OT 17 — 10th Sunday after Pentecost

July 28, 2024

Lectionary Texts

2 Samuel 11. 1-15 — David rapes Bathsheba and arranges her husband Uriah’s death.

Psalm 14 — People do evil, thinking that there is no God who is aware of their deeds. But God defends the poor and powerless.

Ephesians 3.14-21 —May you be strengthened in your inner being, rooted in love; may Christ live powerfully in us. God is able to do more than we ask or imagine.

John 6. 1-21 —Jesus feeds a crowd with a tiny bit of food, and then walks across the lake to the disciples in the boat. They are afraid but Jesus says, “I am. Do not be afraid.”

Preaching Thoughts

2 Samuel
       There’s no nice way to handle this story. Rape and domestic violence are ugly and brutal… and common. It’s an issue. More of the women than you expect (and maybe some men) in your congregation will have experienced rape or domestic violence. And they don’t talk about it. It’s a tough call to preach about this instead of the feeding of the multitudes, but sooner or later you need to address it. Don’t fall for the shiny happy veneer of churches as a place of nice people where domestic violence or rape couldn’t happen. It does. Deal with it.
                        (Click here for Domestic Violence worship resources.)
       This story makes it clear that rape is not really about sex. It’s sexualized—but what it is is violence. It’s about power. Conquest. Domination. (That’s why rape is often a tool of war.) The story reeks of David’s abuse of power, to take Bathsheba and to arrange for Uriah’s death, and to carry on unquestioned. It also reeks of our tolerance and even justification of domination.
       Can we dare to see ourselves in David? Can we recognize the ways power cloaks cruelty; authority can mask abuse; and our social systems, power structures and even church procedures can be used to deny the ways we hurt vulnerable people? Do we dare name the kind of power, and masculinity, that “gets what it wants,” at others’ expense? It’s important that we males, especially those of us in positions of power or authority, like pastors and preachers, acknowledge that is is our problem.
      One of the most important things about this story is what’s not in it. We never hear from Bathsheba. It’s like she’s a prop in the story but not a person. There’s not a word about Bathsheba, her experience, her side of the story. She experiences sexual assault, the murder of her husband, and being forced to marry her rapist. We hear not a word of her pain, her terror, her grief, her shame. She is silenced. So it is with so many women, with so many of the abused and powerless in scripture and in our own lives. This is the reason for the #MeToo movement. The story gives us pause to slow down and listen to the voices of those who suffer. Listen to those who cry out. Listen to those who protest. Listen to those we overlook, think of as unimportant in our own search for comfort and power and belonging.
       For silence protects violence. Victims feel forced into silence, either by the perpetrator’s threats or by the fear of shame. The rest of us keep silent out of fear—out of our own shame! We don’t talk about it… and nothing changes. So a bold act of justice, and one of the first things we can do to address sexual abuse and domestic violence, is to break the silence. Talk about it. Including in the pulpit.
       Be aware that if you open up the subject of rape or domestic violence (which sooner or later you should) it will touch a lot of nerves. You might want some pastoral resources in place—people to talk to (not just male, empowered pastors), or other ways to address the pain you’re going to touch. At the very least the worship service ought to include some gentle opportunity for honesty and healing.


       Oh, goodie, another blessing salad. Savor each tidbit:
       That you may be strengthened in your inner being. Faith is not just something you “have,” but who you are, in the inner core of your being.
      That Christ may dwell in your hearts. It’s not only that Jesus is your friend, just that you “have a place in your heart for him,” but that the embodied love of God is expressed in you, lives through you, wouldn’t exist in this way without you.
      You are being rooted and grounded in love. Love is what feeds you and what motivates you. It’s where you come from. Love is what steadies you and strengthens you. You sink your roots deep in the love of God, and draw from that dark, unseen blessing. Love is what you’re all about.
      That you may comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth… and to know the love of Christ. It’s infinite. Allow yourself to get lost in it. And let yourself actually know it, “in the biblical sense,” intimately, in your guts.
       That you may be filled with the fullness of God. God is not far off in “heaven,” but in you, and not just in some pious part, but in all of you, filling you. The life of faith is the process of letting all that wants to replace God drain out of us, and let God fill us entirely.
       God is able to do far more than we ask or imagine. Oh, we ask so little. Sometimes we get stuck asking for favors: fix this problem, cure that disease. But what God can do is so much greater: to bless the whole of us, disease or not, to bless the world, to change the world. We have to keep asking what we really want. What do we want more than that? And even more than that? That’s where God is at work, able to do more than we ask or imagine.

Jesus knew what he was going to do. So often in our struggles we don’t know what to do but Jesus is already doing it.
       A boy with five barley loaves and two fish. Barley is the grain of the poor. They weren’t “loaves” as we see in the grocery store, but more like buns. And the fish? Little sardines. It was his lunch. And the lad offers what he has. Of course your gifts are inadequate, even if you’re a genius or a billionaire. Only in God’s hands do they become something. Take all you have and put it in God’s hands. All of it. Trust this.
       As much as they wanted. Like manna, no? We can exhaust ourselves wondering: did they all actually have bread but wouldn’t share till the pattern was set? Or did everybody decide one nibble was enough? Or is it a parable, a purely symbolic story meant to remind us of Elisha in 2 Kings 4.42-44? Or did Jesus really make 5000 lunches appear out of thin air? Doesn’t matter. It’s not a story about culinary magic. It’s about abundance. There’s more than enough. In all our worries, in all our struggles, hoping for grace, there’s more than enough. Repeatedly Jesus encourages us to forsake the blasphemy of scarcity. When we put everything in God’s hands there’s always more than enough.
       “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” Even God’s leftovers are precious. Even the crumbs that fall from the master’s table are worth something. Even our useless acts of love aren’t useless; our wasted efforts are not wasted. John repeats the theme of “nothing lost” in 17.12: “I protected them in your name that you have given me, and not one of them was lost.” Like the crumbs, we ourselves, all of us, even the most “lost” loser wasting away on drugs under a bridge somewhere, is gathered up and not lost. This is the promise. You will not be lost.
       Jesus goes up the mountain by himself. Note his consistent commitment to solitude, as we saw last week. And note how often he sends his disciples off ahead of him. Sometimes when you feel like you’re in a tough situation imagine that God has actually put you there for a reason. Sure, maybe you just got yourself into trouble for no good reason, or trouble found you. But maybe your being there is because, in some mysterious way, you’ve been sent.
       Jesus walking on the sea. Don’t trouble yourself with how literally to take this. Let it be a metaphor you trust. How do you see this in your life? What seas does Jesus walk across for you? What fears, difficulties, doubts, guilt, anger or whatever does Jesus have to walk across to get to you? Maybe the Red Sea parts and you walk on dry ground; maybe you walk over the water, but somehow God gets you through.
     “It is I; do not be afraid.” Actually in the Greek Jesus says, “I am. Don’t be afraid.” As in, I AM. This isn’t always included in the “I am” sayings in John, but there it is. God is present with us right in the most frightening situations. In fact sometimes God Godself is exactly what frightens us. God so totally exceeds our expectations and understanding that it really freaks us out. How mysteriously our fear and our salvation are wrapped up in one.
       And immediately the boat reached the land. Sometimes when we meet our fears head on, that is the only problem we needed to have solved, and we’re suddenly at our destination.

Call to Worship

Leader:  God of abundance, you provide Creation, overflowing with life and beauty.
      All:  In awe we praise you.
Christ, you accompany us in our deepest struggles with infinite love and grace.
      In gratitude we thank you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with all the gifts we need to serve you with compassion and power.
      In trust, we open ourselves to your presence.  Alleluia!

Leader:  In our need and hunger, God —
      Congregation:  you feed us abundantly!
In our fears and struggles
      you bear us through the storms!
God of grace, you bring us to a place of peace.
       We thank you. We worship you.  We open our hearts to you. Alleluia!

Leader: God of grace, we praise you.
   All: God of love, we worship you.
In what we thought was barrenness you have hidden abundance.
   In the ordinary you have created the miraculous.
In what was threatening you have accompanied us.
   Your presence is astounding. You shake us up.
   And you deliver us.
   We open our hearts to you. Feed us with your grace. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Steady God, life whirls around us.  Life demands so much of us.  So we turn to you, calm and generous.  Your grace flows freely.  We open ourselves in word and silence, in prayer and song, in meal and companionship, to the overflowing abundance of your presence and your grace.  Hungry and trusting, we open ourselves toy you.  Amen.

God of love, the grace that nourishes us is more abundant than we know; the mercy that bears us through our struggles is deeper than we think.  And you are more present than we suspect, here and now.  We open our hearts to your grace.  In the little loaves and fishes of this moment, multiply your grace. In the little boat of our prayer, carry us across. 

Leader: Hungry for God, we gather.
But where will we find what will nourish us?
      All: We have but five little loaves, and two fish.
Jesus takes our lives, and multiplies them.
      We struggle against the wind and waves of our lives.
Jesus calms us, and brings us to a place of peace.
      Jesus, feed us.  Bear us through the storm.
      Grant us your peace.  Amen.

Listening Prayer  

(Suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to intercessions)

Jesus, you take the little loaves of our faith
and multiply them with grace.
You walk across the rough seas of our fears
to be present with us.
We welcome you
into our little boat of prayer.

Healing Prayer

O Infinite Love,
we pray for all who are wounded,
who are abused or terrorized.

O Crucified Christ,
we pray for all who are made victims
by violence, by pride, by greed,
by overt acts and subtle systems.
O Holy Spirit, may those who hurt
find true freedom and joy.
For those who hearts and bodies
bear scars seen and unseen,
we pray for healing.
For spirits shadowed by fear
we pray for peace and courage.
Sustain them who must carry grief or fear,
who feel they must pretend.
Your mercy surround them,
your Spirit strengthen them,
your hope guide them.
For those among us who bear such pain
may we offer welcome, safety,
and the end of shame.
For a culture that nods at violence
we ask your forgiveness,
seek repentance,
and pray that we may become a people
of gentleness, justice and joy.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

        God, Creator of all, we rejoice that you are a God of abundance.  In faith we pledge to live lives of abundant generosity.
        Christ, we rejoice that you are the bread of life, who accompanies us in our deepest struggles. In faith we entrust ourselves to you, even in times of struggle. You who have died and been raised rom the dead, bear us through the storms and bless us with your presence.
        Holy Spirit, we rejoice that you grant to us the power of sharing, the courage of faith, and the peace of your grace.  In faith we give ourselves to your care and guidance, that in all things we may do your will, trust your grace, and share you love, in the name of Christ,  Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

God, you create a world teeming with abundant life
in so many forms and manners.
With overflowing generosity
you nourish us with food, with love, with beauty.
With infinite compassion you heal our hurts and forgive our sins;
and you judge the forces that oppress
and set free all who long for liberty and wholeness.
Generous with your grace and your presence,
you walk with us into new life, life that is freely given.

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He taught and healed, he fed the crowds,
he loved without holding anything back.
He multiplies our gifts and makes our lives miraculous.
He shows us the abundance of grace you have given us,
not for our own sake, but for the sake of the world.

He walks across the seas of our troubles
and brings us your steadfast presence.
He passes through the waters of death itself
to bring us to a place of life.

               [The Blessing and Covenant…] *

As often as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
Take us in your hands and multiply the grace in our hearts,
that we may be nourishment for the world.
Send us, trusting in the abundance of your grace,
overflowing with your love,
generous with our lives, for the sake of the world.

     [Spoken or sung]

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]

Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
You give with such infinite generosity; help us so to be grateful, trusting and generous with our love, with our time and goods, with our blessing, for the sake of the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ.   Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
Source of all abundance, you have provided for us generously. Miracle of life, you have graced us more than we could ask or imagine. Multiply the faith in our hearts and the gifts of your Spirit, that those who are hungry we may nourish, those who are hurting we may comfort, and to those who seek justice we may bring hope, in the power of your Spirit and the name of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

 (Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page.)

          Based on John:

All that we Hold
(Original song)

What do we hold in our hearts?
The hopes of a hungering people,
longing for you, and for bread,
and to truly be free.
What can we do, who are small?
The power is not ours at all:
God, you have hidden such grace
here in our hands.

What do we hold in our hands?
Nothing we have is unworthy.
An everyday gift you can use
in miraculous ways.
All that we hold in our hands
you’ll use if we give it to you.
Use what we hold in our hands
for what you will do.

What do we hold in our hands?
In it you’ve hidden the wondrous,
fishes and loaves you can use
to feed thousands with love.
All that we hold in our hands
we give in the name of your Son:
more than we ask or imagine,
may your will be done.

What do we hold in our hands?
Grace is abundant, not lacking.
Look now and see what we have
and find power and life.
All that we hold in our hands,
all that we have or can do,
all that we are by your grace
we give now to you.

Five Loaves and Two Fish (Original song)

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The gifts that you have are enough
to shine with the glory of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The love that you have is enough
to offer the healing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

The courage you have is enough
to work for the justice of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.

Five loaves and two fish are enough
to offer the blessing of God.
Open your hands. See what you have.
See what you have. See what you have.

Food for the Body (Original song)
A dialogue between leader and congregation.

All: (Chorus)
Food for the body, food for the soul,
making us new again, making us whole.
Grateful we are that you faithfully give
the Spirit of love, the power to live.

1. Remembering Jesus, we thank you for all that he’s done.
He gives us his Spirit, and feeds us, and makes us all one
in love, in faith, in you. (Chorus):

2. The body of Jesus, broken and risen to live,
you give us to eat, by your grace to become and to give
to all, for all to live. (Chorus):

3. The Spirit of Jesus arises in us like a dove,
to give us the courage to live every moment in love
in you for you, forever. (Chorus)

We Feast on Your Love       (Original song)

Chorus: We drink from your presence.
We feast on your love.
This is the banquet we’ve been dreaming of. (Repeat.)

You gather us: no one’s unworthy,
and no one is “greatest” or “least.”
You multiply what we offer,
so multitudes may feast. — Chorus

We hunger and thirst for your spirit,
we open ourselves to your grace.
In flows the mercy you offer
in every time and place. — Chorus

We taste the sweet wine made from water,
our bread is your body you give.
“Drink of the water I give you,
so you may truly live.”

        Based on Ephesians:

       Based on 2 Samuel:

For Households
(Tune: Blest Be the Tie that Binds…
downloadable file also includes a version set to
DETRIOT, Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive.)

For homes where love is shared we give you thanks, O Lord,
where all your children hear your grace and know they are adored.

We pray for homes where fear and hurt and loneliness stay.
For those abused, unsure, not free, your blessing, God, we pray.

As when from Egypt slaves escaped and crossed the Sea,
God, make a way and go with those who are becoming free.

God, give us hearts to speak, to break the silent shield
that covers the hurt, protecting the sin: so violence may be healed.

God help your church to be a home, a healing place,
where all are free and whole and blest and honored in your grace.

When Fear Lives Close (Tune: GIFT OF LOVE / The Water Is Wide)

We pray for those who live in fear,
where secret hurt and shame live near,
that they may know your loving grace,
and find their way to freedom’s space.

And God of love, we pray for those
whose inner darkness overflows,
that those who wound, control or use
may be healed, too, their demons lose.

We pray, O God, that we may be
your gentle ones who set them free,
with deep respect, with love and prayer,
create a world of gentle care.

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