sacraments

Weekly Evangelectionary for August 16, 2015

Texts:              I Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 34:9-14; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

Theme:            Wisdom is seen in people who follow Jesus with all they are, holding the physical and spiritual in unity.

Message:

A charge leveled against some followers of Jesus Christ is: “They are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” Sometimes “so-called” spiritual people seem untouched by the physical challenges and joys of life, and out of touch with how life really is. These passages invite us to a spirituality grounded in the earthiness of being flesh and blood people, to a spirituality lived in a community of flesh and blood people. No separation of the earthiness of human life and the spirituality of human life is present in these passages. This is an important message for our world to hear, because our world splits the two from each other so easily. The Christian community is called to affirm human beings have been created both/and spiritual beings and earthy beings, it is not a case of either/or or one being dominant over the others.

Two further comments before looking at the passage individually: 1. What the preacher has done the last three Sundays with the texts from John 6 will impact what gets done this week; 2. This week’s text from John literally screams for a celebration of the Eucharist/Communion/Lord’s Supper.

The passage from Kings begins – “The king is dead, Long live the king.” As Solomon takes up the role of king he is given the opportunity to ask for one thing from God – Solomon asks for the discernment, the wisdom, to govern the people of God. Only wisdom from God will enable Solomon to deal with the very earthy challenges of the people. And the wisdom he has received from God will only be recognized as wise when it connects with the lived reality of flesh and blood people. Being wise in the ways of God does not remove us the earthiness of life, rather wisdom from God helps us live the earthiness of life with greater depth.

The Ephesian church was invited to be wise. They had no need of artificial stimulants when they could be filled with the Spirit. This earthy life was most fulfilling, most exciting when lived in the Spirit. The Spirit does not remove the believer from this life rather the Spirit grounds the believer in the life of the community. And there is no faster way to discover the earthiness of human life than being in community, being with and beside other flesh and blood humans. And there is no better place to learn just how important the wisdom of God is then when living in community with other human beings. The community is seen most profoundly in its worship – for worship is not an escape from earthiness to spirituality, rather it is a blending of the two in celebration of the One who is God made flesh. Singing, lifting hands, tapping toes, and dancing, all giving thanks to God reminds us there is no split between the spiritual and the earthy.

The promise of eternal life, and it is hard to think of anything that has become more spiritualized in popular thought than the concept of eternal life, is fulfilled in those who eat the flesh and drink the cup, and there are few things more earthy than eating. So how does one eat the flesh and drink the cup? If our answer becomes too spiritualized – we will have missed the shock of the passage. Eternal life is lived in the earthiness of now. And the earthiness of this life is to be found in eternal life. To eat and drink is at a minimum to feed on Jesus not just in our spiritual lives, but is to find nourishment in him for every part of our lives. Jesus gives life to all of us, physical and spiritual. The sacrament helps here – for the bread and the cup are both real food in this world and real food in the spiritual world. Our feeding on Jesus is to be as mystically powerful (spiritual) as our experience of Communion sometimes is; and as tangible (physical) as eating and drinking are.

One final thought: being open to receiving divine wisdom requires humility. Solomon had to admit he was not capable by himself of governing the people, he needed help. The Ephesians are invited to understand “the will of the Lord” and follow it. Doing that is to be wise, but it requires following the lead of anther, trusting another to be in charge – a call to humility. To receive the eternal life present in the bread of life, Jesus’ followers need to give up the desire to be self-sustaining, having the humility to take the bread of life Jesus offers.

Hymns

    •             I am the bread of life (Toolan)
    •             Come my soul, thy suit prepare
    •             When in our music God is glorified
    •             Christ the Lord to us said (South African)
    •             Whoever eats this bread will live forever

Quotations

            They can leave drunkenness to the dissolute, for they will have all the stimulus they need in the heightening of faculties and feelings which comes from the inspiration of the Spirit, and this they may experience to the full in the corporate worship of God.   – G.B. Caird

Jesus was eminently wise when he instituted the sacraments for his disciples. He knew that we need not only spiritual things but also physical things in order to “grasp” him more easily, to “come” to him more specifically. Look at Jesus’ Incarnation itself. Trust in Jesus is the only way of salvation, and Jesus is not complicating that trust by now making trust more difficult or liturgical or inaccessible. On the contrary, he is giving himself to us in this fresh new way in order to humanize and personalize his giving himself to us and to particularize our coming to him.     — Frederick Dale Bruner

Prayers

Help us be mindful, O God, of the shortness of the time we have upon this earth and to so live in your presence that we might be found righteous before you.  Grace our hands with kindness, our hearts with compassion, our minds with goodness, and our wills with a holy resolve.  Make us

instruments of your salvation and channels of your peace….

–          Richard J. Fairchild of St. Andrew’s United Church in Golden, British Columbia.

We pray, O God, for others around us – that your wisdom may touch them – and that they too may eat of the bread that satisfies and drink the drink which truly quenches the thirst.  We pray for the awakening of those whose days pass in self-serving preoccupations,, for those who are frustrated by their own frantic business and know not why they are unhappy, we remember

before you those whom we know who are lost, and those who are lonely…..

–          Richard J. Fairchild of St. Andrew’s United Church in Golden, British Columbia.

Eternal God, we have praised you in melody and song, giving thanks for all that you have given to us – far more than the riches and honour and understanding that Solomon received. For you gave us the gift of Jesus, your Son, our Lord. Accept and bless these gifts and our lives as we offer them as our grateful response. May our whole lives be devoted to giving thanks to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

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