First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

Readings for the Week of Sunday, August 9

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Friday, August 7, 2015
Readings: 2 Samuel 18: 5-9,  15 -33 Psalm 130, Ephesians 4: 25- 5:2 , John 6:35, 41, 51

The role emotions play in our lives and how we respond as Christians is one
of the dominate themes in our readings this week. ( at least from my first
read) . The dominate emotion to be considered is anger. For example the
story of David and Absalom is replete with anger and it's dire consequences
and our epistle picks up on this theme, "Put away from you all bitterness
and wrath and anger"  Our Gospel reading records the angry grumblings of
those listening to Jesus and his response. Esther and I took Elisha and
Jonathan's  11 year old second cousin to see the movie Inside Out , a great
kids show that cleverly explored human emotions so I may be tempted to use
this movie as an illustration. Has anyone else seen it?


Our first reading continues the story of King David. It is the very tragic
end of the story of his son Absalom and his failed attempt to violently
overtake David's kingdom. After orchestrating a successful popular uprising
Absalom is prepared to defeat his father in a final battle. But David along
with wise advice from experienced warriors is able to set up a battle in a
location that will favour his well trained troops over against Absalom's
citizen army.


But the story is not portrayed primarily as a military struggle but as an
emotional and spiritual battle within David himself. He fears for his son's
life and orders his soldiers to be gentle with him and  to certainly not
kill him.  Unfortunately during the battle Absalom is caught up in a tree
and despite David's orders Joab kills him instead of taking him prisoner and
bringing him back to David safe and sound.

When the report comes to David that Absalom is dead , David is
grief-stricken. This  really annoys Joab because it seems David loves his
enemies and is hating or disrespecting his own troops who risked their lives
to defeat the rebellious Absalom. ( 19: 1-8, not part of our reading)

There is a very powerful description of  Absalom's situation and the tension
of the story which a preacher or artist could explore," he was left hanging
between heaven and earth"

Bruce Birch in his commentary observes at least three perspectives one could
take from the story.

1.       We see in this story the depth of pain when a parent experiences
the loss of a child. In this case it is the loss of a child because of the
self destructive  path the child took. David would have willingly died
instead of his son. For people who have experienced this pain our story will
resonate powerfully.

2.       Birch notes that the story features the conflict between David's
private role and his public role. As a king he had to stop his son but as a
father he wanted his son back. Birch goes on to note that  David learned to
love and forgive too late and that perhaps if he had been a better father
earlier on this tragedy would never have happened.

3.       Birch finally notes that David's grief may be also for the sins
that he had committed that lead up to this tragic moment. David may be
recognizing that Absalom had followed his own violent efforts to get
whatever he wanted. ( The new Interpreters Bible Volume 2 The first and
second Books of Samuel Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections, Bruce
Birch pgs 1340- 1342)


An ancient story that seems timeless and on many levels resonates with our
contemporary world. Not surprisingly this story has been the basis of much
modern literature.


When we think of the depths of despair in our first reading it makes the
opening lines of the Psalm for Sunday very moving, "Out of the depths I cry
to you . O Lord." The Psalmist cries out to the Lord and is waiting for the
Lord from a dark place. In fact the psalmist is waiting at night. But the
psalmist waits knowing that morning will arrive because God is gracious to
forgive and loving and is able to redeem. God is present with us in our
despair as no place is beyond God's steadfast love.


As I write these thoughts there are about a dozen flies buzzing around me
driving me crazy. I have killed some of them in my anger but there seems to
be an endless supply which is most frustrating. Perhaps this is appropriate
because definitely one of the themes of Sunday's epistle is anger and how to
deal with it. Our epistle continues from last Sunday in the sense that it is
describing how to live as a church community, as members of one another. We
are given a list virtuous behaviors and attitudes and although clearly anger
is an issue being addressed throughout there are also some lovely
expressions of positive life affirming commands. For example I really like
the phrase, " so that your words may give grace to those who hear." What a
wonderful thought that are words can supply grace to others.  In fact
throughout this reading there is a common thread that we are to behave
virtuously not so that we can be free of sin but  so that we can bless
others. The other theme is that our behaviour in the church must be
inseparable from the love of God for us in Jesus. We are to live in love as
Jesus  loved us and gave his life for us. we are to imitate God.


Our Gospel reading has Jesus teaching us that he is the bread of life. In
other words in him  our spiritual needs and human longings are met, as Gail
O'Day says ,"what people need for life is available in Jesus." (The New
Interpreters Bible Volume 9,  The Gospel of John Introduction, Commentary,
and reflections , by Gail O'Day pg. 601)   A tremendous claim which for us
who celebrate the Eucharist frequently and devoutly has a powerful
resonance.  When I administer the bread to each person I say the bread of
heaven given for you. A good sermon could explore the imagery of bread of
life or it could  invite people to consider the gift of eternal life Jesus
proclaims and offers.


Hope these thoughts are helpful for you as we prepare to worship with one
another this Sunday.

Yours in Christ