Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Proper 16, Year B
August 22, 2021
1 Kings 8: (1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43
You will recall earlier that King David made a rash promise that he would not sleep until he had built a proper dwelling place for the Ark of the Lord. Instead, God decreed that it would be David’s son, Solomon who would build such a temple. Solomon has now completed the construction of such a place and this scene depicts its blessing as a house of worship. The scene is dramatic! Thick smoke, so pervasive that the priests cannot see to do their duties, speaks to the might of God’s power and presence. As Solomon participates in the blessing of the dwelling place of God,
- Solomon wants to keep the covenant that God made with his father.
- Solomon wants to remain mindful of the promise God made that there would be an eternal heir to the throne of David.
- Solomon wants to remain mindful that in this covenant with God, humans have a part to play and that part is to keep God’s ways.
- Solomon wants to keep before his understanding that God is so great that not even the house that he has built can contain God.
- Solomon puts forth to God a plea that all prayers made in this place will be heard, even those offered by foreigners.
Do we recognize that God is so great that He does not contain Himself simply to the confines of the wonderful buildings we have constructed for Him? Are our houses of worship places of prayer for all people, even those who are different from us? Do we recognize our place and part in the covenant God offers us?
In the previous lesson, we get a glimpse of the blessing of the dwelling place of God which Solomon has constructed. Psalm 84 is a tribute to how delightful we find such dwelling places. Even though we know that God dwells everywhere, the places we construct for worship have special import for us. Our entire beings rejoice under those roofs! During the pandemic, when those buildings were closed to us, we felt a sort of alienation. We can understand, based on how we felt when we were finally able to return, the safety that a swallow might feel at finding shelter from a storm. Truly, Lord God, to dwell with you for any length of time is a gift that is greater than any description we could give it.
Remember to say a prayer of gratitude each day for all the places that God dwells – in our church buildings, in the world itself, and in our very hearts!
Paul is reminding the Church at Ephesus that the source of their strength is God. He is further reminding them that their true enemies are not other humans. Their adversaries are not people who think and believe differently from them. People who have different politics or preferences. Instead, their true enemies are spiritual powers of darkness that they can’t necessarily even see. These powers make and create divisions and hostilities, and Christians must arm themselves with equally viable spiritual protection in order to withstand the assaults. These protections are gifts from God – truth, righteousness, motivation to proclaim the Good News, faith, salvation, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Armored with these gifts and constantly at prayer, the person of God is constantly protected against all which assaults them.
Every morning you might practice this discipline – imagine yourself dressing yourself – completely clothing yourself with all these gifts that God is providing. Imagine yourself facing the world completely ready to deal with anything that the world might throw your way.
For the past several weeks in our Gospel lessons, we have been studying Eucharistic theology as presented by our Lord himself. The lessons have been mostly about bread – that fundamental food product that sustains, nourishes and strengthens. The lessons are difficult. We are given graphic images of eating flesh and drinking blood as a way to eternal life; and the idea is unsettling. How can such simple, fundamental things as bread and wine become the Lord Himself? How can they become the means to the Real Presence of Christ? Many who are attempting to follow Jesus acknowledge the difficulty, if not impossibility, of accepting these teachings: “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus is steadfast, acknowledging that the acceptance must come spiritually if it is to come at all. Some turn away because they find this acceptance so difficult. But Simon Peter, even though he does not completely understand, does grasp that there really is no other way to go except to follow Jesus. “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Even though he does not understand, he follows his heart, which tells him to follow Jesus.
Even though I do not understand all the tenets of good nutrition, I don’t need to understand them in order to eat good food that sustains, nourishes and strengthens me. Likewise, when we are invited to approach the altar each Sunday to receive the body and blood of Christ, we are not required to understand completely how such receiving makes for the true presence of Christ. To whom shall we go? There is no other way to go except to eat the body of Christ and to drink his blood. During the pandemic, we have been challenged in this regard; but churches are now finding a way forward. To whom will YOU go?
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.