Worship Resources for August 15th, 2021—Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34:9-14; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Sacraments—Baptism, Psalm 84 and Romans 6:1-11, or Series on Revelation, 5:1-13 (John 1:29-31)

This is one of those occasions with the whole of the Revised Common Lectionary—both selections from the Hebrew scriptures in this season after Pentecost—follow the same them: seeking Wisdom.

Solomon, who became king after his father David’s long reign and death, asks God for wisdom in 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14. The writer makes it clear that Solomon was not perfect—he still held to some of the local worship practices of offering incense at “high places”—other altars—but Solomon turned to God, to draw close to God. Instead of wealth or power, he asked God for the ability to discern what was right. God was pleased with Solomon’s request, and granted him power and wealth because God knew Solomon would do what was right. As the saying from Spiderman goes, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and Solomon looked first to the weighty responsibility of being king before looking to all the benefits. He understood what his father David had lost, the violence that had torn his family apart, and sought to live and rule differently.

Psalm 111 is a song of praise to God for all of God’s wonderful works. God is always remembering the covenant made with the people, and God provides for the people’s daily needs. God is just and merciful. God’s work is righteous, and God lives out the covenant with the people. This psalm concludes with a saying found throughout wisdom literature in the Bible: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Fear, in this sense, is the awe-inspired trembling of knowing God. Those who are in awe of God will not go astray from God’s ways.

The second selection from the Hebrew scriptures is of Woman Wisdom in Proverbs 9:1-6. The number seven was considered a lucky, fortunate, complete number, and Wisdom’s house is built on seven pillars—a strong foundation. Personified as a woman, God’s Wisdom has set the table for the wise to seek her, a table that will nourish. She calls out to the people to abandon the foolish ways of living in this world, and to truly live in the way of understanding, to know God.

Continuing in Psalm 34 from last week, the second psalm selection this week focuses on verses 9-14. This portion leans heavily into seeking Wisdom, the fear/awe of God, and that those who do will lack nothing. Living into God’s ways—turning away from evil, and pursuing peace—this is the way of life, the way of Wisdom.

The Epistle reading continues in Ephesians with 5:15-20. The writer calls upon the people to make “the most of the time.” Live into God’s ways, instead of the ways of the world that are full of fleeing pleasures. Seek to be filled with the Spirit, and turn to God in praise and joy, rather than the “spirits” of this world. Turn your life into a way of thanksgiving to God, for this is making the most of our days.

The Gospel lesson on Jesus as the Bread of Life continues in John 6, repeating verse 51 from last week’s selection, and continuing through verse 58, on the theme of Jesus as the Bread of Life. The religious leaders and crowds who have gathered do not understand what Jesus is saying, taking him literally about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. In the line of Wisdom literature, to eat and drink of Christ is to rely on Christ for one’s daily life, to understand that one’s daily needs are met when living into God’s ways. The way of Christ will lead to eternal life, new life that begins now and that death has no hold over.

The Narrative Lectionary has two series choices for the remainder of the summer—a series on Sacraments, and a series on Revelation. I am using the same resources I did four years ago, from August 20th, 2017 in the archives:

The Narrative Lectionary continues with two selections for the last month of the summer: Sacraments and Revelation. Psalm 84 declares how wonderful the home of God is, and how the psalmist longs to dwell there. Even one day would be better than a thousand elsewhere. Happy are those who find their home with God.

When we are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into Christ’s death, as Paul declares in Romans 6:1-11. And so, we are also raised with Christ. Our old self is crucified with Christ, put to death, so that sin and death no longer have a hold on us. Jesus died to sin once for all, and now he lives for God, as do we.

In John’s Revelation, during his heavenly vision in 5:1-13 there is a scroll with seven seals. Only the Lamb is worthy to open the seals, the Lamb that was slaughtered. The Lamb has received power and wealth and wisdom and might, honor and glory and blessing, and every creature sings blessings to the Lamb, even the creatures in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

John the Baptist declares in John 1:29-31, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He declares this as Jesus is coming, and some of John’s disciples turn and follow Jesus. John proclaimed who Jesus was to the world, that he might be revealed to all.

The Wisdom of God is found in right living. In the fear, or awe, of God, we know how wondrous and awe-inspiring God is, to the point that we tremble with the love God has for us. Because of this, the faithful turn their whole lives to God, a life that begins now and that death cannot stop because love is greater than death. We seek God with our whole being, and we know that the pleasures of this world are fleeting. The gains of this world mean nothing and come with the cost of systemic sin. In seeking the Wisdom of God, we actively resist sin in this world. We actively oppose all forms of oppression and work to dismantle it, when we put our hearts and minds into following Jesus, into seeking Wisdom.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 111:1-3)
Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord,
With our whole hearts,
In the company of the congregation.
Great are the works of our God,
Studied by all who delight in God’s ways.
God’s work is full of honor and majesty,
God’s righteousness endures forever.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Eternal and Wise, Holy One, we confess before You that we have failed to live into Your Wisdom. We have failed to be in awe of You; instead, we have taken Your works for granted. We have sought the ways of this world that lead to our immediate, short-term satisfaction and worldly gain. We have neglected those in need around us. Instead of seeking our daily bread, we have sought our daily pleasures, confusing wants for needs, the short-term gain instead of the eternal reward in You. Forgive us. Call us away from the streets of foolishness to Your house of Wisdom, built upon the pillars of justice, righteousness, and mercy. Guide us to Your steps upon the firm foundation of trust in You. In the name of Christ, in the name of Wisdom, our Wise Eternal Creator, we pray all things. Amen.

May Wisdom lead us back to God. May we turn with trembling hearts, quiet minds, and open hands. May we know the love and grace of Jesus Christ and be filled with overflowing compassion. May we know the forgiveness, love, and assurance that Christ has given us, and share it with the world. In wisdom, may we live all our days, trusting in God’s word, and the assurance that new life has already begun. We are forgiven, loved, and restored. Go and share the good news. Amen.

Hear our prayer, O Wisdom from on high. Draw us into Your Spirit. Pull us away from the gains of the world, the foolishness that deflects and deters us. Call us into Your ways of knowledge. May we study Your scriptures. May we listen for Your voice at work in creation still. May we perceive how You are making all things new. May we tremble in awe and wonder at the works of Your hands, and how You are still creating, even in our hearts. You are making a new thing that is springing forth. Help us to be open to the newness You breath in us. Holy Wisdom, lead us in the way of insight. Amen.

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