Proper 11

July 23, 2000
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Reading 2: 
Psalm 89:20-37
Reading 3: 
Ephesians 2:11-22
Reading 4: 
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Alt Reading 2: 
Psalm 23
Alt Reading 1: 
Jeremiah 23:1-6
By Marjorie Suchocki

The Texts
David is dissuaded from building a temple to the Lord; this is a task that will fall to his son. Psalm 89 as a whole is a beautiful celebration of the goodness of God; the selections of the Psalm chosen for the lectionary speak of God's covenant with David. Ephesians continues the issues mentioned in the previous week's reading, detailing how Christ has broken down “the barrier of the dividing wall” of prejudice that separates us one from the other. Mark 5 speaks of Jesus' compassion for the multitudes and his ministry of healing; the text curiously omits the significant feeding of the five thousand in verses 35-44 and the stilling of the waters in verses 45-52.

Process Themes: Psalm 89
We do not often preach on the Psalms, but Psalm 89 deserves a sermon or two! The lectionary text highlights God's covenant with David, but to preach on this Psalm requires attention to the Psalm as a whole. There are four parts: 1) The first is a paean of praise to the very nature of God. It sings of “the loving kindness of the Lord forever.” Loving kindness is paired with righteousness, justice, and truth, all of which define God's nature. 2) This everlasting nature of God is manifest in history through God's covenant with David, but this covenant requires that David (and by extension, all rulers of Israel) govern in conformity with God's nature. 3) Insofar as David's descendents have not so ruled, disasters have befallen the people. 4) But since God is God, everlastingly full of loving kindness, righteousness, justice, and truth, can we not count on God to call us back to being a reflection in history of God's own nature? And the Psalmist concludes this plea with, “Blessed be the Lord forever!” The Psalm celebrates the faithfulness and constancy of God's character, calling us to lives that could be named as an “image of God.” We, too, are called to loving kindness, righteousness, justice, and truth. Each quality conditions and defines the others. For example, loving kindness does not stand alone, but is qualified by righteousness, justice and truth. Truth, likewise, is not some abstract standard, but is measured by loving kindness, righteousness, and justice. In a process world, these qualities do not oppose each other, but condition each other. This is so within God's own self, and it is also how we are called to live.

 

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki is Professor Emerita, Claremont School of Theology, co-director of Process Studies, and the author of several books, including Divinity and Diversity, God Christ Church, and In God's Presence. She is the director of the annual Whitehead International Film Festival, held in Mudd Theatre during Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend and also teaches a Faith & Film class during this event.