Sunday, August 17, 2003

Tenth Sunday of Pentecost
Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:9-14
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me.

Most of the people reading this have at least graduated from High School. Some of you have a college degree; a few have Master's and perhaps one or two even sport a doctorate on your wall. Most of us would be rather insulted to be called "simple."

Most of us consider ourselves blessed to have been called by God into His Kingdom and in that relationship we desire to learn and grow in the faith we have been given. We want to bask in His wisdom and benefit from His goodness. We read and study the Bible, fellowship with other believers, pray together and partake of the sacraments. We seek greater knowledge of our Father and our place in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the one hand we are insulted to be called simple, but on the other hand we are the very ones being called by Wisdom in today's Old Testament lesson from Proverbs. She is calling us into her home to partake in the goodness of God. She doesn't call us based on our intelligence or academic career. She doesn't care how much we know or do not know about the world, or even about God. She invites those who are humble before God, those who desire to know more about Him. She has prepared a table where we can feast on everything good that comes from God, so that we can live in His Kingdom and walk in the way of understanding.

Last week, the final verse of our Psalm ended with the exhortation, "Oh taste and see that Jehovah is good." How do we do this? Is it just a spiritual thing? Is there truly a table of God where we can feast, bask in His wisdom and enjoy His goodness? In the Proverb, Wisdom is nothing more than a personification. She is not a real person with a real house or real food. Or is she? Can we touch, see, hear, smell and taste the Lord's wisdom today?

Jesus was the wisdom of God incarnate. He walked among the Jews, ate with them, fed them with the bread of life as well as with real food, but the Jews were unwilling to see Him as He was. They had the temple with all its symbolism - the candlesticks, bread and incense, but God was kept separate in the Holy of Holies. No human being could experience a face-to-face encounter. The only one who came close was the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, but even then God was kept hidden from the eyes, ears and mouth of the priest. God was unapproachable. The whole idea of an intimate relationship with the Creator was an offense to the Jews.

But Jesus called God "Abba" which means "Daddy." He claimed - by word and action - an intimate relationship with God, that He was connected to the Most High. Jesus' spoke of God's Will, not His own. His words were from God, not Himself. John's Gospel is filled with statements that identify Jesus as more than a prophet or teacher, but as one with the Father. In Proverbs, Wisdom calls us into her house. In John's Gospel, Jesus calls us into His house, the same house, to feast on the goodness of God.

How do we walk in the way of understanding? The Psalmist tells us to fear the LORD. When we fear the Lord, we lack nothing good. Does this mean we will really never be hungry or thirsty? Does this mean we will have everything we desire? No, rather when we fear God - know Him intimately and honor Him as Lord of our lives - we are content with the good things He gives. When we come to Him as simple people - not based on our knowledge or position or wealth, but as humble seekers of His wisdom - then we will live and walk according to His word.

The Psalmist and Paul both tell us ways to live out our fear of the Lord. We are to speak rightly and turn from evil. We are to take advantage of time we have to do what is good. We are to avoid drunkenness. Instead of living evil lives, the simple trust in God and are filled with the Spirit of God. The simple worship together and encourage one another. The simple thank God for everything in the name of Jesus Christ.

Imagine how it must have been for the Jews to hear the words Jesus spoke in today's Gospel lesson. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." He was not only calling Himself the living bread from heaven, comparing Himself to the gift of manna to the Israelites during their wilderness wandering, but He was identifying Himself with the One who gives life. "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me." This was too much for many who heard these words. It was even hard for the disciples. There is no greater intimacy we can have with the Lord Jesus then to be One with Him, to partake in the goodness He has given.

There are many ways we can feast on the goodness of God. Besides fearing the Lord and living rightly, we can hear His Word and join together in worship. We can serve one another in love, give food and drink to those who hunger and thirst. We can be advocates for those who suffer injustice. We can pray for those who are in pain. But today's lesson leaves little doubt what Jesus was pointing toward. Wisdom calls us into her house to share in the Feast of Victory, the Holy Supper that Jesus has given us to remember Him and proclaim His death until He comes again.

When we gather together as simple people at the altar rails, we share in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus. We remember Jesus and receive forgiveness for our sins. He comes to us, not only in word and spirit, but in a tangible way that we can touch, see, hear, smell and taste, filling us with His presence. In prayer we ask, "Send now your Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we may receive our Lord with a living faith as he comes to us in his holy supper." These aren't words of people who do not know the Lord, but of the faithful who long to have more and more of His presence in their lives.

We are the simple - those whose education or lack of it does not matter to the Spirit of God - because we are those who fear the Lord and answer His call to partake in the feast which fills us with wisdom. Thanks be to God.

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