Weekly Introductions to the Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary (Proper 15b / Ordinary 20b)

Proverbs 9:1-6

Proverbs nine is a wonderful instructive poem about the benefits of choosing wisdom over folly.  In this poem wisdom and folly are personified as two women—one a helpful teacher and the other a wanton seductress.  The part of the poem that is our Hebrew Bible lection describes lady wisdom engaging in the activity of building a home and hosting a meal.  The home she builds has seven pillars (a possible reference to the six days of creation plus the seventh day of Sabbath rest [cf. Proverbs 8; Job 28]).  The feast she prepares by slaughtering animals and mixing her wine.  She then sets her table and sends out her messengers to find guests for the meal.  At the meal she offers her guests (the “simple minded”) meat, bread, and wine.  The connection to our gospel lection is obvious.  Jesus offers “meat” (his flesh) which is the “bread of life” and also his blood which in Eucharist imagery is seen as “wine.”  The invitation to participate in the meal that lady wisdom presents before the simple is an invitation to “lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”   “Wisdom” then is the accepting of the invitation to dwell in the house of the wise.  Likewise Jesus invites his disciples in our gospel lection to “abide in” him and to sup on the meal he has prepared of his body and blood.

Psalm 34:9-14

The “fear of the Lord” is mentioned four times in the central part of Psalm 34.  The “fear of the Lord” is elsewhere described as the “beginning of wisdom” linking our Psalm with our Hebrew Bible Reading.

Verses 11-14 dive into the Israelite wisdom tradition by becoming proverbial in nature.  Again we hear an invitation going out to the simple “Come, O Children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”

Ephesians 5:15-20

Our New Testament reading also considers the theme of wisdom.  Here wisdom is encouraged of those in the church because of the Christian understanding that “the days are evil.”  Wisdom plays a role in living the proper “in between” life—the life lived between the ascension of Jesus and his return.  This life is lived in edification (vs. 19) and thanks (vs. 20) through the presence of the abiding Spirit (vs. 18).

John 6:51-58

We have already noted the connection between the gospel lection and Proverbs 9.  We also might note the connection between our gospel lection and the wider theme of wisdom present in all the readings for today.  The wisdom tradition in the Hebrew Bible took on new imagery in the inter-testamental time.  The Greek word for “word” (logos) came to be used in reference to the wisdom of God.  It is significant then that in John’s gospel we read “In the beginning was the word (logos) and the word (logos) was with God, and the word (logos) was God.” John is capitalizing on the logos wisdom tradition in writing the introduction to his gospel.  Jesus is the incarnate wisdom (word) of God.  We further learn in John’s gospel that this wisdom “became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14).  Carrying this over to our lection for today we are reminded of John’s bold introductory statement about the logos becoming flesh when we hear Jesus say, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  It is important to note that the Greek word for flesh here is not the lofty Greek concept of body (soma) but rather the banal Greek concept of carnality (sarx).  Jesus is making it clear that in him the wisdom of God was found in the most ordinary of God’s creation.  Jesus is flesh and blood.  And it is by abiding in the flesh (wisdom) of Jesus through feasting on his flesh and blood that Jesus in turn abides in us.

Worship

As you prepare your thoughts, prayers, hymns, and hearts for worship consider the God of wisdom.  In wisdom God created his creation.  In wisdom God came to his creation in the flesh as the divine logos.  In wisdom God directed his creation so that his creation can live fruitful lives of harmony.  In wisdom God provided us with the source of God’s wisdom in the abiding presence of the Spirit of Christ in the church to help us sojourn on this earth during these “evil days.”

 

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