW 559 (1 Samuel, 2 Corinthians)