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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15B

Track 1: Asking for Wisdom

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
Psalm 111
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

The psalmist wrote:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
those who act accordingly have a good understanding;
his praise endures for ever.   (Psalm 111:10)

Without an appreciation and reverence for the wisdom of God and his understanding, we may not realize that limitations of our human wisdom and knowledge. As Solomon began his reign on the throne of his father David, he understood that he needed help.

In a dream God came to him and asked what he could do for Solomon. From 1 Kings we read:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”   (1 Kings 3:5-14)

Solomon lacked wisdom to govern the people but he was wise enough to understand that.  He needed God’s wisdom. Is that true for us or are we capable of going it alone? It would seem that many people are going along today. Or their thinking and understanding may be governed by what they are hearing other people are saying. Satan knows how to sow disinformation and lies. What the world is saying is not what God’s Word is saying.

In the Book of James we read:

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.   (James 1:5-8)

God is generous in sharing his wisdom when we ask him, as he did for Solomon. But Satan not only sows disinformation and lies, he also sows doubt. Does God even exist? If so, does he even care? Three is a sea of doubt all around us. If we are not careful, it will toss us to and fro. All of us have doubt, but it comes unbelief when we do not feed on the word Of God, but on the propaganda of this age.

The Apostle Paul warned:

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.   (Ephesians 5:15-17)

How we live will be determined by our spiritual intake. What is our spiritual diet today? Are we feeding on the Word of God? How about the body and blood of Jesus? Are we feeding on him on a regular basis? In today’s Gospel we read:

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

This is not a time for disputing and doubting. We are living in a critical and difficult time. We need the full nourishment of God. Otherwise, we will surely be tossed about. God the Father wants so much to share his wisdom with us. Jesus wants us so much to feed on him. Let us acknowledge our need for God and let us return to him with all our hearts. Amen.

 

 

 

Track 2: An Invitation from God 

Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:9-14
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

God is calling us. Do we hear him? He says:

“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”   (Proverbs 9:5-6)

God is offering us a great feast. He is that great feast. We have nothing to do but come. Through the Prophet Isaiah God offered this invitation:

Ho, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.   (Isaiah 55:1)

Jesus was in Jerusalem with his disciples for the Festival of Booths. He gave out this invitation to all:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart[l] shall flow rivers of living water.’”    (John 7:37-38)

Are we ready for the great day of the Lord? Are we ready to eat the food that Jesus has prepared for us?

Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”   (John 6:53-58)

Clearly Jesus is talking about the Holy Communion or Eucharist. This meal is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet we will be experiencing with Christ as the redeemed of the Lord. We have eternal life through our faith in the Lord Jesus. That life, however, begins now.

God’s invitation for his heavenly banquet has already gone out. He has invited us to join him in Holy Communion which is preparation for the heavenly banquet. Jesus said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Whenever we partake of the Communion we are reminded of the unconditional love and mercy of Christ, and his great sacrifice for us on the cross. It is the love of Christ that constrains us from doing wrong. We need to be reminded often.

We remember the parable that Jesus told about the wedding banquet. Some of the people who were invited were just too busy or distracted to come. Is that us? God offers us an invitation but he cannot make us come. He is continually calling us. God does not give up on us. Jesus said that he would never leave us or forsake us.

Nonetheless, at the end of the Book of Revelation we have this final reminder of God’s invitation:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.   (Revelation 22:17)

Are we hungry for God? Our we thirsty for God? Our daily diet today will help determine what  our eternal celebration will be.

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Saint Mary the Virgin

Il_Sassoferrato_-_Madonna_with_the_Christ_Child_-_WGA20874Faith in God’s Promises

The prophets of old foretold the Messiah and His ministry, but who could grasp all that they were saying?

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Mary understood that God had made promises to Abraham and she believed that He would keep them. She lived through terrible circumstances but never gave up her hope and trust in the Lord. Her God was full of love and mercy. Her reverence and humility before God are without question.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”   (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary did not always fully grasp the ministry of her son, however. We cannot fault her for that. There was no one ever like Jesus, either before or since. As the prophet Simeon foretold, her heart would be pierced and she would gain a greater understanding.

“Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Luke 2:34-35)

Our hearts must be pierced also if we are to understand the ministry and message of Jesus. How closely we follow Jesus in our lives will telegraph what we truly believe. Will we go the distance with Him as did His mother Mary? Mary was at the cross when most of Jesus’ disciples fled. She could not turn away. Her love for God was so great. She walked in the steps of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his own son if that were required by God.

What is our witness today? Are we highly favored of God? We may not understand all that is going on. We may not fully grasp the miracle that God is working out. Nonetheless, we can still believe and trust in the promises of God as did Mary. Let us pray for grace to endure the pain while eagerly anticipating our Lord’s victory with patience and endurance? Mary did this and so much more. Her enduring faith and courage has inspired the Church down to this day.

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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 14B

Track 1: O My Son Absalom, My Son

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Psalm 130
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

We live in a time when many families are weakened, if not torn apart. Families are the basic unit that God has given us for support and encouragement. What has happened? The same thing that happened in the time of King David. David sinned against God. He failed to live by some of the basic commandments of God. And devastation followed.

David’s family was a mess. Absalom was estranged from his Father David for a period of time. We could go into the details of why this happened, but much of it stemmed from David’s adultery and murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba.

Even though there were attempts at reconciliation between Absalom and David, Absalom never felt fully reconciled with his father. He ultimately rebelled against his father. He raised an army and attempted to take over the kingdom from his father.

Today in Second Samuel we read of the tragic end of Absalom and of David’s profound grief at the loss of his son:

And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.

Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.”

The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”   (2 Samuel 18:15, 31-33)

Many families are in need of reconciliation today. The Apostle Paul wrote about reconciliation:

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

Notice that Paul said we must first be reconciled to God. Reconciliation begins with each one of us. We have all sinned. We see the terrible consequences of that sin. God wants to hear our heartfelt confession and repentance. The psalmist wrote:

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.   (Psalm 130:1-4)

There is forgiveness with God, but there must be true repentance. In today’s Epistle reading Paul gives us examples of what that might mean:

Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.   (Ephesians 4:25-27)

We must allow God to heal us of our hurts and now allow bitterness to take root in us. They it is much easier to be reconciled to others. Paul goes on the write:

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.   (Ephesians 4:29-5:2)

The commandments of God are designed to protect the family as well as ourselves. God will forgive us, but there will still be consequences for our sin. Obedience is our best path to avoid those consequences. When we do sin, a quick and heartfelt repentance is the best path to reconciliation for all concerned.

 

 

Track 2:  I Am the Living Bread

1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:1-8
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

The Prophet Elijah was running from Jezebel for fear of his life. He was on his way to Mount Horeb, the mount of God. He would not have made it, however without food and water. Were it not the intervention of an angel he would have died. From 1 Kings we read:

Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.   (1 Kings 19:4-8)

We need nourishment for our bodies, but our spirits also need nourishment. Without spiritual nourishment our faith may die. We can make false assumptions and go in wrong directions. Elijah was very much in need of a word from God. He was running but he was not listening. God was ready to speak to him at any moment no matter where he was physically. The same is true for us. Are we willing to slow down and listen?

We remember that the risen Lord Jesus was revealed to the travelers on the road to Emmaus. It was by both Word and Sacrament. Jesus taught to them from the scriptures, but he also shared his first Holy Communion with them after the resurrection. It is then when the travelers understood who he was.

Many churches have been remiss in not teaching what the Holy Communion is. It is a meal. The psalmist wrote:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are they who trust in him!   (Psalm 34:8)

Jesus wants us to taste him. From John’s Gospel:

Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”   John 6:51)

Jesus’ words at the Last Supper with his disciples were: “Do this in memory of me” (Greek: “τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν“, (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25). Anamnesis (transliterated from ἀνάμνησιν) means, in the Greek, much more than a remembrance. It means a re-presentation. Participation in the Holy Communion is an active and ongoing experience. The Communion is a feeding of the very life force of Jesus.

Are we going to observe Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, the way in which Jesus invited us to observe it? Why is the Church so divided over the meaning of the Holy Communion? It is because we split hairs over doctrine without going deeper into the words of Jesus? He has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

If we are to succeed in our mission we will need the nourishment of Christ. Elijah could not have gone on without the feeding provided by God. We have a living Lord who wants to continually share himself with us. He is the living Word made flesh. We meet him in the scriptures. His very life interprets them. He is also the living bread which came down from heaven. From John:

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; or my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”   (John 6:53-58)

Our very salvation is tied up in the Holy Communion. It is not just an occasional memorial service that reminds of what Jesus did. It is about what Jesus continues to provide for us that will never grow stale. He is risen. He is the living bread. Amen.

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