02 August 2015

Following on from last week, the Lectionary continues to call us to faith. This week the challenge is to recognise that faith in God’s grace and abundance must lead us to action – to generosity and sharing of what we have received, be it gifts or resources. Essentially we cannot claim to be people of faith unless we live what we believe and proclaim in ways that touch the lives of others with grace and goodness.

May we grow a little more like our generous, compassionate God as we worship this week.

READINGS:
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a: After Bathsheba is finished mourning for Uriah, David takes her as his wife, but God sends Nathan to confront him with his sin. Using a parable of a lamb, Nathan gets David to condemn himself and then prophesies God’s judgment on David. But, in the end, Nathan declares that David’s sin is removed.
OR Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15: The Israelites complain because they have no food in the desert, but God promises to supply them with meat and bread. Then a flock of quail arrive in their camp, and the next day they find manna on the ground.

Psalm 51:1-12: David’s repentance psalm in which he acknowledges his guilt over his affair with Bathsheba and pleads with God to forgive and restore him.
OR Psalm 78:23-29: A song remembering how God gave manna to the people in the wilderness and sent birds to provide meat for them to eat.

Ephesians 4:1-16: The apostle encourages the believers to accept one another, to live with humility, patience and love, and to nurture their unity, since God is also one. Within this united community each one has gifts that have been given by God’s grace and each should use these gifts to build up the community, even as a body is united but has different parts.

John 6:24-35: Jesus teaches the crowds that all they need to do is to believe in the one God sent. In response the people ask for a miracle, mentioning the manna that the Israelites received when they were in the wilderness with Moses. In response Jesus tells them that he is the true bread of life and that whoever comes to him will never be hungry or thirsty.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
There are two ideas that collide in this week’s Lectionary readings. Firstly we are called to meditate on and give thanks for God’s generous grace that sustains and unites us. In the wilderness, the Israelites are fed meat and manna, which is remembered in the song of Psalm 78. In the Gospel, the people remember this miracle and ask Jesus what he will do to show them that they should believe in him. His response is to offer himself as the Bread of Life that brings true sustenance. In the epistle, this same sustaining grace welcomes us into the united community of God, and gives us each gifts that we are to use to build our community up. The second idea that the Lectionary offers us flows out of the semi-continuous Old Testament reading, and reveals what happens when we ignore God’s generosity and grace, and start to live according to our worst, most selfish and lustful natures. David, to whom God had given the most abundant of blessings in every way, used his power to seduce a poor man’s wife and then put the man to death. God does not stay silent in the face of this, but sends the prophet to challenge and confront David. Fortunately David is able to repent, as Psalm 51 reveals, but even this does not stop the consequences of his actions – the internal conflict within his family that ultimately destroyed the unity of God’s people and split the kingdom in two.

The message is simple, but also very challenging. God’s grace is sufficient, and God does seek to sustain and provide for us. But, we have a part to play. As we commit to the unity of the community of faith so we each contribute our share from the gracious gifts God has given us – be it time, talents or treasures. When we do this, we all enjoy abundance and unity and the tremendous life and nourishment that flows as a result. However, when we refuse to do this and make our own personal needs and desires paramount, our unity breaks down, and we all end up hurting and in need. This is not a magical, “reward and punishment” view of faith or of the world. It is the simple reality that the Bread of Life has given us enough for all in the world, as long as we share what we have. When we hoard and take more than we need, we create lack and hunger, and our relationships inevitably break down.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
The tremendous conflicts and struggles that we experience in our world can all be reduced to one basic reality. Some people have more than they need and hoard it, and others have too little and are willing to fight to get more. Whether it’s issues of power, in which some are disempowered while others cling to control as corporate, political or organisational dictators; or issues of economics in which some fight daily just to survive while others spend small fortunes on their whims; or issues of disease in which some struggle to get the medical care and medicine that they need because of their station in life, while others use their knowledge and opportunities to get wealthy through medical patents and careful distribution of necessary drugs; every justice issue, every war and every violent protest arises because of the inequality, disunity and lack of generosity in our world. God has supplied the manna we need to feed, house and care for everyone in our world. The Bread of Life has shown us the way to life, by believing in his sacrificial, generous way of simplicity. Yet, like David, we continue to grab what we can, even when it hurts others, and we continue to place our own needs and desires over those of others. We continue to sacrifice the unity of our communities on the altar of our own lust and greed – and the world continues to suffer. If we are to make any difference to the harsh realities of our times, we must embrace the generous grace of God – not just for us, but as a force that flows through us to others. Only as we begin to value unity, simplicity and sharing our contributions with one another can we hope to find peace, freedom and an end to poverty, disease and war.

Local Application:
The unfortunate temptation of our time is the call to fill our lives with ever more “stuff.” We are constantly bombarded with images of things we don’t have – be it sexual partners, food, objects, or lifestyles – and we are constantly encouraged to forget about others as we go after these “bright, shiny objects” of our desire. We are constantly being told that we will only find fulfilment when we own enough, eat enough, experience enough, or know enough. However, in the process, our relationships and communities die, and our hearts grow increasingly empty. We all discover that we resonate with David’s song as we recognise that, when our lusts and greeds are allowed free reign, we bring disaster on ourselves and others. But, we also all know that there is another way – the way of the Bread of Life who gave himself to feed us, and who calls us to believe in him and his way. As we embrace the way of faith in God’s Reign, we find the freedom that comes from simplicity, the unity that comes from collaboration, and the abundance that comes from simplicity and generosity. But, beneath it all lies the crucial question: do we believe in the way of the Kingdom enough, do we trust in Jesus as the Bread of Life enough, that we will risk living according to his way, and commit ourselves to seek the unity that can only come when we share whatever gifts we have with others.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Enough
Plenty
A Simple Choice
Admitting My Gifts
Your Grace In Us

Hymn Suggestions:
Trust And Obey
Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah
Break Thou The Bread Of Life
The Church’s One Foundation
And Can It Be
Create In Me A Clean Heart (Link to YouTube video)
Search Me, O God (Link to YouTube video)
Search Me (Dave Hunt) (Link to Album on iTunes – this song is track 3)
How Long?
Your Grace Is Enough (Link to YouTube video)
We Will Run (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Breaking of Bread

Video Suggestions:
Bread Of Life
The Story Of Stuff
Psalm 51

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