XII Pentecost, Year B
1 Kgs 8:(1,6,10-11),22-30,41-43 or * Jos 24:1-2a,14-18
Ps 84 * Ps 34:15-22
(1 Kings 8:1)
Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.
(1 Kings 8:6)
Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim.
(1 Kings 8:10-11)
And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.
(1 Kings 8:22-30)
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said, "O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. Therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David. "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O LORD my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.
(1 Kings 8:41-43)
"Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name –for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm–when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.
* (Joshua 24:1-2a)
Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:
* (Joshua 24:14-18)
"Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God."
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This 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." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father." Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The church will want to hold fast to its theology and hear confirmation that they are doing the right thing as “Christian people.” None of us really want to hear that we have been wandering, lost in the wilderness of our lives. And fewer will admit to it. Why? Because it challenges us at our deepest levels.
If there is ever a gauntlet thrown down in the gospels by Jesus, it is here in this text today. “What I said is ticking you off? Wait’ll you hear the next part, you’ll blow a flippin’ gasket!”
From the feeding miracle through the spirituality of a theology of the cross to the eucharist, the author of the Fourth Gospel develops his homily. And it is a difficult homily to accept. It sounds so…..gross….repugnant. Eating flesh and.drinking blood smacks of cannibalism, a charge not unfamiliar to the early church.
Yes, it is difficult for us to acknowledge ourselves for what we are: a killer species, the species with a death wish. There is not another species trying to wipe out the entire planet, except us. This is what we are acknowledging every time we are offered that bread and that cup. We are openly confessing that We bring death every day in our thoughts, in our anger, our resentment and our bitterness. In our relationships these thoughts create moods and feelings that become words that sting and are meant to wound. And sadly, sometimes the words are embodied in physical conflict. And death wins again, all day long, every single day. In the Eucharist, we reverse the effects of the scapegoat mechanism and thus demystify our religious practice. In the Eucharist we confess our culpability in the death of Christ.
And it is in and through the Eucharist that Christians can learn to give themselves away.
In Jesus, the power of death dies. In Jesus, life is the possibility of transformation. But it is all in the way you see it. How we see and hear is as important as what we see and hear. Some readers will recall Wittgenstein’s use of the drawing of the duck/hare to describe ‘language games.’ In printable format it might look like this:
You can see God is nowhere or you can see God is now here. Of course you can see both now but your mind gave you a first impression. Why? In the same way, the author of the Fourth Gospel (and Jesus) invite us to view Jesus through new eyes.
The ‘how’ of seeing (= believing) is what undergoes transformation in the Eucharist. When we stop believing we are participating in some great mysterious and all powerful religious ritual and start seeing ourselves as very participants in the death of Christ, then right there in the church, we will hear forgiveness. This is what God brings in the cross of Christ. Theoretically, when Christians leave the churches on Sunday morning they should so be filled with the wonder of being forgiven that they begin to forgive others during the week. Well, I said theoretically. Or try this. You may recall the old hymn:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look real full in his wonderful, bruised and swollen, split lip, bloodied face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of this glory and grace.
By ritually acknowledging our role in the death of the one we love and who first loved us, we are transformed. We share in life, a new start, a fresh beginning. And we do this over and over again. Where every sunrise is a new opportunity and a blessing. Then, perhaps, we may also have the right to say that we acclaim Jesus to be the Holy One of God.
It has been suggested that it is the introduction of the theme of the suffering Messiah that turns off the multitudes in Mark. Various forms of this hypothesis have come and gone now arguing for Markan redaction (from Wrede to Marxsen) and others arguing for the authenticity of the suffering Son of Man sayings. But as we have observed with both Mark and the Fourth Gospel, the gospels are suffused with the cross. Mimetic theory allows us to see the pattern that we elsewhere detect in myth and ritual. The gospels as we have also observed radically alter the mythic paradigm because they alter the perspective of the reader.
We are inclined to recognize most of the Son of Man sayings as authentic. It is not unsurprising to find the suffering Son of Man here in the Fourth Gospel as it is also found in Mark. In this narrative we are at the critical turning point of Jesus’ ministry.
Churches, synods, clergy and laity all have opinions about God as though Jesus did not exist. As though something revelatory was not occurring in the Gospels. As though the Creator had not triumphed! And oh, how much we miss, because we do not want to begin at the cross as a persecutor. Oh man, not me Jesus. But the cross of Jesus is like a great big STOP sign. It holds you and will not let you pass until you look around and see the other remnants of crucifixions past throughout your life. The cross of Jesus is at the heart and soul of the Synoptic, Johannine and Pauline theologies. It is at the heart of worship. It needs to be at the heart of our spirituality as well.
Willard Swartley has a penetrating article on following Jesus in Violence Renounced. In his essay he notes that mimetic theoretical research tends to follow Girard’s negative description of mimesis but that we can also use mimetic theory to illumine what it means to follow Jesus. Is there a more urgent task for the church today?