Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Proper 15, Year B
August 15, 2021
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
King David is dead. His son, Solomon, sits on the throne at a very young age – 7 or 8 years old. Solomon’s kingdom is firmly established. We are told that Solomon followed the faith of his father David and loved the Lord. He is especially known for his ardent commitment to and passion for making sacrifices and burnt offerings at the altar. God comes to Solomon and offers him a gift; basically anything that he asks for, God is ready to grant. For such a young lad, Solomon has a mature understanding that he is only a child who has been given an overwhelming responsibility – numerous people over which to govern. To do this task successfully, Solomon knows that he needs an understanding mind that is able to discern between good and evil. He could have asked for power, he could have asked for wealth, he could have asked for a long life, he could have asked for unlimited human help. Solomon possesses a special humility that understands that God’s people are great enough that only a special person can truly govern them. He wants the kind of wisdom that would make him that sort of special person. God grants his request and additionally even gives him the things he did not ask for – riches, honor, a long life.
How might you respond if God offered you the same gift that He offers Solomon? We might be tempted to ask for material things, or even special spiritual privileges. Would we have the humility to ask for things in accordance with God’s will?
In a sense, Psalm 111 is about wisdom. Toward the end of the Psalm, we hear that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (v 10). What is meant by the fear of the Lord? Having a proper fear of the Lord is having a good understanding of who God is relative to who we are. God is the Creator. We are the created. The Lord is the one to whom we give thanks. He is the worker of all the wonders we see around us…of all the provisions we are given. He is gracious, full of compassion, mindful of his covenant – the Source of all the things of which we are not the source.
So what is Wisdom? Is it not the recognition of who God is and who we are not?
In a week when we are focusing on wisdom, Paul, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, counsels on how to live wisely. He exhorts his listeners to choose wisdom because the days are evil. Living in such evil days makes one vulnerable to foolish choices, so great care should be made in order to choose according to the will of the Lord. To live wisely, one should allow one’s self to be filled with the Spirit (and not with the wine of the world), to be filled with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Offering such beauty to the Lord and giving thanks predisposes one to a life of wisdom.
What governs the choices that you make? What guides your life? Are you ready to offer beauty to the Lord, or do you let the temptations of the world seduce you into wrong choices?
I mentioned in a pastoral letter last week that Jesus is “living hope,” which is the kind of hope we want in a death-dealing world. In the Gospel lesson this week, Jesus proclaims himself as “living bread.” He is the kind of life-giving food that stands in opposition to the nutritional and spiritual death our world wields us. Jesus commands us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. This is a visceral image that grabs us and brings us up short. To eat and drink Jesus is to consume “living bread,” “living hope,” not death. “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 break will live forever.” These visceral images, then, proclaim eternal life. The living bread that Jesus is does not sustain temporarily, but permanently. When we take Jesus into us by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, we enter the state of Jesus abiding in us and we in Him…forever.
In Jesus’s day, food was hard to get, and often there wasn’t much of it. In our day, our relationship with food is different. Our relationship is built on abundance, not scarcity. We come by food easily and it exists in abundance. In fact, we have a myriad of options, both physically and spiritually. What sustains us? What are our best food choices? Even as we try to choose wisely what we put in our bodies so as to nourish us, we should discern wisely what we put in our souls to nourish that part of us. We should pay attention to prayer and study, to frequent attendance at the Eucharist, to devotion to various acts of service. Jesus is the living bread that sustains us in the face of death. What are you choosing.
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.