Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Proper 15B (13 Pentecost 2018) Readings & Commentaries

The writer to the Ephesians also exhorts his hearers to wisdom, in this case, the ability to recognize good from evil.  The writer knows the context for encouraging this wisdom:  the worshipping community. 

1st Reading (Track 1):  1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
King David is dead, and he has chosen Solomon, his son with Bathsheba, to be his successor, although Solomon had to fight several of his elder brothers to keep it (the story is told in the remainder of chapter two).  Solomon, encountering God in a dream, asks for wisdom and receives it, although verse 14 adds a conditional “if,” which foreshadows things to come.

2:10 David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established. 3:3 Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 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. 7 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. 8 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. 9 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?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

Psalm 111 (Track 1)
Psalm 111 praises God for the faithful deeds he has done in bringing Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land and blessing them with a covenant.  The last verse makes this psalm an appropriate response to our first reading.

1     Hallelujah!
       I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, *
              in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.
2     Great are the deeds of the Lord! *
              they are studied by all who delight in them.
3     His work is full of majesty and splendor, *
              and his righteousness endures for ever.
4     He makes his marvelous works to be remembered; *
              the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
5     He gives food to those who fear him; *
              he is ever mindful of his covenant.
6     He has shown his people the power of his works *
              in giving them the lands of the nations.
7     The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice; *
              all his commandments are sure.
8     They stand fast for ever and ever, *
              because they are done in truth and equity.
9     He sent redemption to his people;
       he commanded his covenant for ever; *
              holy and awesome is his Name.
10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; *
              those who act accordingly have a good understanding;
              his praise endures for ever.

1st Reading (Track 2):  Proverbs 9:1-6
The figure of Lady Wisdom is important to the ancient Hebrew literature called “Wisdom.”  She is understanding and righteousness personified.  Here she invites all in need of wisdom (“the simple”) to a festal banquet, a metaphor for learning and following her ways.  In the history of Christian interpretation this text has been thought to foreshadow the Eucharist.  Indeed, it is the Old Testament reading on Maundy Thursday in the Eastern Church.

9:1 Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars. 2 She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town, 4 “You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense she says, 5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

Psalm 34:9-14 (Track 2)
Overall, Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving.  The “fear” of God is a much misunderstood concept in the Bible, particularly in the Hebrew Scriptures.  There are three elements to this rich term:  awe and reverence, the turning from evil, and the choice of obedience to the ways of God.  This passage very much echoes the words of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs.

9     Fear the Lord, you that are his saints *
              for those who fear him lack nothing.
10  The young lions lack and suffer hunger, *
              but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.
11  Come, children, and listen to me; *
              I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12  Who among you loves life *
              and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?
13  Keep your tongue from evil-speaking *
              and your lips from lying words.
14  Turn from evil and do good; *
              seek peace and pursue it.

2nd Reading:  Ephesians 5:15-20
The writer to the Ephesians also exhorts his hearers to wisdom, in this case, the ability to recognize good from evil.  The writer knows the context for encouraging this wisdom:  the worshipping community.  Note the paradox: “the days are evil” but give thanks at all times.  Such realism and hope are a necessary point/counter-point in the Christian life.

5:15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel Reading:  John 6:51-58
Jesus has caused grumbling with his talk about being bread that comes down from heaven.  Now he takes it a step further. This bread is his flesh. This causes an open dispute to break out.  The crowd thinks he is being ridiculous.  But he presses on, carrying the metaphor to its breaking point.  “The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

6:51 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.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 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. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 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.”

The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational and personal study use with this attribution.  For bulletin inserts using the above, go to our website.

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