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1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 and Psalm 111 OR Proverbs 9:1-6 and Psalm 34:9-14; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
COLLECTFor the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary time ....
Lord God, you offer us the Wisdom of your Word, the Wisdom of your Spirit in every Eucharist. You call us to feast regularly and often at the table of Wisdom in the house of the seven pillars, the house of completion, your Body, the Church. We who are simple have great need of your Wisdom because our own is so incomplete, so imperfect. When we hear the call to dine at your table, to eat the bread of heaven, help us to come and join you. Even further, Lord, help us to have a holy hospitality that invites others to join us to feast and grow in insight on the Living Bread. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14
Solomon, on the death of his father, comes into the kingdom. In his dream vision, in which he converses with God, Solomon demonstrates a certain wisdom and definitely a fine measure of humility before God. When God says to ask for what God should give him, Solomon shows forth his own native intelligence and wisdom. What he seems to be asking from God is for the 'gift' of wisdom - for God's own wisdom. Solomon seems to be saying to God that his own wisdom is as nothing before the immense responsibilities of governing God's people.
Because Solomon asks for a gift that appears to be so unselfish, so meritorious, he is granted other gifts as well. The example here of Solomon is one that I would like to emulate. 'Give me the gifts that will build up and benefit your Body, Lord. Not so that I may have other gifts, though that would be nice, but so that I can be faithful in serving you. Amen.'
The oft-quoted line: 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom....' comes from verse 10 of this psalm of praise. The beginning of wisdom - to recognize the 'other-ness', the awesome majesty, the transendence of God, to begin to grasp the significance of this God who is concerned with me, with us. I cannot fear anything I can control. This God is bigger than my imagination, more than my posturings. I begin to have wisdom when I begin to picture the immensity of God, to conceive of the 'more than' of the Creator. I begin to have wisdom when I can understand that there is more to wisdom than meets my intellectual eye.
Wisdom is personified in this section of Proverbs, perhaps to highlight the great gift that is wisdom. In the first few words we see a reference to the seven pillars of wisdom. My understanding of the number seven, apart from any historical or architectural reasoning, is that seven is the number of perfection and completion. That works for me in this scripture. 'Wisdom has hewn her seven pillars...' or polished her perfection. But what is even more intriguing in this section of Proverbs is the invitation by Wisdom to her feast.
'Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine....' are words reminiscent for me of the words before the Eucharist in the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican communion), the so-called 'comfortable words' of 'Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden and I will refresh you.' 'Come...' says Wisdom. And, later, in the Gospel of John, Jesus also invites by saying, 'I am the living bread... whoever eats this bread....'
I have to ask, 'what is this wisdom offered to me?' Who is it for? What is it for? What will it mean to 'walk in the way of insight?'
'Taste and see' remains the refrain this week (at least in the Catholic lection). It's almost a bit like that old gospel hymn, 'Come and Dine.' The invitation is there but also there is the decided hint that the experience will change you. Once you have sat at table and eaten, you cannot go back to a state of ignorance. You will be forever profoundly changed.
The echo in this psalm with that of Psalm 111 in the other choice for this Sunday, is that of 'the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom.' Those who have begun to have a sense of awe, of who and what God is, will suffer no want or lack of any good thing. What does that mean? What are the good things? Hmmmm.
Good words, these words of Ephesians. 'Be careful how you live...' Again wisdom is called for: 'not as unwise people but as wise.' 'Do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.' 'Do not get drunk with wine... but be filled with the Spirit.' How do we do this? How do we live wisely, understanding (ascertaining) the will of the Lord, being filled with the Spirit? We can only do this - as the scripture suggests - in the company of others, by praise and prayer and hearing the Word in our common meetings and, yes, by sharing the common meal.
Unless you come to the table, unless you bring yourself to me to partake of my flesh and blood, you will not have life in you. Tough words these. Hard words to understand. The promise of 'abiding' is made in these words in John's Gospel: 'Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.' I cannot even begin to express the unspeakable joy that is mine whenever I partake of the eucharist. I am warmed in all of my being and awed by this abiding presence. It is the Eucharistic meal, the Presence of Jesus in the bread and the wine, that continues to call out to the world, to turn aside, to seek wisdom and the fear of the Lord, to 'seek peace and pursue it.'
I do not pretend that I understand this mystery any better than the rest of you. I cannot. I only know that my Lord tells me to 'come' and I do.
Ordinary ThoughtsIs there really such a thing as ordinary time? Ordinary, in the Lection, refers to the 'order of things.' So this time we are in is the 'order of things' for this season of the year. I have come to appreciate deeply the 'order' brought by the cycles of the church year. There is the cycle of the Life of Christ: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. There is the cycle of Feast Days included in the Life of Christ such as the Transfiguration, Corpus Christi (Body & Blood of Christ), Ascension, Trinity, Christ the King. Then there is the Sanctoral Cycle of the feasts of the saints including that of All Saints and All Souls.
There is a rhythm brought by the cycles of the church year, a rhythm that ebbs and flows. For a woman nurtured at the edge of the great Atlantic Ocean and its tides, the rhythm of the church year is more than a soothing familiarity. It is what the rest of life is hung upon, much like the decorations of the Christmas tree. All the other rhythms of my life intertwine inescapably with the cycles of Christendom. The seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter take on an extra meaning when viewed through the lenses of my faith. 'Come before winter...' urges Paul of Timothy. A few short words, poignant and pregnant with meaning.
I suspect that how I hear, read and breathe in the word of God is shaped by my perceptions of rhythm and cycle, seasons and feasts. I bless the Lord for the gifts of the seasons.
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