Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, August 19th, 2018

After a week missed due to my participation in a continuing education event, I am back with my thoughts and reflections on the readings for this coming Sunday.

This week, we continue with the "Bread of Life Discourses" in John 6, where we find the breaking point for many within the crowd.  For these people, Jesus has finally gone too far, and their understandings of the Jewish faith, Jewish laws, and the promised Messiah prevent them from following Jesus.  It's worth exploring why they felt this way and what Jesus' invitation meant in that context.

We also get an invitation from "Wisdom," a separate invitation from the psalmist (King David?) in Psalm 34, and some advice for Christian living.

What do you see within these passages?  What questions do you still have?  I invite you to share those insights and questions with me using the comment section below!

Proverbs 9:1 - 6

1Wisdom has built her house,
  she has hewn her seven pillars.
2She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
  she has also set her table.
3She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
  from the highest places in the town,
4“You that are simple, turn in here!”
  To those without sense she says,
5“Come, eat of my bread
  and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6Lay aside immaturity, and live,
  and walk in the way of insight.”

- This invitation from Wisdom in Proverbs 9:1 – 6 is contrasted with the invitation from the “foolish woman” in Proverbs 9:13 – 18.  Wisdom invites us to eat her bread and drink her wine; the foolish woman invites us to eat bread and drink wine that she has stolen from someone else.  Wisdom invites us to walk in the way of insight; the foolish woman invites us to walk a different path, one that leads to “Sheol,” the Hebrew place of the dead.

- The early church made a connection between Wisdom and Jesus, reading Wisdom as a prefigurement of Jesus.

Psalm 34:9 - 14

 9 O fear the LORD, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want.
 10 The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
 11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
 12 Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?
 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
 14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

- Psalm 34 is divided over three weeks of the “Bread of Life” discourse.  This is part two of the three.  A key focus here is “the fear of the Lord.”  While we connect “fear” with “afraid” and “frightened” today, the original Old Testament leaders would have understood “fear” in the sense of “having great respect for” something.  The psalmist calls the hearer to have great respect for the Lord and even offers to teach what it means to have great respect for the Lord.
- Psalm 34:10 includes a promise of the Lord providing all “good thing(s)” to those who seek the Lord.  This promise goes along with Jesus providing bread for the 5,000 and the promise to provide the Bread of Life.

Ephesians 5:15 - 20

15Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

- Ephesians 5 is some basic advice for living as ambassadors of Christ.  The advice to “make the most of the time” in 5:16 gives the passage a sense of urgency, as though the author expects the end of the age to arrive soon.

John 6:51 - 58

[Jesus said,] 51“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
  52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

- Something that we must remember as we read the crowd’s reaction to Jesus is that Jewish food laws strictly prohibited eating certain animals, including other humans, and strictly prohibited eating any meat “with the blood.”  In those days, the people believed that a person’s (or animal’s) life force lay within the blood.  If one ate or drank another organism’s blood, it was as though that person absorbed the life force of that organism.  This was seen as idolatry, as trusting something other than God as the source of our life.  Therefore, the people believe that Jesus is asking them to commit idolatry.
- By offering his body and blood to us, Jesus is offering his life force to us.  We receive the Lord’s life when we participate in Holy Communion.  This is how Jesus reinforces the new life that was given to us in Baptism and prepares us for the resurrection life that we will experience on the last day.

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