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Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 or Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34:9-14 or Psalm 111; John 6:51-58; Ephesians 5:15-20
We transition in the saga of David to his son Solomon. After David’s death, Solomon becomes king. We remember David’s failures, and Solomon, seeming to want to lead a different life, asks God for wisdom to discern good from evil. God is pleased with Solomon because of this—Solomon’s request is not selfish, but his request is so that he can judge between the people—so he can do the right thing. God is pleased because Solomon is not driven by greed or jealousy, but by the interest of doing what is best for all the people. While David is often revered throughout history, remembered for his love and devotion to God, Solomon perhaps should be elevated more in our minds, because he sought to do what was right for all the people, not just himself (although, as we will see, he will fall to the same failures as his father).
Proverbs 9:1-6 is Wisdom personified as a woman, inviting us to the table of wisdom where we are served bread and wine. Long before Jesus offered bread and wine as a meal of remembrance, Wisdom offers wine and bread as a meal of nourishment, a way of turning away from the foolishness of the world and walking in the ways of insight. We do not read these passages often in our lectionary, but both chapters 8 and 9 of Proverbs speak of Wisdom, an aspect of God, as a woman, as a partner with God in creation of both the world and human beings. There is a genre of Scriptures called Wisdom Literature—Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, etc.—the books of poetry and prose that contain insight for how we live our daily lives, inspired by this personification of Woman Wisdom. We have forgotten Wisdom in our Christian history, and it is right for us to reclaim this part of our faith.
Psalm 34:9-14 continues from last week’s psalm reading. This section of this song of praise reminds those that in seeking God, they will find their needs are met, and in seeking God they must live God’s ways. They must guard their mouths in what they say, and pursue the ways of peace. How we live with others is important to God, and models our closeness with God. When we live lives that respect and honor others and seek peace, we respect and honor God and trust in God’s ways.
Psalm 111 praises God for all of God’s wondrous works, including providing for those in need and being faithful to those who have waited for God. This song of praise is sung in the presence of the congregation—amidst the witnesses to God’s acts in their lives. We are reminded that we are called to witness to others the goodness of God in ways that bring healing and hope.
John 6:51-58 is the conclusion of Jesus’ teachings on the Bread of Heaven, overlapping from the previous week. Once again, there is a literal interpretation by the hearers of Jesus’ words that cause misunderstandings. Throughout John’s Gospel, beginning with Nicodemus in chapter 3 and the woman at the well in chapter 4, Jesus clearly uses metaphors to explain the reign of God and how we might participate in it as well as finding what we need in it, and time and again, the people take his words literally and misunderstand. Today we interpret this passage as the bread and wine of Communion, the meal of remembrance; however, in John’s Gospel, “the word became flesh” introduces us to the idea that God’s law, the Word, is embodied in Jesus; therefore, we are to fully embrace, envelope and model the life of Christ in our own life. We are to eat his flesh and drink his blood—in other words, take on the flesh and blood of Christ, to live the life of Christ to others in this world, laying down our lives for others and sharing God’s love with all who seek God. We must become the living Word, the Light of the World.
Ephesians 5:15-20 continues lessons in how we ought to live as followers of Christ. We live in this world, but we are not of this world. We are called to stay away from things that impair us, that cause us to become addicted, that numb the sense of the world and of God’s presence; and instead stay awake, alert, ready to share the Good News, so that we are not slaves to addiction or the world, but instead servants of Christ and filled with the Spirit.
We are reminded that God inspires and moves in us, but we need to stay close to God by living lives that model Christ’s example. When we lean too much into the world, we can forget the poor, be led astray by lust and greed, become addicted to drugs and alcohol, and become selfish and self-centered. When we lean into Christ, we are called to seek the well-being of others, to love our neighbors, to lift up the poor, to live in peace with others and be ready to share God’s love through the power of the Spirit.
We all go through periods of time when we feel distant from God. Sometimes it is because of things that happen to us, and sometimes it is our own doing. But when we actively seek God, we seek to draw away from the ways of the world and take on the life of Christ. We are reminded of God’s love in the love of others and that we are called to share that love in living as Christ did. We are called to fully embrace the life of Christ in our own lives, and to seek the wisdom of God, which has been present since the beginning and continues to call to us in the busy noise of the world.
Call to Worship (adapted from Proverbs 9:1-6):
Leader: Wisdom has set her table and sent out her messengers.
People: She calls to us to live into God’s ways.
Leader: Come in, all you who are foolish or think you are wise!
People: Come in, and find nourishment in the life of Christ.
Leader: Lay aside the ways of the world!
People: Come, walk in the ways of wisdom and insight, walk in the ways of Christ.
Leader: The Spirit of God guides us all into the pathways of peace.
People: Come, let us be reconciled, let us find healing, let us follow Jesus the Christ.
All: For Christ’s way is wisdom and truth.
Prayer of Confession:
Spirit of Wisdom and Insight, we confess our foolishness. We confess that we have followed the ways of the world and sought earthly success. We confess that we have desired riches and fame over meeting the needs of others. We confess that at times we have found emptiness in our lives, and we have filled that emptiness with things of the world. We have become addicted; we have ignored the needs of others; we have been selfish and self-centered. Forgive us, Spirit of Wisdom. Guide us back to our created intention, to care for the earth and for others, to be joy and delight to God. Guide us to live lives that are full of compassion and care and give You joy. In the name of Wisdom, of the Spirit, of Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
Happy are those who seek the way of Wisdom. Happy are those who turn away from the ways of the world and find life in Christ. Know that when you seek the wisdom of God, God guides you to right paths. You are forgiven, renewed and restored. Amen.
Almighty and Wise, God our Savior, we come seeking guidance from You in our lives. Guide us into lives that are meaningful and joyful, lives that seek to reach out to others and build up Your community on earth. Lead us away from the temptations of the world to numb the pain and ease the burdens of life, and instead seek You to ease our burdens and heal our pain. Call us into the pathways of peace, for the way of peace leads to You. In the name of Christ, who leads us all in the ways of peace, we pray. Amen.