August 2 to 8 (Ordinary 18)

What's ahead in the Bible readings for this week

The Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Catholic Proper 18, RCL Proper 13
August 2 to 8, 2018
The Eleventh Week After Pentecost

Wheat Field with Sheaves

This week's image is Vincent Van Gogh's Wheat Field with Sheaves. Since so many of our readings have to do with bread (literal or figurative) I thought of Van Gogh's images. And it happens in my morning devotions from All Saints for July 29 was about Van Gogh. Here is a brief quote:

In the eyes of the world, and in his own eyes, Vincent Van Gogh was an utter failure. Though today he is one of the most popular and beloved of all modern painters, to his contemporaries he evoked nothing but contempt. He sold nothing in his lifetime. He spent his life in squalid poverty, preferring to spend what money he could obtain on paint rather than on food. But his failure never deterred him from dedicating every ounce of his strength to the expression of his person vision. For the sake of that vision, as much as any desert father, he was prepared to sacrifice every natural happiness. His subjects were not formally religious. They included sunflowers, wheat fields, and starry night skies. But ultimately his subject was the holiness of existence. It was that vision and not the quality of his sacrifice that defined the religious dimension of his art.

Gospel and Epistle Readings

The central Scripture for this week is Sunday's Gospel lesson from John. In it, Jesus tells the crowd that has followed him by boat to Capernaum, “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.” Then this exchanges happens:

“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 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 my will never be thirsty.”

The second Gospel reading for this week are from Matthew, in which Jesus tells his disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. As so often happens, they misunderstand their teacher, who is asking them to beware of the the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The third reading is a telling of the feeding of four thousand with seven loaves.

In a society where many go hungry, it is important to provide both physical bread and spiritual bread. Two of our Epistle lessons for this week are concerned with spiritual gifts. In Paul's letter to Ephesus he tells us that the gifts Christ 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. In the first letter to Corinth there is a similar list: apostles, prophets, teachers, deeds of power, gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, and various kinds of tongues. The variety of gifts that we have to give to the church and to the world is something to celebrate.

In the other Epistle readings this week, Paul scolds the church at Corinth for their divisions. He accuses the wealthy members of the church of showing contempt for the church of God and humiliating those who have nothing by leaving out those who have no food to eat. He urges them to examine themselves before eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord. This is a call to be aware of and confess the ways we have fallen short. Of course we must get up after our examination, receive the cup and the bread, and do better.

Complementary Series

The Hebrew Scripture for Sunday tells of the manna and quail provided by God to feed the hungry, wandering Israelites. The story of the quail is retold on Monday from Numbers. And on Tuesday we read part of a long speech from Moses to all Israel with this reminder: “He humbled you by letting you hunger, then feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by the word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Semi-continuous Series

This week completes the story of Bathsheba and David, at least in one sense. In another sense, the consequence of David's sin continues throughout his life. I find the death of Bathsheba's and David's son troublesome; Nathan declares, after David repents, that David will live but the child will die. This innocent child had nothing to do with the sin that was committed.

We also have the story of Tamar's rape by her half-brother Amnon. Once he has had his way with her, he will have nothing more to do with her. Absalom, her brother, kills Amnon in revenge for her rape. Violence begets violence. I don't think we should take this story as an example of how to deal with these situations. And it is hard not to have sympathy for Tamar and Absalom, seeking the only justice that could be found. (All of the people in this story are David's children, which may account for why Amnon was never punished.)

Links for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 78:23-29
God rains down manna, the bread of angels, for humans to eat.
Semi-continuous Psalm 51:1-12 Create in me a clean heart.

Thursday: Preparation for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Exodus 12:33-42 The Exodus from Egypt, leaving with unleavened bread.
Semi-continuous Exodus 39:19-26a Moses' anger over the golden calf
Both 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 Paul admonishes the Corinthians for not keeping the Lord's Supper properly.

Saturday: Preparation for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Exodus 13:3-10 The Festival of Unleavened Bread
Semi-continuous Judges 6:1-10 A prophet calls out Israel for its disobedience.
Both Matthew 16:5-12 Jesus uses the figure of leaven to warn the apostles to beware of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Friday: Preparation for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Exodus 12:43-13:2 Institution of the Passover, and consecrating the firstborn.
Semi-continuous Joshua 23:1-16 Joshua encourages Israel's leaders and reminds them of God's deeds on their behalf.
Both 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 Examine yourself before partaking in the Lord's Supper.

The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 God provides manna.
Semi-continuous 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a David is rebuked by Nathan for his adultery with Bathsheba and killing of Uriah.
Both Ephesians 4:1-16 Live with humility and gentleness, with patience bearing one another in love.
Both John 6:24-35 Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43
God pours contempt on princes, yet raises up the poor from affliction.
Semi-continuous Psalm 50:16-23 I will reprove you who have spoken and done evil.

Monday: Reflection on the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Numbers 11:16-23, 31-32 God provides quail.
Semi-continuous 2 Samuel 12:15-25 The son born to David and Bathsheba dies.
Both Ephesians 4:17-24 Put away your old self, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 8:1-20 When your life is good, do not forget the Lord your God.
Semi-continuous 2 Samuel 13:1-19 Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar. David is their father.
Both 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Isaiah 55:1-9 The thirsty and hungry are invited to eat without cost.
Semi-continuous 2 Samuel 13:20-36 Absalom murders Amnon in revenge for raping his sister Tamar.
Both Mark 8:1-10 Jesus blesses seven loaves, and they are enough to feed four thousand people, with seven baskets left over.

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name. Regardless of the name, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

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These links don't work until the lessons are on the web site. I have moved the time they are sent to 3:05 a.m. Eastern Time, which is just after midnight in Pacific Time. Folks in Alaska and Hawaii will find the readings in the previous day's mailings. Thanks for being part of this community spread throughout the country. Just knowing that we are reading the same lessons warms my heart, and I hope it does yours.
Mike Gilbertson

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from The New Revised Standard Version, (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

Image credit: Wheat Field with Sheaves by Vincent van Gogh, via Wikimedia Commons. This is a public domain image.