Monthly Archives: August 2015

14th Sunday After Pentecost, August 30, 2015

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Song of Solomon 2:8-13, Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10, James 1:17-27, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

When one falls in love the feeling is like spring. Winter is past, flowers appear, doves “coo,” fig trees begin to show signs of early fruit, and grape vines begin to blossom, emanating an intoxicating fragrance. Everything seems fresh and new. The world is seen from a different perspective, which is how Solomon felt when he was with his beloved.

James 1:17-27

James admonishes believers not to blame God for temptation in their lives. God only gives “good and perfect” gifts to believers, and does not vary from that principle. It is our desires that are responsible for luring us to disobedience. – He offers three metaphors as to how God’s Word helps us: 1) God’s Word is like a seed that grows into salvation; 2) It is like a mirror that clearly reflects our condition, and; 3) God’s Word is a law that provides freedom.

Finally, James stresses that a true response to God’s Word involves both outward activity and inward control. Ministry to orphans and widows was the outward activity. Separation from the world was evidence of inner control.

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Jesus is asked to weigh in on a conflicting matter brought about by his disciples’ failure to wash their hands before eating. For the Pharisees and scribe, it was a matter of ritual impurity.

Jesus’ response to the Jewish leaders was twofold: the leaders invalidated God’s laws in order to keep their human traditions; and sin is a matter of the heart, not the diet. In calling His disciples to heed the weightier matters of God’s law, Jesus affirmed God’s Old Testament revelation as the heritage of the church.

Back to Basics

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus quickly brings us back to priorities. The “law keepers” of his day were concerned about the rituals and appearances of holiness. Jesus cuts through all of that and gets to the heart of the matter – literally and figuratively.

God_is_LoveThe condition of our heart is what God is concerned with. What happens on the outside is a reflection of what’s taking place on the inside. When we both hear and act upon God’s word, our outward actions will reflect an internal holiness. Our focus is more productive when we get back to basics and turn our attention to the heart of the matter.

Prayer for Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost– Loving God, create in my heart a love for Your Name and Holiness, bringing good fruit out of my life; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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13th Sunday After Pentecost, August 23, 2015

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43, Psalm 84, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69

1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 1-11], 22-30, 41-43

All cost and pains are lost on stately structures unless God has been in the work, and if He fails to manifest His glory in them, they are after all but a ruinous heap. A temple without the ark and the glory are like a candlestick without a candle.

Solomon signified the beginning of a new phase in the proceedings by taking up another position, standing before the altar and spreading his hands towards the sky. The introduction to his prayer (22–26) begins by echoing Dt. 7:9, but he speaks of God’s covenant faithfulness specifically in relation to David. Taking up God’s promise that David’s dynasty would never end, he prays that this too would receive fulfillment. At the same time, he acknowledges that the promise is conditional on the conduct of David’s descendants.

Ephesians 6:10-20

Paul made sure believers recognized that as new people who have been granted new life in a new family with new relationships they still would endure spiritual warfare. The closing portion of Paul’s letter explained his account of the Christian’s conflict with evil forces.

keep-calm-and-wear-the-armor-of-godBelievers must adorn themselves with the armor of God in order to stand against the devil’s schemes. Five defensive weapons are identified: (1) the enabling nature of truth that resists lying and false doctrine; (2) the covering quality of righteousness that resists accusations of conscience and despondency; (3) the stabilizing quality of peace that resists slander and selfishness; (4) the protective ability of faith that resists prayerlessness and doubt; and (5) the encouraging nature of salvation that resists fear and disappointment.

Two offensive weapons are included in the armor of God: (1) the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and (2) prayer. It is fitting that this prayerful and meditative letter concludes with an exhortation to prayer and a request for prayer.

John 6:56-69

Jesus’ dwelling in believers’ means that he identifies himself with them. However, their dwelling in him means that they continue to depend on him. Jesus knew from the beginning which disciple would eventually betray Him. At this point many who had followed Jesus ceased to do so. When Jesus asked the Twelve if they too wished to depart, Peter responded for them all: “Lord, to whom shall we go? We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Home

After a long, trying day, there’s no better feeling of arriving home safely. Our home provides shelter. Security. A haven. A place where we can be fully ourselves, knowing we are fully accepted and loved. This must describe at least some of how Solomon felt when he saw the Ark of the Covenant – God’s very presence – finally resting in the home he had built. God was home.

Through the work of Jesus Christ, we are now that home for God. Our bodies – all that we have and all that we are – serve as the dwelling place of the Almighty. We eat his flesh and drink his blood. In the process, he cleanses and sanctifies us, making us fit to hold his holiness. Like Peter we echo the words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Prayer for Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Holy God, give grace that I may live in you and you in me so that I may show forth your power; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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12th Sunday After Pentecost, August 16, 2015

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14, Psalm 111, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Solomon requested true wisdom, not just intelligence. The Hebrew concept of wisdom always involves the ability to “distinguish between right and wrong.” God responded with three unconditional and one conditional promises. Solomon was guaranteed wisdom, wealth, and honor. He was promised long life “if you will walk in My ways.” We also are given unconditional promises. Yet, some blessings remain conditional on our obedience.

Ephesians 5:15-20

As we pursue holiness, we are to be alert, making the most of every opportunity, for we live in difficult days (5:14–17). Rather than indulging fleshly appetites, we should seek the spiritual refreshment available in the fellowship of the church (5:18–21).

John 6:51-58

Jesus Christ, the true Bread, is that to the soul which bread is to the body, nourishing and supporting spiritual life. Our bodies could live better without food than our souls without Christ. Those who have received this Bread are to be the distributors of it to other hungry souls.

Making A Life vs. Making A Living

We spend so much of our time and energy on making a living. There are bills to pay. Mouths to feed. Obligations to fulfill. In the midst of making a living, it’s easy to lose sight of making a life. Today’s readings remind us to put these priorities into proper order.

1-king_solomon1When God gave Solomon permission to ask of Him whatever he wanted, it must have been tempting to worry about keeping his job as king. It must have crossed his mind to think of famine or enemy armies that could plunder his kingdom, leaving him and his people without resources. But Solomon had already learned that these things alone do not make a life. He asked for resources that enabled him to build a life – a legacy – and not merely make a living. In the process, he accomplished both.

We can learn from Solomon. We can focus on spiritual disciplines that bring God’s wisdom to bear on our lives. Like Saint Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians, we can be careful in how we live, being wise and making the most of time. On our own, these things are impossible. But when we eat the Living Bread, receiving the strength of Christ’s body and blood, the Holy Spirit empowers us to love what is good and embrace real, lasting life.

Prayer for Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – Gracious God, through your Son, let my life reflect both your grace and your priorities, producing good fruit and an example of godly living; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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11th Sunday After Pentecost, August 9, 2015

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33, Psalm 130, Ephesians 4:25-5:2, John 6:35, 41-51

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah make it very difficult for him to correct his own sons. They know too much about him. Absalom, in battle becomes entangled in a tree. He was left helpless, but alive. Although David had told his men to “deal gently with Absalom”, Joab kills David’s son. David is overcome with grief.

David’s desire to spare the life of Absalom placed his military men in an impossible dilemma. How could they win the victory for David, and at the same time, deal gently with Absalom? Perhaps David had hoped Absalom could be taken alive and that reconciliation could be made between father and son.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

How does righteousness find expression in human relationships? 1) By putting off falsehood and speaking truthfully. This involves more than not lying. It involves an open sharing of our selves with one another, rejecting deceit. 2) By rejecting the sinful actions anger drives us toward. Anger that prevents reconciliation does not lead to unity. 3) By rejecting gossip and unwholesome talk. In our conversation we seek to build others up, not tear them down. 4) By ridding ourselves of bitterness, rage, slander, and every form of malice. In their place, we are to express kindness and compassion, forgiving each other as God has forgiven us.

John 6:35, 41-51bread-of-life-04

Knowing Jesus’ earthly family, the Jews were offended by his claims to be the “bread of life” (6:41–42). Jesus responded that only those granted faith by God could understand and respond to him, but those who did respond would find everlasting life (6:43–50).

Prophesying his sacrificial death, Jesus then declared that his very flesh was the bread of life (6:51) and that only by in some way “eating” his flesh and “drinking” his blood could anyone have everlasting life.

What’s the Word?

We’ve all waited anxiously for an expected phone call, a much-anticipated announcement. We know the power those words have to fill our hearts with hope or despair, with joy or with grief. A simple word can have enormous and lasting impact on our lives.

Today’s readings underscore the importance of the words we hear and the words we speak. David receives word of the death of his son and finds himself heartbroken. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul stresses the importance of speaking honestly, rejecting gossip, and ridding ourselves of bitterness, rage, slander, and malice. And Jesus instructs, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”

What are we hearing? Do the messages we hear and the conversations we engage in reflect God’s truth, goodness, and beauty? What are we speaking? Do the words from our mouth bring God’s blessing and peace?

Prayer for Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – Almighty God, through your Spirit, help me think, do, and say what is right, that I may proclaim, in word and deed, your goodness; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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