Readings for Sunday, July 25, 2021
The 1st reading is from 2 Kings 4:42-44. Our reading takes place at a time of apostasy in Israel, a denunciation from what it means to be an Israelite. Most Israelites were no longer going to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, but instead were sacrificing at hill sanctuaries like Baal-shalishah. We know immediately that this is a pagan sanctuary from the incorporation of the name of Baal, a Canaanite God, in the site's name. The apostasy may have gone beyond worshipping pagan gods to incorporating foreign words into the Hebrew language. The word in the original text that is translated in verse 42 of our bulletin as “fresh ears of grain in his sack” is translated by some scholars and the “New International Version of the Bible as “some heads of new grain”. If this latter translation is correct then the word in the original text is derived from the Ugaritic language and the merging of Hebrew with the local pagan language. However, our reading reports the beginning of a rebellion against the spreading apostasy in Israel. God had promised that he would save a remnant of seven thousand faithful believers. 100 of these faithful followers of Yahweh are traveling with Elisha. We learned in verse 38 that there was a famine in the land. A man brought a small amount of food to Elisha, but not enough to feed the 100 faithful believers traveling with Elisha. This is part of the first fruits of the harvest and should have been taken to the priests at Baal-shalishah. Instead, God directs the food to the faithful Yahwist prophets traveling with Elisha. Despite the misgivings of his servant, Elisha insists that the food be distributed, and that as God had said, there was a surplus left over. This miracle foreshadows the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude.
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to [Elisha,] the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, "Give it to the people and let them eat." But his servant said, "How can I set this before a hundred people?" So he repeated, "Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, 'They shall eat and have some left.’ “He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord."
The 2nd reading is from Ephesians 3:14-21. Today’s 2nd reading is part of a larger teaching on how to obtain righteousness with God. Paul then demonstrates what he had taught. In the Roman world of Paul, the head of the household, the father, had absolute power over the life and death of every member of his family. Paul is saying that the true absolute authority is God, who created us and who is also the source of all knowledge. First, we must acknowledge the absolute authority of God over our very being. By our posture we profess deference to God. During our Sunday service we stand in prayer to show deference to God, we may also bow our heads in deference or we may kneel in deference. How we show deference is less important than that we show deference. Then in supplication we ask God for what only God can provide us and others. Finely, we must welcome and live according to the precepts of the indwelling Holy Spirit so that all of our actions are grounded in love for God and our fellow human beings. Paul prays that with the indwelling Spirit we have the power to comprehend the teaching of Jesus and the will to attempt to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen