What follows are the readings for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, August 12, 2018.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary cycle.

There are two sets of first readings, each with an accompanying Psalm from which the celebrant can choose. I have given the second selection blue subheadings below. Emphases mine throughout.

First reading

Readings from 2 Samuel continue. To bring those of us less learned in the Old Testament up to date in the story of David (see last week’s reading), the child that David had sired when he lay with Bathsheba when she was still married to Uriah the Hittite died after seven days. The two had married after Uriah’s engineered death on the battlefield. She became pregnant again and gave birth to one of the most famous men in biblical history, Solomon (2 Samuel 12).

David had older children, among them two sons — Ammon (his firstborn) and Absalom — and a daughter, Tamar. Ammon committed incest with Tamar, taking her by force, despite her attempting to resist his advances (2 Samuel 13). Absalom took the distraught Tamar into his house. Whilst David, when he found out, was furious with Ammon, he did nothing to punish him. Absalom, meanwhile, loathed his brother for what he had done to their sister.

To avenge his sister’s rape, Absalom arranged for his servants to get Ammon drunk and then murder him. Jonadab, David’s nephew, explained to him (David) the reason for the murder. While David was finding out from Jonadab what had happened, Absalom left to go into exile for three years. David, no longer having Ammon, missed Absalom terribly.

David asked Joab, whom he deeply trusted, to bring Absalom back home, out of exile (2 Samuel 14). However, David told Joab to instruct Absalom not to come in contact with him (David). Consequently, Absalom did not see his father in Jerusalem for two years. He was a very handsome young man, with a head full of abundant hair. During his time away from his father, Absalom had three sons and a daughter, whom he named after his sister Tamar.

One day, Absalom sent for Joab, as he wanted to see his father David. However, Joab ignored Absalom’s two requests. To get his attention, Absalom told his (Absalom’s) two servants to set Joab’s field of barley on fire. The field was next to one of Absalom’s. Joab finally agreed to take the request to David. David summoned Absalom and forgave him for setting up the murder of Ammon.

Absalom then assumed the role of being guardian and gatekeeper for (law)suits that David was supposed to judge (2 Samuel 15). He sent everyone home as they approached the city gates, saying that no one was available to hear their cases. As such, he became a hero to the Israelites.

Four years later, Absalom asked David’s permission to visit Hebron, as he said he wanted to fulfil an obligation he had made to the Lord. David duly granted his permission, and Absalom left. However, Absalom’s goal was to make himself king of Hebron, effectively usurping his father. David left in pursuit, accompanied by his officials, the people of the city and most of his household (some had to stay behind).

David, through careful plotting, managed to foil Absalom’s coup via one of the co-conspirators, Ahithophel (2 Samuel 16 and 17). A battle later resulted in the forest of Ephraim and Absalom died. Now on to this Sunday’s reading:

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

18:5 The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom.

18:6 So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim.

18:7 The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men.

18:8 The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.

18:9 Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.

18:15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.

18:31 Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the LORD has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.”

18:32 The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.”

18:33 The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Psalm

The Psalm reflects hope in the Lord during times of desolation:

Psalm 130

130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.

130:2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!

130:3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

130:4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

130:6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.

130:7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.

130:8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

First reading

These second choices of first readings are from various books in the Old Testament. In this passage, the prophet Elijah is distraught, having been forced into the wilderness by the unrepentant among God’s chosen people who refused to listen to him. Yet, the Lord was with Elijah:

1 Kings 19:4-8

19:4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”

19:5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.”

19:6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again.

19:7 The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”

19:8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

Psalm

The Psalm reflects the gratitude we feel when God is with us and delivers us from trying, isolating circumstances:

Psalm 34:1-8

34:1 I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

34:2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.

34:3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

34:5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.

34:6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD, and was saved from every trouble.

34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

Epistle

The reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians concerns Christian behaviour, focussing on showing brotherly love and pursuing truth:

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

4:25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.

4:26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

4:27 and do not make room for the devil.

4:28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

4:29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.

4:31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,

4:32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,

5:2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Gospel

The Gospel reading continues with Jesus’s words in Capernaum, the day after the Feeding of the Five Thousand:

John 6:35, 41-51

6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

6:41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

6:42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

6:43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves.

6:44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.

6:45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.

6:46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.

6:47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.

6:48 I am the bread of life.

6:49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

6:50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.

6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

These words lost Jesus many disciples (John 6:66). Later, in private with His Apostles, He also said that one of the Twelve would betray Him (John 6:70-71).

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