VII Pentecost, Year B
2 Sm 7:1-14a or * Jer 23:1-6
Ps 89:20-37 * Ps 23
(2 Samuel 7:1-14a)
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, "See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent." Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you." But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.
So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called "the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision"- -a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands– remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Actually, for the next five weeks we shall explore thee feeding of the multitudes and its implications from the Fourth Gospel. So, following the lectionary, we want to ask about what is occurring in the juxtaposition of this complex of stories: the healing ministry, the death of the Baptist, and the feeding of the multitudes. What do they have in common?
They all point to the dawning of the reign of God.
As we shall see next week, the Gospel of John clearly points out what is occurring when the crowds ‘wish to make Jesus, king.’ But for Mark, the demythification of the Powers is what is important. The benefits of the Creator are freely given, those of the sacrificial mechanism come at a price, the price of human life. This foreshadowing of Jesus’ Passion is, for Mark, already an element of the kingdom of God burst in upon us in Jesus. When the mimetic mechanism is exposed, it is doomed (perhaps the author of Colossians is thinking this way as well in 2.15). It cannot freely heal, it cannot freely feed. Jesus can and does. Jesus is thus a rival claimant to the Powers for the affections of humanity.
It is difficult not to see all of this in Mark. But we wonder: is there a further connection we can make between healing and prophetic critique? We are examining a sandwiched narrative in which our text from last week is the filling and that which holds the filling are the apostolic healing ministry and the post-feeding healing ministry. Looked at this way you have:
Chapter 5 1-43 Healing ministry (demoniac healed, sick woman healed in a sandwiched narrative where a little girl is raised from the dead)
Chapter 6 1-6 Rejection (in Nazareth synagogue)
7-13 Healing ministry (of the Twelve)
14-29 Rejection (death of the Baptist)
30-44 Healing ministry (the good shepherd, the feeding)
45-53 Rejection (misunderstanding of the nature miracle)
53-56 Healing ministry (of Jesus traveling)
Chapter 7 1-23 Rejection (turning the tables on rejection 7.9)
24-37 Healing ministry (healing of Syrophoenician woman’s daughter; deaf man, feeding of multitudes [8.1-10 doublet?])
Chapter 8 11-21 Rejection (Pharisees and disciples hard hearts)
22-26 Healing ministry (blind man)
31-38 Rejection (of the Son of Man)
We have two questions: what is the function of 8.27-30 within this repetitive pattern? And what is the relationship being expressed between the work of God in the world and the world’s rejection of God’s work? We do not yet have an answer to the former. But we wonder if in this pattern we are not dealing with a structure we already know as a theme in the Fourth Gospel, viz., the rejection of the healing, forgiving loving Creator. Or which can be found in David Moessner’s reading of the Lukan travel narrative (Lord of the Banquet). In short, is not the identifiable pattern of a theology of the cross coming into view here? If so, then the mimetic reading is validated. We do not need to suppose that Mark (or any other gospel writer) made up a ‘false’ framework, it is the same theme expressed in differing narrative form and it all wraps around the uncovering of myth and the prophetic dawning of the reign of the Most High God.
But we must begin to take our theological cues from the gospel, for when we don’t we easily fall into a fractured spirituality. The inter-relation between a theology of the cross and a clear trinitarian perspective must be the foundation upon which our thinking begins (Eberhard Jungel God As The Mystery Of The World). To begin otherwise is to begin in myth or from a theology of glory. The world is filled with disillusioned churchgoers who come seeking solace and comfort only to be placed in the presence of an arbitrary God who is no different than all the others. Far too long the church has forsaken the gospel of peace. It has become infected with mimetic thinking and its practice and behavior resemble the culture around it.
The spiritual crises of the twentieth century have compelled us to realize that as the Body of Christ, we have the most precious treasure on earth, Jesus Christ. Or rather we might say, he has us, we belong to him. Because this is so, may we follow the path of the early Christians who took the risk of living in peace, of rejecting violence and of bringing the healing of God to all. May we become ‘disciples at second hand’ (S.K.).