Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Lord of heaven and earth, as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer, give us patience and courage never to lose hope, but always to bring our prayers before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.
But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meagre fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveller to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.’ Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’
Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.’ David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
1 Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness; •
according to the abundance of your compassion
blot out my offences.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness •
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my faults •
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you only have I sinned •
and done what is evil in your sight,
5 So that you are justified in your sentence •
and righteous in your judgement.
6 I have been wicked even from my birth, •
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
7 Behold, you desire truth deep within me •
and shall make me understand wisdom
in the depths of my heart.
8 Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; •
wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, •
that the bones you have broken may rejoice.
10 Turn your face from my sins •
and blot out all my misdeeds.
11 Make me a clean heart, O God, •
and renew a right spirit within me.
12 Cast me not away from your presence •
and take not your holy spirit from me.
13 Give me again the joy of your salvation •
and sustain me with your gracious spirit;
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.’
(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 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 Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted 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.
So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
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.
Sermon on Sunday Trinity 10
One of the books on my shelves is entitled Man’s Search for Meaning. Just what we are looking for in our lives. I wonder whether we are trying to find something that is “in the world” – amongst the fleeting and perishable – to grab ahold of. Are we, I ask myself, like those people at Capernaum? Perhaps we are all seeking Jesus. But then Jesus turns to us and demands, “Why are you looking for me?”
That is a rather odd response, isn’t it? Why would a person turn to his followers to ask such a hard question? Why would Jesus rather go off to a mountain-top, instead of relishing the adulation of the crowd, a crowd that swarms around him wanting to compel him to be The King? I considered that story last week somewhere else, but this week we have the same behaviour exhibited by Jesus. He rejects the crowd’s behaviour toward him. He does not accept that the crowd knows best for him.
Jesus is confronting the crowd around him, asking them why they are doing what they are doing. – Why do you follow me? he asks. Is it the fact that 5000 of you ate bread and fish from the meagre fare of five loaves and a few fishes? Do you come to me to make me leader because you have been fed so well? Or is it because you see signs of something else? Do these miracles symbolise the eternal and draw you beyond the ephemeral? Or do the symbols themselves capture your imagination, your psyche, your soul? Do they enthrall you into a life of sublimated worldly desires? Are you controlled by the bread and fish you ate, or that wine I made out of water in Cana? In short, do your stomachs really control the lives you lead?
This is not the rhetoric of “the spiritual” – those who have taken a stance over against the world. Rather this is the language of conscience, that small voice which calls us to that place of freedom for action in our lives, that place where faith dwells – that place where the philosopher retreats to in order to seek the Good and the Right.
It is this confrontational nature of the great prophets which draws me to their message. They are not transparent – that transparency we all desire from everyone nowadays. — No, Jesus is opaque. He confronts us in order to make us see and hear in ways the world does not. In the transparency of the world, nothing is there to be seen. Rather we see through people and things. We grasp them by avoiding them as they are. Rather we would control the people around us in manifold ways as the psychologists will tell us. Rather, we would conform to the world in ways the social anthropologist and political philosopher expound. In the world we are indistinguishable from everyone else. We become the controlling crowd which swarms around, prodding and pushing everyone else into certain actions which may or may not be good in themselves, but they are certainly what the crowd wants.
That is why everything in the world is transparent to the crowd. They don’t care. The crowd do not have eyes to see what is right there in front of them. We all do this, don’t we? When we ask people how they are, we don’t expect an honest answer, just the same old “Fine, thank you,” and we both move on, the greeting forgotten. We have looked but not seen that person in front of us, they have become transparent in a very real sense. We have acknowledge them, but that is all. We continue on our own way, without a thought for the other, all dismissed.
This is why I like the opaque nature of the prophets and Jesus. While they both accuse us of a primordial guilt by confronting each and every one of us, they all want us to be colourful and seen. Jesus and the prophets don’t want us to be stared through like panes of glass, so transparent the crowd doesn’t even notice us. – The crowd sees through the other to control in subtle or even very blatant ways. The crowd sees through in order not to have to deal with the other person. Such a state of affairs should be quite obvious to us. We all shop online, don’t we? the delivery comes in a box, dropped off on the doorstep, sometimes we don’t even see the delivery man. Even in the local library, the human has been suborned – there are fewer and fewer librarians to deal with your books. You are expected to go to the machine, scan the books and take the ticket. You no longer are able to speak with the librarian about the books you are taking out – after all sometimes you want to ask if someone else has read the book you have in your hand and what they thought. — This is the world’s transparency – that we look through the other in order to remain in our own little worlds, the solipsism of the I-myself. I applaud the opaque nature of Jesus. It shakes me out of my self and demands I deal with that other person, who hides behind that face in front of me, a face I am inclined to look through. That is something so many people have done, isn’t it? To “blank someone” to do worse than to look through, not even to notice the other person is there in front of you. I have done it. I am sure you have done it – perhaps even with the Jehovah’s Witness standing in the road in front of you.
This is something Jesus would not countenance, is it? His story of The Good Samaritan is a condemnation of this sort of behaviour in the most absolute terms. No person should look through another, and certainly not “blank” another. When someone is opaque, we must deal with them in the most human of ways. No one should be a cog in a transparent machine.
Jesus never treated anyone in this manner, did he? We have, but – I hope – not very often. This is part of the guilt the philosopher and the theologian heap on humanity. We well deserve such castigation. The fire and brimstone preachers have got the condemnation of the world right. But they often don’t preach the two commandments Jesus taught, to love God completely and to love our neighbours as ourselves. And here I have arrived yet again at the new Law.
Always I return to this pair of most pressing commandments we have, love being ever so simple but always so hard to accomplish. This is the proof of the opaque nature of the I–Thou relationship, don’t you think? The philosopher spends his whole life exploring that I–Thou, just as we do in our lives together with friends and family, and the one beloved. But even more pressing is the investigation of the divine, how God confronts us in our everyday lives through all of creation. We are opaque when we look with those eyes that see, and listen with ears that hear. The light is reflected back from the other so that we can see them. No longer will anything be transparent, but always opaque because we want to see the world around us just as Jesus did.