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In the previous week’s reading David has Uriah killed so his indiscretion with his wife Bathsheba is not discovered. Bathsheba mourns her husband’s death and as soon as the mourning period is over, the King, David, marries her. God is displeased with what is happening and sends Nathan to David. David, of course regrets what he has done and is forgiven. The only retribution is that the son that was born through David’s indiscretion will die. Some of the interesting nuances in this story is in the names of the people. David means His beloved. Ur-iah means the flame of God. Bath-Sheba means daughter of oath (seven). Finally, Nathan means to give, usually a gift. Replace the names with their meanings and read the story again, and see what you make of this new story.
Uriah’s name is always followed by the Hittite. That is until the first verse of this reading, where Uriah is mentioned twice without the Hittite. The term the Hittite is used to denote that Uriah is not originally an Israelite. He is not a descendant of Jacob. He may have been a second or third generation living in Judah, but his status is obvious through his name. It is also possible that Bathsheba is not an Israelite. Although they both have Hebrew names, they are foreigners or migrants.
What does it mean to be a migrant in a position of authority within the government?
How are migrants treated, even those who have proved themselves as loyal and skilled to be in leading positions within the government, or the church?
How do we treat these migrants, and what are the consequences if our treatment is not humane?
Paul is trying to explain to the church in Ephesus what it means to be one in Christ. In the previous chapters, Paul tells the church that without Christ they were dead, but through Christ they have received the new life. Even though they are not Jews but as gentiles might be considered outsiders, in Christ they are considered citizens.
Paul, a Jew, is in prison because of his ministry to the gentiles (3:1). As a prisoner for their sake, he is asking the church to become one in the Body of Christ. Because there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (4:5-6a), we need to be united in the Spirit. He mentions specific gifts that Christ has given His church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These gifts are given to equip the church for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Paul says we need to stop being swayed like children by every doctrine, and become mature in Christ.
When Paul writes this letter, there is no division within the church yet. The West and the East have not split to create the different churches. Reformation has not yet happened. Christianity itself is not yet widespread. In this situation, it is not difficult to agree that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
When you are with other Christians, not necessarily from your close group of friends, ask who is Jesus to them. I have found that the answers are so varied that some of them are unidentifiable to me. Ask this question to people from different cultures. What does Jesus look like to you? We may not even agree on the details of the one Lord. Different cultures may have different understanding of baptism. Although the church catholic (that is all the churches around the world) have come up with a statement (through the World Council of Churches) on baptism, the Eucharist and ministry, there are still many points of disagreement. This disagreement may not necessarily be because of the doctrine of the church, but also because of the cultural overtone in the church. In cultures where there is a formal ceremony for boys to become men, baptism may carry with it some different understandings than for others.
What are the assumptions that we have for our own understanding of unity in Christ?
What perceptions do other cultures have, that we may or may not know about?
How do we see and interact with those differences in understanding Jesus, baptism, the gifts for ministry and unity in Christ?
This story follows the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The people might have noticed that the disciples left while Jesus was still with them, but now they cannot find Jesus. So in their search for Jesus they get into the boats and head for Capernaum, where they find them. The conversations that follows is interesting. They assume that Jesus came by boat, so they do not ask how did you come, but when did you come. What difference does the time of arrival make to someone who came by boat? The answer that Jesus gives them is the answer to another question. Not when, but why did you come? Jesus tells them that believing in him is the only way to following God. So, what proof do you have to convince us that your claim is true? In answering that question Jesus shifts the focus of discussion from Jews to the world. “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.” The Jews considered that God would only feed God’s people with the heavenly manna. That was something reserved only for them. Jesus breaks their exclusivist concepts of God’s gifts and says it is for the whole world.
What are the privileges that we think are ours only?
What are the ways other cultures operate in that seem to us to be exclusive?
What are the ways in which we operate that might be considered by other cultures as being exclusive?
In what ways have our speeches and documents excluded others from the grace of God?