Four things draw our attention today: (1) Saturday July 25 the feast of St. James, (2) David and Bathsheba, (3) the feeding of the 5000, and (4) God gift to his church, that “Christ dwells in our hearts through faith, as we are being rooted and grounded in love, that we may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and be filled with all the fullness of God.”
The New Testament tells us of 3 men named James. Our St. James is the son of Zebedee, brother of John, one of the first four whom Jesus called to be apostles, with Peter and John a witness to the Transfiguration, martyred by King Herod Agrippa about 10 years after the Resurrection. (Acts 12). He is said to have preached in Spain, and his tomb at Santiago has received pilgrims for the last 1200 years. He inspired the Christian reconquest of Spain and Portugal. Portuguese missionaries in the 15th century brought his story to the Christian kingdom of Kongo in modern Angola. His symbol is the scallop shell. We name churches after him because he was one of the first apostles, first evangelists, first martyrs, and we look for his spiritual aid in the ministries to which we are called.
David’s son and successor Solomon was a son of Bathsheba, and the story tells how God can redeem human sin. It is also a story of David’s lust, adultery, and murder, and of the righteous behavior of Uriah, a foreign mercenary soldier and an honorable man, betrayed and killed, a martyr to David’s desire to cover-up his misconduct. The story might come from a blog or this year’s newspaper. Among other things it is a reminder of the power of temptation. David yielded; by the presence and power of Christ dwelling, as today’s epistle says, in our hearts by faith, we receive divine power to resist temptation.
David had a wife, Saul’s daughter Machal, from whom he was estranged. In Hebron he had sons by six different women. We’ll hear about their conflicts next month. Judging the past by our moral standards doesn’t work, but you’d think David would had enough. But he didn’t. He took Bathsheba, and when her husband Uriah refused to condone David’s adultery, David had him killed. Joab was David’s nephew, his older sister’s son, the leader of David’s troops, and his accomplice in murder. As we will hear next week, their child died, and Solomon was then born. When Solomon became king he had Joab executed.
Our gospel readings in the next 4 weeks are from St. John chapter 6, the feeding of the 5000 and the meaning of that miracle. The feeding is reported in all 4 gospels. St. John’s version most clearly recalls the miracle of God’s feeding the people of Israel in the desert after the Exodus with manna. The people go across the sea; the Passover is at hand. The leftovers fill 12 baskets – one for each of the tribes of Israel.
“When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” After the Exodus feeding with manna Moses withdrew to Mount Sinai where he received the Law. David had fought to be king; Jesus withdraws.
For almost 600 years the Jewish people had been ruled by foreign kings – Babylonian, Persian, Alexander and his Egyptian and Syrian successors, then after 80 years of freedom under the Maccabees, by Rome The desire for freedom under a Jewish anointed king was strong. St. Luke tells us that even after the Resurrection as they went with Jesus to the Mount of Olives for the Ascension the disciples asked, “Will you now, (finally) restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus’ last words to them and to us were these, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”
Ten days after the Ascension, in the upper room, the Holy Spirit did come down on the apostles, giving the church the gifts of power and truth, power and truth to be witnesses to Jesus “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – even to us today in this congregation and city.
As the epistle reminds us, we are given “power through his Spirit that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith, as we are being rooted and grounded in love. . . . that we 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 we may be filled with all the fullness of God.” With St. James and all the saints we join in the prayer, “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.”