Biblical Words 
I Samuel ; Psalm 20; II Corinthians 5:6-17;
God’s reign moves secretly toward great outcomes, claiming both bodies and hearts.
I Samuel .
The reading from the Historical Books takes
us to the second episode concerning the emergence of kingship in
This is the anointing of David. A main emphasis in this story is on God’s knowledge of the inner character of persons. This includes the always-surprising truth that the least likely candidate may be the best.
Samuel is sent on a secret mission to
As the ceremonies progress, Jesse’s eldest son is introduced and Samuel is sure this handsome and impressive young man must be God’s choice for the next king. God’s response is, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, …for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (verse 7).
The selection process continues until all candidates have been rejected. The person sought is not present! There must be someone else – somewhere. Jesse finally reports that there is one youngest son who only does shepherd duties, not yet having reached warrior status. When this handsome teenager has been brought, God says, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one” (verse 12).
is something that happens to the body, but it signifies an inner state of
divine charisma. The figure of
The Psalm reading is an emphatic and unambiguous royal psalm.
It is a liturgical response by an
The psalm keeps perspective, however, by affirming that victory comes from relying on God, not on superior chariots.
II Corinthians 5:6-17.
The Epistle reading presents, on a more profound level, the theme that God knows the inner being and that worldly appearances are not what count. Here too, anointing happens to the body, but it signifies an inner state of divine empowerment.
First, concerning bodily life. In the larger context Paul has said, “Even
though our outer nature is wasting away [we are getting older], our inner
nature is being renewed day by day” (II Corinthians ,
Clearly being “at home” in the body is not just a physical condition; it is also an attitude. It is the attitude of investing this life with our hopes and confidence. Those who live by faith “would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (verse 8).
The distinction between “at home” and “away” in relation to the body is not just future; it is present, in the experience of ecstasy (which literally means “standing outside [oneself]”). Ecstasy is what Paul refers to when he says, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you” (verse 13).
Having ecstatic experiences is like speaking in tongues. It may be great for the person having the experience, but it is not constructive for the community (see I Corinthians 14:1-6). On the other hand, bodily life is necessary to the reality of personal existence with God. It is life lived in the body that stands before the Lord in the last judgment (verse 10), and it was in the body that Jesus made the sacrifice that offered release from sin for all people (verses 14-15).
Nevertheless, life beyond the body is so important that Paul asserts that everyone should be viewed in that way all the time. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view [literally “according to flesh”]; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation...” (verses 16-17).
Life in the body has transcendent meaning because it is what we are before God. Life in the body is the whole person continually related to the ultimate requirement and grace of the Holy One.
As the Gospel readings continue in Mark, we come to the chapter on parables (4:1-34).
In the Parable
of the Growing Seed (verses 26-29) a comparison is made to the
As we move through the brief parable, the subjects of the verbs keep shifting. First the man scatters seed and goes about his daily business; then the seed sprouts and grows; then the earth “produces of itself” stalk, head, and full grain; then the grain has ripened; and finally “he” extends a sickle to cut the grain for the harvest. There is no single actor here; there is a succession of actors, and all of their actions add up to one EVENT.
The event is the grain growing from seed to harvest, full cycle.
The question to the hearer of the parable
is, Where are we in the process? Has the
grain fully ripened? Is it yet time for
the harvest? Those are the questions the
parable is intended to inspire about the imminent coming and presence of the
In the Parable
of the Mustard Seed (verses 30-32) there is also a comparison to the
The marvelous thing about the mustard seed
is also that it represents a process of growing and maturing. When sown it “is the smallest of all the
seeds on earth”; yet it becomes “the greatest of all shrubs.” It is so grand that it imitates the
world-tree. It “puts forth large
branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade” (compare
Both the grain and the mustard seed are fast growing plants. Things move right along, whether the humans around pay attention or not. And they move toward an end, toward a climax. The grain gets ripe – and after that it will rot in the field if not harvested. The mustard bush gets very large, supporting many bird homes. Their growth is INEVITABLE, and when it is complete, something must happen!