During this Pentecost Season, there are two “Tracks” of Scriptures that are offered, and congregations may choose which Track they will follow. The first two readings presented are the readings from Tracks 1 and 2, respectively. The third and fourth readings are the same in both Tracks.


2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10  


1 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. 2 For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The LORD said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

9 David occupied the stronghold and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inwards. 10 And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.


The Book of Samuel is part of the “Deuteronomic History” that includes the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. These books are a “didactic history” that covered the period from just before the entry into the Promised Land (c.1220 BCE, if the account is historical) to the beginning of Babylonian Captivity (586 BCE). The books were written in the period from 640 BCE to 550 BCE and continued to be revised even after that.

The authors of the Deuteronomic Books artfully wove their stories from numerous sources. They then used the stories in these books to demonstrate that that God controls history and to assert that it was the failures of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judea to worship YHWH and obey God’s commands that led to the conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE by the Assyrians and the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians in 597 BCE. (The conquests were not seen as the result of the Assyrians’ and Babylonians’ greater wealth and more powerful armies.)

The Book of Samuel (to the extent it may be historical) covers from the end of the time of the Judges (c.1030 BCE) to the last years of the Reign of David (c. 965 BCE).

Last week’s reading (2 Sam.1) was David’s “lament” after the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. In the three chapters between it and today’s reading, David (who had been anointed king by Samuel in Bethlehem in 1 Sam. 16:13) was anointed king of Judah in Hebron (2 Sam. 2.4), and then conducted a successful war against the sons of Saul, but when they were killed, David took great pains to claim he was blameless. The NOAB says: “The author stresses that David was in no way involved in the death of his enemy.”

In today’s reading, all the tribes assembled in Hebron, a city about 15 miles south of Jerusalem, and anointed David as king of all the tribes of Israel (excluding Judah, of which he was already the anointed king.) This “division” between “Israel” and “Judah” also reflected the later split-up of the Kingdom after Solomon’s reign ended in 930 BCE.

In stating the David reigned “forty years” (v.5) scholars recognize the “forty” is a euphemism for a long time. Nevertheless, the dates of David’s reign are customarily set at 1005 BCE to 965 BCE.

In the omitted verses (6-8), David and his army marched against the Jebusites, who were said to be the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The “Millo” (v.9) was a landfill or fortification. Jerusalem was geographically closer to the Northern Tribes than other cities in Judea (such as Hebron). According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible and The Jewish Study Bible, in selecting Jerusalem as the capital, David selected a “neutral site” for uniting the 12 tribes politically and religiously.

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary describes David at this point as follows: “Theologically and socially, he is a centrist. He remains a tribal leader over discrete Yahwist confederations and disparate non-Yahwist peoples, but he also embodies overarching paramount authority.”


Ezekiel 2:1-5


1 The LORD said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the LORD GOD.” 5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.


Ezekiel is one of the three “Major” Prophets – so called because of the length of the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a Zadokite priest (descended from the High Priest Zadok in the time of David and Solomon) and was among the first group of persons deported by the Babylonians to Babylon when they captured Jerusalem in 597 BCE. His name means “God strengthens.”

The Book of Ezekiel is in three parts: (1) Chapters 1 to 24 are prophesies of doom against Jerusalem before the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE; (2) Chapters 25 to 32 are prophesies against foreign nations; and (3) Chapters 33 to 48 are prophesies of hope for the Judeans written during the Babylonian Exile (586-539 BCE).

Similar to other prophets, Ezekiel “prophesied” by speaking for God. Prophesy in the Hebrew Scriptures is not about telling the future. A prophet is one who speaks for YHWH.

Today’s reading is part of the “Call of Ezekiel” and followed the nearly psychedelic visions of God described in Chapter 1. These verses are part of the “Commissioning” of Ezekiel by which YHWH gave him authority to speak for YHWH and imbued him with the spirit of God (v.2).

In verse 1, Ezekiel said that God addressed him as “O mortal” – the translation used 93 times in the Book of Ezekiel for the Hebrew words “ben adam.”  “Ben adam” literally means “son of the earthling/human.” “Adam” was the “name” of the person who was fashioned from fertile earth (in Hebrew, “adamah”) by YHWH in Genesis.

The NOAB describes ben adam as “a Hebrew idiom denoting a member of the category of ‘humanity.’ The traditions of Ezekiel’s group stressed how God and the divine realm transcended this category.”

Ben adam” is elsewhere translated in Scripture as “Son of Man” or “human being” in Daniel 7:13, and Son of Man is a frequent title given to Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels.

The phrase “rebellious house” (v.5) is a statement of Israel’s seemingly ingrained defiance. Other prophets later relied on this theme as justifying Israel’s suffering as a divine punishment.

In the verses that follow today’s reading, Ezekiel was directed by God to not be afraid even though the people would treat him badly. God also told him to eat a scroll of Scripture — which Ezekiel found was as sweet as honey (3:3).


2 Corinthians 12:2-10


2 I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3 And I know that such a person — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows — 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the LORD about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.


Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic. Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) and presented his views on many issues that were controversial in this Jesus Follower Community.

Based on internal references in the two remaining letters to the Corinthians, scholars agree that Paul likely wrote at least four letters to the Corinthians. The so-called Second Letter to the Corinthians is composed of fragments of these letters.

In today’s reading, Paul described his own mystical experience of God as validation of his own spiritual authority – because his opponents were claiming that their experiences validated their spiritual prowess. His experience was an ecstatic one – “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know” (v.3). Paul said the things he heard are “not to be told” – consistent with the notion that mystical revelations are to be kept secret.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament explains Paul’s reference to “third heaven” (v.2) as follows: “By the first centuries, Jews imagined the existence of multiple, hierarchically arranged heavens through which the soul after death or a person in a state of ecstasy in life could ascend to God’s throne. Some texts including the early 1 Enoch 14 (probably second century BCE) depict a three-tiered cosmology while [later texts] describe the soul as passing through seven heavens, including a fourth one in which the soul observes the sun … crossing from west to east under the world…. It appears that by Paul’s day, a full complement of seven heavens was commonly conceived.” The JANT notes that some rabbinic authorities referred to the third heaven as paradise, just as Paul did (v.4).

It is important to note that all during his life, Paul thought of himself as a Jew, and the Jerusalem Temple was in full operation even after his death in 63 CE.

In verse 7b, Paul spoke of a “thorn” with which he was afflicted, the nature of which is not known. The NOAB states that rather than asserting the Hellenistic ideal of sufficiency to transcend hardships, Paul accepted the hardships as real and as coming from God who would also give grace that would be sufficient (v.9). His recapitulation of them (v.10) contrasted with the ecstatic experience described in verses 1-7a.

The JANT observes: “Paul may be dismissing triumphant mystical enthusiasm and presenting himself as a failed and humbled mystic (see v 7). Again, Paul ironically boasts that he is as great in spiritual matters as his adversaries, even as he maintains that, for one in Christ, power is represented in weakness. Cf. vv 9-11.”


Mark 6:1-13


1 Jesus came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


The Gospel According to Mark was the first Gospel that was written and is generally dated to the time around the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest gospel and forms the core for the Gospels According to Matthew and Luke (both of which were written around 85 CE). Over 50% of the material in those two Gospels is based on Mark. Because these three Gospels follow similar chronologies of Jesus’ life and death, they are called “Synoptic Gospels” for the Greek words meaning “Same Look/View.” 

The JANT comments on the reference to ”brothers and sisters” (v. 3) as follows: “Christian tradition has sometimes explained these siblings as children of Joseph and a wife other than Mary, or as cousins. The Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words for ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ can mean relative (Tob 7.9). The context suggests close family members, and the virginal conception of Jesus is not mentioned in Mark.”  The virginal conception of Jesus was a later-developed tradition within the Jesus Follower Movement in the First Century, and the tradition of “perpetual virginity” of Mary was an even later developed notion.

The NJBC says the description of Jesus as the “son of Mary” (v.3) may have been intended as an insult because Jesus – like other First Century men — would have been typically described as the “son of Joseph.” The NJBC regards as unlikely that the phrase was intended to mean that Joseph had died by this point in Jesus’ life.

The notion that a prophet has no honor in his hometown was a common theme in the Hebrew Bible – particularly with the way prophets such as Jeremiah and Amos were treated.

In Mark, the lack of faith by others in Jesus led to the situation in which he “could do no deed of power” (v.5). Matthew 13:58 says, “he did not do many deeds of power there.” In Luke 4, Jesus was rejected in Nazareth but there is no mention of his not performing deeds of power.

The commissioning of the twelve is generally seen as the appointment of symbolic heads of the renewed Israel while expanding Jesus’ mission of proclamation, exorcism, and healing. The JANT observes that sending out “two by two” (v.7) may have been done to “ensure that there would be two witnesses in accordance with Deut 17.6; this would be relevant for the testimony in v 11.”  It also notes that anointing with oil (v.13) was a common medical practice.

The NJBC says that although the Twelve were told to take nothing for the journey except a staff (v.8), they were instructed in Matt. 10:10 and Luke 9:3 not to take a staff.