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Pentecost 12 Proper 15B RCL August 16, 2015

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
Psalm 111
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-55

In our opening reading, King David has died, and his son, Solomon, is the new king. At this point in his life, Solomon is a young man. Scholars tell us he is about twenty. In this passage, Solomon has a dream of an encounter with God. He shows humility, admitting that he does not yet know how to perform the duties of a king, and he asks for the gift of wisdom. In the passage immediately following this one, Solomon does show wisdom when two women come to him claiming to be the mother of the same baby. When Solomon offers to decide the case by cutting the child in half and giving each of them a portion, the real mother, putting the baby’s welfare first, tells him that there is no way that she is going to let him do that, and he should simply give the baby to the other woman. Of course, Solomon gives the baby to her.

We know that Solomon built the great temple in Jerusalem. He also built himself a palace, and, toward the end of his life, he built shrines to the various gods of the many foreign ladies he married. All of this construction required workers, and he forced his subjects to do this labor. He also taxed the people heavily in order to afford all these projects plus the luxurious lifestyle of his large court. In short, he did not show  proper respect and concern for the people. He also failed to respect the traditions of Israel. Soon after he died, the country split in two.

It was a good thing to ask God for the gift of wisdom, but Solomon did not follow through on the gift. In the beginning of this lesson, we read that Solomon loved the Lord, yet he worshipped at the high places and had gone to Gibeon to sacrifice to another deity. We have the beginning of a theme here, the conflict between wisdom and foolishness.

Ephesus was a port city, full of all kinds of temples to various gods and goddesses, full of many temptations and worldly distractions. By the time Paul was writing this letter, most followers of Jesus were expecting the Lord to return very soon. They felt that their time was limited. He might come any day. So Paul is calling them and us to make the most of the time we have. The Greek word used here for time is kairos. Kairos is kingdom time, the quality of time that we experience when we are living in the new life, as opposed to chronos, or clock time.

Paul calls us not to be foolish, but to seek the will of the Lord. That is what it means to be in Christ. We ask our Lord what he wants us to be doing. We don’t simply do what we want to do. We let him guide our actions and our thoughts.

We are called not to get drunk on wine. Then as now, people used to get drunk because they thought it let them have a quick way to have an ecstatic experience of God. Obviously, getting drunk is not an experience of God. Paul calls us to allow ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That happens from giving every moment of our lives to God, and asking God to lead us and guide us in our choices so that we are living in the Spirit and filled with the Spirit.

We are called to praise God, to sing psalms and hymns to God. When we sing praise to God, especially when we sing and pray together, something happens within us. Praising God allows us to open ourselves to God’s love and grace.

We are called to “thank God at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is a tall order sometimes. Do we thank God that Elizabeth is going to have to have more surgery and chemo and radiation therapy? I find it impossible to do that, but we can thank God for the love and faith of her family and for the skill of her medical team, who are doing everything possible. We can thank God for the gifts of faith and hope, and we can pray for and with everyone who is praying for Elizabeth.

“Be careful then how you live,” Paul writes. Thank God that we know that there is another set of standards that go beyond the values of this world, and that we are trying, with God’s help, to live by those standards and to become new in Christ.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is actually asking us to eat his flesh and to drink his blood. In the early days of the Christian community, some people thought that we Christians were cannibals. As we study this reading, we think of Eucharist. “This is my Body,” our Lord says, “This is my blood.” Jesus is with us. He is the host at this Thanksgiving Dinner. Remember, Eucharist means “thanksgiving.”

No, we are not cannibals, but our Lord is giving us Himself in a way that goes beyond our understanding. Centuries after he walked the earth with healing and love, he is able to be more present at every point on this planet and throughout the universe because he has risen.

Every time we gather, he is here, and he feeds us with food and drink that transforms us into his likeness and welcomes us into a new way of living, a way that is very different from the values of this world. We are not just spectators at this feast. We are participants. We are joined with him in something that can transform us and transform the world.

Once again, the religious authorities are caught in the literal, the earth-bound. Jesus is inviting us into the heavenly realms that transcend those earthly prisons, and thanks be to our Lord we are able to follow him. At the center of our life in Christ is the cross. Living in wisdom and love requires sacrifice and discipline.

When he was young, Solomon asked for wisdom, but he did not have the spiritual stamina to sustain that gift. Paul calls the Ephesians and us to use every day and every moment to choose the way of compassion, maintain the spiritual focus to follow our Lord. Jesus comes to us, having suffered every horror, even the horror Elizabeth and Keith and Sara and Chris and Jack and Teddy are now enduring, and he gives us the food of himself so that we can walk into a new dimension of life and eternal life with him. Amen.

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