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Weekly worship: Sunday 12 August

A reflection on what we are truly hungry for.

People building a shelter

2 Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33 and Psalm 130

The events of this passage can be traced back to chapter 13 of 2 Samuel.

The rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon is not addressed or dealt with by King David and so Absalom, their brother, takes things into his own hands. He orchestrates the murder of his brother and then sets himself up in direct rivalry to his father as King.

The description given to Absalom in chapter 14: 25-27 gives further insight into just how deeply he lamented Tamar’s rape, naming his one daughter Tamar after his sister.

David’s conflict as king and father is apparent from the outset of this passage; he doesn't want his son Absalom killed in the impending battle for kingship. Perhaps he also knows his complicity in failing to act in response to Tamar’s rape has underpinned Absalom’s anger, estrangement and rivalry to his father.

Absalom is far from innocent when it comes to the mistreatment of women in this prolonged episode. The public raping of David’s concubines to establish influence and power in his claim for kingship over that his father is shocking reading.

2 Samuel has been one shameful tale of the mistreatment of women, and the abuse of male power and privilege.

David’s deep lament for his beautiful son is the lament that should have been made for his daughter Tamar. It is the lament that's needed in response to the sexual abuse perpetrated on women the world over that triggered this conflict. A lament that drives action.

Christian Aid continues to put gender justice at the heart of its work. The consequences of not attending to the mistreatment, injustice and inequality experienced by women is detrimental to us all.

 

1 Kings 19: 4-8 and Psalm 34: 1-8

It's something a relief to read these interludes in the lives of great prophets such as Elijah and Jonah.

The interludes where they take time to sit under a tree and make their feelings known to God. Not polite platitudes, but raw emotions of ‘this is too much’ and ‘I can’t do this anymore’.

It's also refreshing to read the response of God is at its most practical, to provide food for this disgruntled prophet.

What is a place of cathartic prayerful protest also becomes a place of deep rest and rejuvenation between the incredible prophetic episodes on Elijah’s journey.

Whether by ravens, the widow’s endless meal jar and oil jug, and now the provision of cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water, God is present to the most essential needs of his servant, ensuring he has the strength and energy to continue his ministry.

It's a call to us all, who find ourselves at times wearied and close to burnout by the cause of bringing God’s kingdom in fullness, to take time to recoup, to pray honestly before God, and to receive the blessing of provision needed to sustain us on our way.

 

Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2

There's much to live up to in these instructions given by Paul to the Ephesians and to contemporary readers. We might find it slightly reassuring to find that we're not alone in needing to be kind to one another, tender-hearted and forgiving.

The need to put away falsehood and speak truth, to recognise that we're all members of one another, is a lesson in much need of being broadcast beyond the church as well.

In these days of so-called 'fake news' and 'hostile environments' it's the work of the prophetic voice to call out the lies, particularly those that disenfranchise the poor.

In these days of hostility towards our neighbours around the world, there is great need to remember that we're members of one another.

The UN and its member states are working on two new agreements on refugees and migration, but these do nothing to support the 40 million people displaced within their own borders.

Christian Aid continues to call for all to be included. You can encourage your to take action for their global neighbours by participating in the 'Uprooted and Overlooked' displaced persons campaign.

 

John 6: 35, 41-51

‘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 me will never be thirsty.’

John 6: 33-35

The gospel readings this month provide us with a substantial diet of bread. Four of the five weeks in August, the theme of bread spills over from the twelve baskets of the feeding of the five thousand.

The disciples are hungry for the bread of heaven. Their request, ‘give us this bread always’, is echoed in our own daily prayer ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ 
It may pose the question, what are we truly hungry for? Dr Rowan Williams reminds us that: 

The friends of Jesus are those who are hungry for justice. And that suggests that when we pray for daily bread from God, we are praying to see justice prevail in our world – and praying for this because we recognise that we cannot live without it, any more than we can live without material food.

May we share the appetite of the Disciples appetite for fullness of life for all the world, bringing our deepest hunger to Jesus.

Prayer

God, food of the poor; 
Christ our bread, 
give us a taste of the tender bread 
from your creation’s table; 
bread newly taken 
from your heart’s oven, 
food that comforts and nourishes us. 
A fraternal loaf that makes us human 
joined hand in hand, 
working and sharing. 
A warm loaf that makes us a family; 
sacrament of your body, 
your wounded people. 

Prayer of workers in Lima, Peru's shanty town community soup kitchens, from 'Bread of Tomorrow: Praying with the World’s Poor'. 

Points for prayer

  • Pray for the Thursdays in Black organisation, and for an end to rape and violence against women.
  • Pray for those who are weary and on the edge of burnout in your community, and across the world, working to help make the world a better place. Pray they would get the rest and rejuvenation they need.
  • Pray for the 40 million people who are internally displaced around the world, pray they would get access to what they need and have a fulfilling future. Pray they would be included in the new UN resolutions.
  • Pray for Christian Aid partners in Afghanistan working to organise young people and women’s groups; that these communities will develop their advocacy and lobbying skills to promote peace and human rights throughout Afghanistan.

Read the full Prayer Diary ​​​​​​​