I'm a fan of RCL Track 2. In the season after Pentecost, we get a choice--either Track 1, which is semi-continuous reading through parts of the Old Testament we might not otherwise get to hear in church, or Track 2, which offers Old Testament readings that usually have a thematic tie in to the gospel lesson. Track 2 is closer to the old BCP lectionary. Someday, I'll give Track 1 a try, but, for now, I'm enjoying Track 2.
Or I was until this Sunday.
Here is this Sunday's Track 2 Old Testament reading (2 Kings 4:42-44) in its entirety:
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, "Give it to the people and let them eat." But his servant said, "How can I set this before a hundred people?" So he repeated, "Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the LORD, `They shall eat and have some left.'" He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.I get the connection. The gospel lesson (John 6:1-21) is the feeding of the 5,000. This is an isolated story of a miraculous feeding, so it ties in, but it leaves us with too many questions. Who is the man? And who is the holy man? And why was he bringing all of that food? And in what way is this a miracle? Bottom line: this lesson needs some more text.
I suggest expanding this lesson using Steve Pankey's favorite rubric on BCP p. 888 ("Any reading may be lengthened at discretion"). That might, however, pose a quandary as to whether to we are allowed lengthen the lesson only by adding 2 Kings 4:38a ("And Elisha came again to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land") or whether we have to add all of the verses between 38a and 42, which tells the story of Elisha purifying the poisoned pot of stew by throwing flour on it. (I've got three days until the bulletin is printed, so I don't have to make that decision today.) Regardless, we need some context.
This is the time of a famine. Elisha is a prophet--the holy man of God. And this unnamed man brings to the prophet the first fruits of his harvest despite the fact that there is a famine in the land. Now the story takes on new meaning. This little offering is a sign of abundance--even in a time of scarcity. This story isn't just about a miraculous feeding. It's a story about stewardship.
As I prepare to preach on Sunday, I'm drawn to this passage from 2 Kings--the expanded passage. Yes, the bit about the poisoned stew might be a little distracting, but we desperately need the opening line of that paragraph. Don't print your bulletins before you add it. Don't miss the opportunity to celebrate abundance in a climate of scarcity.