A reflection on the readings for Proper 15B - 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
Over the course of the last two Sunday’s the story of David in 2nd Samuel continued – a story of war and more war, of violence and many family problems. David’s daughter, Tamar is raped by her half- brother, Ammon, thus preventing her from being marriageable because according to ancient custom women were property of men. According to this custom Tamar’s value as a commodity diminished.
There are still some cultures in the world today who view rape and incest in the same manner as this ancient culture – it is a defilement of property. As a piece of property that has no value Tamar’s feelings are never taken into consideration by David. The rape causes problems for David as he tries to decide how, or IF, to punish his son. Sadly, David does nothing. The story of Tamar is central in religious discussions about violence against women, with several books written that consider this from Tamar’s perspective – such as Episcopal priest, Pamela Cooper-White’s book “The Cry of Tamar: violence against women and the church’s response.”
David’s inability to serve justice to Ammon is a source of division in his family. But in addition to this there is ongoing betrayal by family members who try to steal the throne from the aging David. Bathsheba reappears in the story, informs David of the pending threat. David listens to her and immediately arranges to have Solomon crowned king. Bathsheba proves herself to be wise and astute. Even Solomon, her son, bows down to her and honors her. (1Kings 2:19) Thus, before his death David secures the throne for Solomon and the land upon which King Solomon will build the temple.
Our reading this morning puts us in the second and third chapters of the first book of Kings and the beginning days of the reign of King Solomon. Solomon proves to be a wise king, builds a fine temple to house the ark of the covenant – thus fulfilling his father’s greatest desire.
In the book of Kings we will hear stories about Solomon, and then a host of corrupt kings who follow him. Elijah and Elisha appear – prophets who lead the people from the exile in Babylon back into the restored kingdom of Israel. Some of the stories in the first and second book of Kings will parallel stories we heard in the books of Samuel. The story told between these two is not chronological, but interwoven, and sometimes from different perspectives.
Our readings this morning, from Kings to the Psalm, the letter to the Ephesians, and the Gospel of John - all have something in common – the pursuit of wisdom, the desire to be wise. In a dream, God asks Solomon what he would like. Solomon responds: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind, a discerning heart (according to some translations) to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?" God is pleased with this request.
The Letter to the Ephesians builds on the theme of wisdom with more instruction on how to live as the body of Christ, as a people of God – do this, don’t do that...
At first glance the Gospel reading pushes the “wisdom- envelope” a bit – the images Jesus promotes are strong and perhaps offensive – eating his flesh and drinking his blood. How many of us struggle with those images!
Although it doesn’t really change the way we hear these images, it helps to understand what this meant to people in the early church. Ancient people understood that blood was the source of life. They believed that God’s presence, the living God was present in blood. (from the work of Mary Douglas, anthropologist and her work with the book of Leviticus).
So, perhaps it helps a little bit to understand that Jesus is using this strong provocative language to help us grasp, with passion, the depth of God’s presence with us.
As Christians we are taught that God became incarnate in human flesh and blood – God became human in the person of Jesus. Likewise the incarnation, resurrection, and subsequent giving of the Holy Spirit describe a little about how it is that God resides in us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are formed and informed. Through the power of the Holy Spirit God guides us, stirs our imaginations to live into that which God desires of us. It’s food indeed – food that nourishes our hearts and feeds our souls. The bread of life sustains us through times of despair and celebrates with us in times of joy. God is in us, through us, and with us.
When we come to the altar and put our hands to receive the bread and guide the cup, we experience “Eucharist” – fed on the love of God in the sacred meal, bread and wine become a sacrament – a sign that what God is doing on the inside of our lives is being made manifest on the outside – just as God fills our hearts with love, we are to go out into the world and love. Flesh and blood are bread and wine. Bread and wine are food for our souls. Food for our souls nourishes us with wisdom.
Wisdom guides us, informs us, propels us to do justice, to give voice to the voiceless, to ensure that the love of God pulses through the vein of life, that all may be fed on this bread of life, reconciled, and made well.