Signpost for Sunday 5 July 2015: Sam 5:1-5,9-10; Ps 48; 2 Cor 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13
Psalm 48 is a ‘Psalm of the Sons of Korah’. My first thought was, who on earth were they? It’s a long story.
Suffice to say that the original sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph – doorkeepers and custodians of the tabernacle. But the ‘sons’ referred to in the Psalms came many generations later, and they joined David originally as warriors but eventually became pretty much the Temple band. (Heman the Korahite was apparently ‘The Voice’ of his day.)
About 25 psalms are attributed to the sons of Korah. Among them is Psalm 42, which contains one of my favourite lines, “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Psalm 48, on the other hand, could well be a poetic version of our second reading, without the contemporary names, making the point that kings are nothing without God.
The second reading is from Samuel, another son of Korah (1 Samuel 1:1, 20 tells us that Elkanath is Sam’s dad). Here we find out that David was not just one king but two: King of Judea and King of Israel. This isn’t really David uniting the two kingdoms; the reading makes it clear that David has to be recognised as king by both the tribes of Israel and the tribes of Judah. Ancient peoples seem to have been obsessed with kingship. The Israelites, for example, demanded God give them a king (I Sam 8:1-21). Never mind that YHWH warned them that if they were given an earthly king there’d be problems. And that’s very much what the rest of the Old Testament is all about, problem kings.
Now we come to the beginning of ‘the kingdom of God’, as the writers of Mark and Luke describe it. Is this an example of the fact that it’s going to be different from all those Old Testament kingdoms? The reading shows us Jesus among those who recognise him as nothing more than a carpenter and the son of Mary (Mark 6:3). Is the point that family, hometown, and doing things the way they’ve always been done represent the status quo? The kingdom of God won’t be about maintaining the status quo. Maybe that’s why the next part of the story sees the disciples being sent out without the normal trappings of a traveller in first century Israel (Mark6:8).