OT 18 — 11th Sunday After Pentecost

August 4, 2024

Lectionary Texts

2 Samuel 11.26-12.13 — Nathan’s parable about David’s transgression with Bathsheba.

Psalm 51 — A prayer of repentance. Have mercy… You desire inward truth… Create in me a clean heart…

Ephesians 4. 1-16 — There is one body and one Spirit… We’re given various gifts (apostles, pastors, teachers…) to equip the saints for ministry… Speaking truth in love, we grow up into Christ, in whom the whole body builds itself up in love.

John 6.24-35 — “I am the Bread of Life.”

Preaching Thoughts

2 Samuel
We love some good comeuppance…as long as it’s not about us. Nathan does the prophetic thing, which is to stick his neck out and tell the truth. Part of how he gets away with it is he disguises the story so David doesn’t see himself in it till it’s too late. Sometimes that’s what we need. Our defenses are too high; we resist seeing the truth about ourselves. So we have to see it in someone else, judge it clearly—then realize it’s about us. Pray for the wisdom to see in yourself what you judge in others.

The focus is not on self-loathing but self-awareness, not on God’s punishment but God’s grace. The psalmist’s posture is not one of groveling but openness. Repentance is a conversation, a three-step flow between us and God: we get honest about our brokenness with openness to God (“you desire truth in the inward being… wash me “); God responds with grace (“have mercy on me… wash me…let the bones you have crushed rejoice”), and the result is transformation (“put a new and right spirit within me”). Readers of John Wesley will recognize his description of the prevenient, justifying and sanctifying nature of grace.

       “God is above all and through all and in all.” God is not some guy up in heaven, but the Life force, the Love force, that creates us and fills us, inside of whom we live.        One body and one Spirit. The writer (probably not Paul) picks up on Paul’s image of the Body of Christ. There’s one spirit, making us one body: all of us organically members of each other, inter-being. As in 1 Corinthians, the emphasis is on unity that is not uniformity. The various body parts are different. This passage is often adduced among others in listing “the spiritual gifts,” as if it’s the twelve day of Christmas and there are a certain number. There are infinite gifts. Some have names (even if they’re hard to define) like “apostleship.” Some don’t have such lofty titles, like a sense of humor, or a passion for justice. And some spiritual gifts are ineffable, unnameable, pure mystery, like the gift of bearing a certain peace and innocence even after suffering greatly with a kind of lightness that somehow sets us free. End the end, even being is a spiritual gift. Your being alive is a gift of the Spirit.
       The purpose of all spiritual gifts is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” They’re not for our own sake but for the sake of others who have a calling. Your calling is not to save the world, but to help others who are saving the world. (Don’t worry; if your calling really is to save the world, others will help you do it.) How do your gifts help “build up the body of Christ?” Many folks who are not show-offs like me need opportunities to see how their gifts build up the body. Help them see.
       We come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. This doesn’t mean we all think alike. It’s not talking about knowledge about Jesus, but knowledge of Jesus—that is, knowing Jesus, being in relationship with Jesus. Our unity is not homogeneity of belief; it’s companionship in trust of Jesus. It’s being made into one body by Jesus’ love. Unity of faith means I trust you, whose spiritual gifts, and maybe whose theology, are different from mine, but whose trust, like mine, is in Jesus and the God Jesus shows us. I rely on you and your gifts and perspectives, different from mine, the way fingers of the same hand rely on each other in their various positions to do a task.
       We come to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. Wow. The author has high expectations of us. We’re not just admirers of Jesus, we ourselves attain the full statue of Christ. All of us, together as a body, become Christ—the whole thing, the real deal. Not because we’re so great but because Christ is in us, incarnate in us, making us Christ’s body. That’s what we’re aiming for: to become as much the real live healing, miracle-producing presence as Jesus himself. And remember Christ isn’t just Jesus. It’s the cosmic Third Person of the Trinity, Embodied Love of God mystery that Jesus inhabited. We become an active part of God. (Which we always were, anyway, because the Spirit is in us.) Sheesh. What a cosmic vision! What might that look like for your congregation? What might it look like for you to attain the full stature of Christ? I dare you to think as big as Ephesians.
       The whole body…builds itself up in love. I love how visceral this is. The way we’re “joined and knit together.” The “ligaments” we have with each other. The importance that “each part is working properly.” And how we “promote the body’s growth in love.” All of us should ask ourselves : How do my faith and actions, my words, my contribution build up the church in love? What’s the difference between getting my way and building us up in love? How about not just in the church but in society? How do I use my gifts to build up the culture in love?

       Looking for Jesus. The Gospels often portray people “looking for Jesus.” How often do you actually seek him out—or do you just wait for him to come by on Sundays? There are ways to go looking. It might look like something else—but what would it be like to do it looking for Jesus? What if you read scripture as a way of seeking Jesus? Or pray? What about taking a walk… sitting quietly… or even people watching at the mall!? If you’re actually looking for Jesus, you’re likely to see him.
       Food that endures. The people keep getting hung up on their physical hunger, but Jesus speaks of a deeper hunger, and invites us to “believe,” that is, to open ourselves to what is given. How much spiritual junk food we gorge ourselves on! Most of us at some time to some degree are either spiritually anorexic, starving ours souls of what they need, or overindulging in self-congratulations or self-judgment—still not nourishing our souls. The food that endures to eternal life, the nourishment that connects us with the Divine flow of life, is loving presence. God gives us that love; we still need to take it in. (I love the Book of Common Prayer’s phrasing, that we might “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” God’s Word.) What feds you? What empowers you to connect with the Divine flow of life Jesus called eternal life?
       That you believe in him whom God has sent. For Jesus “believe” doesn’t mean think. It means trust or at the very least to reach out. (The word “believe” comes from Old German, belieben, to love. It means to give your heart.) Jesus invites us to open our hearts to the mystery he offers us, regardless of our religious opinions. To believe in the one God has sent is to open your heart to God’s love.
       “I am the bread of life.” One of the “I am” statements. Bold, seemingly blasphemous, certainly cocky. Skip trying to imagine if the earthly Jesus really said this and thought of himself in this way. regardless, John said it in his gospel. Let that be enough. Imagine the resurrected Jesus, the eternal Christ, saying this. Jesus, embodying God’s love, is the gift, like manna, that we survive on. Plain, simple, and everybody gets enough. No matter what we think gets us through, it’s actually Jesus’ love that sustains us. Feast on this bread and you’ll never go hungry.

Call to Worship

Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
     All:  Risen Christ, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, we are one body by your grace.
     Moment by moment you create us, and give us life.
We confess that we have sought life elsewhere,
but this hunger has only fed us death.
     God of Creation, have mercy.
We confess that in our hunger we have betrayed life.
     God of grace, forgive us.
Teach us that our hunger and thirst is for you alone.
Teach us to turn to you and receive life in each moment.
     God of life, have mercy.
Christ, you are the Bread of Life.  Come and feed our hearts and souls.
    Alleluia!  Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: God of life, we taste your glory.
All: Alleluia! We savor your love.
Christ, our loving companion, we drink deeply of your grace.
Alleluia! We linger in your presence.
Holy Spirit, we feast on your abundance.
Alleluia! We give you thanks and we worship you. Alleluia!

Leader: God of love, we are hungry for your grace.All: You feed us the bread of life, and we thank you.
We are thirsty for your presence.
You give us drink from the well of eternal life, and we rejoice.
We hunger and thirst for true love.
We feast on your grace, and we worship you. Alleluia!

Leader: Loving God, Infinite One, you are present in all things.
All: Your truth shines in all of Creation.
We awake to your presence.
We open our eyes to your glory.
We open our hearts to your Word.
Alleluia! God of love, we worship you,
that we may be your praise. Alleluia!

Leader: Holy One, Fountain of Goodness, Wine of Mystery,
we thirst for your presence. Flow in us.
All: Jesus, Bread of Life, feed us with your grace.
Bread of goodness, satisfy our hunger for justice.
Bread of the earth, root us in your love.

Bread of strength, empower us.
Bread of beauty, delight us.

Bread of the table, bring us together.
Jesus, Bread of Life, risen as one with you,
we give thanks; we praise; we worship. Amen.

Leader: Gracious God, we are hungry for life.
 All:  You are the Bread of Life.
We are thirsty for love.
      You are the fountain of love and grace.
We come to feast upon your abundance.
      We come to feast upon your grace.
      Alleluia!  We thank you.  We praise you.  We worship you. Alleluia!


God of life, we are hungry for life.
Feed us the bread of life.
Spirit of breath, we live by each breath.
Help us to breathe deeply of you.
Christ, sign of God among us, we give our hearts to you.
Help us to listen, to feast upon your presence, and to enter into eternal life.   

God of abundance and grace, we are hungry for life and love, but we divert our desires to other things. Redirect our hunger, O God, and transform our desires. Stir up our deep hunger for you, our thirst for truth, our deep desire for wisdom and compassion.  Our mouths water for your Word.  Speak to us, Lord of Love, and give us the bread of life.   Amen.

Eternal God, Life-Giver, you who create all things, who establish the bounds and set the laws of all Creation, who are infinite and unknowable—yet who come among us in faithful presence: we worship you. You feed us what gives us life. Speak to us; nourish us. May we taste the flavor of your grace, and lose ourselves in your beauty. Amen.

God of life, we hunger for your love, and you give us Christ, the bread of Life. So we come to feast on your Word, to listen and be changed, that we too may be bread for the world. Feed us with your grace. Amen.

Gracious God, we desire wisdom. Therefore we open our hearts to you in words and silence, in music and prayer, that we may hear your Word, that we may be shaped by your voice, that we may live your truth in all things. Speak to us, for we are listening. Amen.

Holy God we do not always understand your call for us. We hesitate, we falter and we make mistakes. But we always know that as a child of yours we will be comforted and forgiven. Teach us. O God to trust in you, to listen to your voice and to know that your chosen path for us will always lead us to peace, joy and fulfillment. Amen.

Without thinking we seek food that perishes.  But here in this silence we open ourselves to the food that endures for eternal life. There are no signs.  There are no requirements. Only this, that we entrust ourselves to you, the Bread of Life.  We come to you. Feed us, that we may never hunger for anything but you, never thirst for anything but your grace.

Listening Prayer  

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

1.     [John]
Jesus, Bread of Life,
we feast on you.
Enter us, become part of us,
that we may become part of you.

2.     [ 2 Samuel]
God of truth,
you desire truth in the inward being.
Tell us what we need to hear;
show us what we’re missing.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of love, we lift up all in us that is loving, and give you thanks.
We lift up all that is not loving, and ask your forgiveness.
By your grace in Christ, perfect your love in us.
….Silent prayer … the word of grace

Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of mercy,
we do not know the ways we have betrayed your love.
Enfold us in your faithful compassion now,
that we may see ourselves truly,
abandon what is false in us,
and return to your grace.
….Silent prayer … the word of grace

Leader: God, forgive our sins as we stand before you asking to be cleansed.
All: We are not worthy of your unending grace.
We stand before you weak and empty.
Fill us, God, with your forgiveness and love.
Help us, through your love, to do your works here on earth.


                 Psalm 51 — A Paraphrase

Be gentle with me, O God,
         hold me in your constant love.
With your abundant mercy
         free me from my sins.
Wash away the grime
         that covers your image in me.
I know I don’t live the life you give me;
         you know the difference.
My love is not perfect;
         this you see.

But you lead me to live in harmony
         with my inner truth,
to be transparent
         to your presence within me.

Purge me with your love,
         that I may be pure love.
Fill me,
         that I may be pure light.

Deep within me, in your light,
          I discover joy,
gratitude even for bones broken
         to be reset.
When you look at me you don’t see sins;
         you see love.

Create me all over again, O God;
         breathe your life-giving breath in me.
Hold me close
         and give me your loving spirit.
You are the joy that sustains me;
         you give me my willing heart.
O Beloved, when I open my lips,
         my mouth will sing praise, only praise.

I can’t offer a thing to please you,
         can’t determine your love for me.
What delights you is just me,
         this broken heart,
         this true, simple heart.
Use me as I am to love the world.
         That will be gift enough for both of us.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

           We trust in God, creator of all that is, provider of every good thing to eat.
           We follow Jesus, the Bread of Life, who embodied God’s love, made grace available to all, and gave himself in love for us.  He was crucified and died, and was raised from the dead.  In him we are all made one, as grains united in one loaf.
           We live by the Holy Spirit, the Yeast of God in us, who unites us, nourishes us and gives us strength to love our neighbors.  Graced by the power of forgiveness, the mystery of resurrection and the gift of eternal life, we serve in the name of Christ for the sake of others, that in the power of the Holy Spirit we may be bread for the world.

     We trust in God, the Creator of all things, the Divine flow of love that is our life.
     We follow Jesus, who loved and healed, who offered himself for the sake of others. He was crucified, but God raised him from the dead. He invites us into the flow of God, the life that is eternal. Risen, he is the food of our souls. We feast on him as the Bread of Life.
     We live by the Holy Spirit, the energy of Christ in our bodies and souls. Each moment, each breath, we commune with God in Christ. We desire always to draw closer to Christ, and to be more loving in the Spirit of God, trusting in the power of forgiveness and the mystery of resurrection, so that we ourselves are the Body of Christ, his flesh and blood. God help us to more freely, deeply and boldly be your people, that we may be bread for the world. Amen.

[from Ephesians 2.14-22; 4.11-16]
Christ is our peace.  In Christ God has made us into one flesh.  and has broken down every dividing wall between us.
     In Christ God has created one new humanity, making peace, and reconciling all to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death all hostility through it.
     Jesus came and proclaimed peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near. In Christ all of us have access in one Spirit to God.  So we are no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone.
     In Christ the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom we are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
     God has given us various gifts to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Beloved of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
    So we  grow up in every way into the one who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Eucharistic Prayer

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.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
ruler of the world and all that is to come.
You have made the earth and all that fills it;
you have given us every good thing to eat.
When we wandered in the wilderness you fed us.
When we hunger for your grace you bring us to the feast,
the feast of grace in Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life.
By your mighty judgment you have overthrown the powers of evil;
and you have set us free.
The rich go away empty, but the hungry you fill with good things.
You provide manna in the wilderness, bread for the people;
you open your hand and feed every living thing.
Therefore with all Creation we sing as one voice:

            [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, the Bread of Life,
who strengthens our bodies and nourishes our souls;
who ate with the poor and the outcast,
As Jesus shared the loaves and fishes, trusting you to provide,
so we feast with faith in the abundance of your Spirit and your grace.

                  (The Blessing and Covenant) *

Christ is our Passover from want to abundance,
from powerlessness to victory, from death to life.
Therefore we proclaim the mystery at the heart 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 Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
Feed us with yourself, imperishable food that sustains us for eternal life
and strengthens us for service in your name.
As the grains are made one in this loaf, we are made one in your Spirit.
As Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes by the power of your Spirit,
multiply our gifts to serve you so that none may go hungry.
We offer ourselves in union with Christ’s sacrifice for us,
so that, trusting in the abundance of your grace,
we may give freely, serve boldly, and love abundantly.
Oh bread of life: take, bless, break, and give us.
May we be your bread of blessing in 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

God of grace, as Jesus offered himself for others as nourishing bread, we give of ourselves, that we may be bread for the world, to feed the hungry, to strengthen the weary, to gladden the hearts of the hopeless, to bring about justice and mercy in the name and the Spirit of Christ.  Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

                Based on John 6:

Communion Song: Bread of Life (Tune: HOLY MANNA)

Christ, you are the Bread of Life, who gives us strength and nourishes.
Here we feast on love and beauty, here your people flourishes.
In our sharing you are present, in our feast you enter in,
we become your Body, risen: we your servants, we your friends.

As you bless the bread and break it, as you give it out to share,
we are broken, blessed, and given, sharing blessing everywhere.
May we be the yeast of justice; may we be the grain of love;
that your children all be fed, that grace and mercy all may 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.” — Chorus

                Based on 2 Samuel / Psalm 51:

God of Mercy      
(Original song)

Chorus: God of mercy, you forgive me,
may I myself forgive.
Now confessing, I ask your blessing.
By your grace I shall live.

God, heal my sin, brokenness deep within.
Too often I bear pain I make others share.
Set me free from what I have been. (Chorus)

You are gentle with me; gentle I learn to be.
You touch me and heal; deep in my soul I feel
burdens gone, and I am free. (Chorus)

God, We Are Broken      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, we are broken, for all flesh is weak.
Grant us the healing and peace that we seek.
For all that pains us, beyond our control,
grant us your healing, our bodies made whole.

God, we are broken; our hearts are not one.
Sometimes it seems that our souls come undone.
Bring us renewal and calm in our soul.
Grant us your healing and make our hearts whole.

God, we are broken: for families and friends
suffer when love fails and faithfulness ends.
May your forgiveness and grace play its role.
Grant us your healing; make covenants whole.

God, we are broken, for many are poor,
and we ignore those who lie by our door.
God, may your justice like great rivers roll.
Grant us your healing; make all people whole.

God, we are broken for hate and all war
wound us so we are not free anymore.
Make us one people from pole to pole.
Grant us your healing, and make the world whole.

God, You Have Searched Me (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, you have searched me; you know from within
all of my beauty, my wounds and my sin.
Deep in my heart—I’ve not spoken a word—
you know my soul, and my thoughts you have heard.

You who have made me and always are near,
help me to shed my illusion and fear.
Help me be truthful, and truthfully see,
humbly transparent to your grace in me.

Your loving presence within me each day
go with me, guide me, and show me your way.
Give me the eyes of your mercy and grace,
to walk in love in each moment, each place.

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