First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

Reflections on Readings for Sunday, August 16 2015

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Sunday, August 16, 2015
Hi everyone,

Here are my first thoughts for this coming Sunday.

Readings: August 16:  1 Kings 2: 10-12; 3: 3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5: 15-20; John 6: 51-58

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Although our readings for this Sunday touch on several themes there certainly seems to be a central motif; putting God first in our lives. As we will see when we read through the texts this can be done through praise, gratitude , obedience and ultimately in John’s both strange and powerful language  by ingesting Him( Jesus the Bread of life).

The theme of wisdom and the importance of  wisdom also permeates our readings because wisdom is what we receive from putting God first. We will hear in our readings that this wisdom is often manifested by choosing good over against evil. Our Old Testament reading  is a story of the new King Solomon choosing wisely to seek God first, our Psalm proclaims that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and our reading from Ephesians contrasts wise decisions from foolish ones. In our Gospel reading Jesus once again proclaims himself to be living bread that we need to eat. Jesus is spoken of as Wisdom and so consuming the living bread is an intimate image of seeking Wisdom.

Our Old Testament  reading feels like a breath of fresh air following from the harrowing stories of violence , greed, malice and moral failings which have heard in the accounts of King David these past few weeks.  Before David dies he instructs Solomon to walk always before God by following God’s instruction. In our reading it appears that Solomon begins his reign precisely in this manner.  He is found praying and offering sacrifices to the Lord and the Lord meets him in a dream and asks (commands) Solomon , “ what shall I give you?” Solomon realizes that he not up to the task on his own strength, thus referring to himself as a child and acknowledging that God has gifted the kingship to him. Then Solomon asks for wisdom or an understanding mind so that he can discern between good and evil.  Solomon does not ask for wealth and a long life. God likes and honors this prayer and commands Solomon to continue in this way before Him. I think the  story is portraying the model for not only Solomon but also for all of God’s people. We are to walk in God’s way and to pray for wisdom to dwell within us seeking to put God first and discerning good from evil.

We know Solomon does not live up to this good beginning and in fact there are hints of this in our reading itself. But for the most part, reading the portion of the story we will  read on Sunday leads us to want to follow Solomon’s example of putting God first. It is a very optimistic and inspiring reading. If only all the world  leaders would aspire to Solomon’s
desire to serve others.

The psalmist follows the example of Solomon as the psalm is a call to praise. It is a call to give public thanks to God with our whole being for God’s grace and mercy. This act of praise involves obedience to God’s instructions. As Clinton McCann comments,” ( The New interpreters Bible Vol. 4 pg 1134 ) The posture toward God – praise , gratitude and obedience is captured by the phrase (fear of the Lord).” This fear in turn is the beginning of wisdom. Fear here is therefore  much richer in meaning than what we normally think of when we think of fear.  A good sermon might explore
in more detail what it means to fear the Lord.

Our epistle reading continues with council on how to live as the body of Christ, as a Christian community. It uses a very direct appeal to be wise.  This entails being filled with the Spirit and understanding the will of God.  Again this is a call to walk in God’s ways. Wisdom in this text seems to involve avoiding evil by allowing oneself to be filled with the Spirit and
by directing our attention to God’s will. We are advised that a great way to keep this focus is to be always giving thanks to God and to use music as a primary channel of this praise.

The same day as I read this passage someone in the parish sent me a presentation which a physician gave on the CBC about religion and health.  The report acknowledged some conflicting results in the research and offered several warnings in interpreting the findings, but nevertheless the basic thrust of the doctors comments was that a religious life and a prayerful approach made a significant positive contribution to one’s health and ability to endure illness and treatments. One of the reasons given for this was that people of faith often drink and smoke less, have a supportive social network and a more positive and hopeful attitude.  I thought it was ironic that I read this report the same day as I read St. Paul telling the Ephesians not to get drunk with wine and to always have a positive stance of praise. And of course we have been reading in Ephesians about the importance of life together as a church filled with love and tenderheartedness.  I really am  convinced of the tremendous value in being thankful and in singing.

On one level the imagery of Jesus as living bread which we are to eat to have eternal life is obvious especially for people who love to eat hot fresh homemade bread. It is delicious and it is hardy. It fills us up and sustains us to go on and Jesus love is beautiful and fills our hunger.  But once you go deeper into the meaning of the imagery it can become very difficult to understand and explain. And we ask the same question the people asked Jesus, “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  Indeed how?  To keep with the theme that I see in all of our readings for Sunday, putting God first,  I
like William Willimon’s  observation,” We are thus encouraged not simply to follow Jesus, which is difficult enough in itself, nor simply to be with Jesus but we are to consume him.” (Feasting on the Word Year B, Vol 3 pg. 359)  Our Gospel to me points us to the Eucharist. So when we receive Holy Communion we could say that we are perhaps as filled by wisdom and life as we can be.  Could this be for us truly fearing the Lord and an opportunity to sing our praises.

Anyway some quick thoughts. How would you define wisdom or the fear of the Lord? What does a wise life look like to you? Given the forecast for a hot Sunday I would probably be wise to keep my sermon short.

Hope this helps you worship on Sunday.