Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
Wisdom prepares a feast, sets her table, and invites all to come and eat her bread and drink her wine. The first chapter of John’s gospel owes much to the biblical tradition that imagined Wisdom as existing before anything was created and having a role in the work of creation. Christ, the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24), today invites us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. John’s gospel includes no account of the institution of the Lord’s supper, but here we can’t help hearing Jesus’ words as an invitation to the meal of bread and wine we share.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity,☩ one God,
the God of manna,
the God of miracles,
the God of mercy.
Drawn to Christ and seeking God’s abundance,
let us confess our sin.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God, our provider,
It is hard to believe there is enough to share.
We question your ways when they differ from the ways
of the world in which we live.
We turn to our own understanding
rather than trusting in you.
We take offense at your teachings and your ways.
Turn us again to you.
Where else can we turn?
Share with us the words of eternal life
and feed us for life in the world.
Beloved people of God:
in Jesus, the manna from heaven,
you are fed and nourished.
By Jesus, the worker of miracles,
there is always more than enough.
Through Jesus, ☩ the bread of life,
you are shown God’s mercy:
you are forgiven and loved into abundant life.
Prayer of the Day
Ever-loving God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world. Fill us with such a knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life to serve you continually, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Proverbs 9:1-6
Wisdom is portrayed as a woman who invites people to partake of her banquet. Just as ordinary food is necessary for physical life, Wisdom’s food—insight and understanding—is necessary for fullness of life with God. Partaking of Wisdom’s banquet is the way to life.
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.”
Psalm: Psalm 34:9-14
Those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good. (Ps. 34:10)
9Fear the Lord, you saints of the Lord,
for those who fear the Lord lack nothing.
10The lions are in want and suffer hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.
11Come, children, and listen to me;
I will teach you reverence for the Lord.
12Who among you takes pleasure in life
and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?
13Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from lying words.
14Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Second Reading: Ephesians 5:15-20
True wisdom integrates our new reality in Christ with our Christian fellowship and daily conduct. Because we are filled with the Spirit, Christians regularly rejoice together, give thanks to God for one another, and care for one another. In this way we revere our Lord Jesus Christ.
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.
Alleluia. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me,* and I abide in them. Alleluia. (John 6:56)
Gospel: John 6:51-58
In John’s gospel, the feeding of the five thousand leads to extended teaching in which Jesus identifies himself as the true “bread of life.” Finally, in these verses, he makes a connection that would not be understood until after his death, in light of the church’s celebration of holy communion.
[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.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
Wisdom seems to be the focus of the readings today. In the first reading, Proverbs 9:1-6, wisdom is portrayed as a woman, more specifically as a hostess. It appears that she has prepared a lush banquet and is inviting all to her table. This analogy implies that wisdom is available to all, if they will but accept her offer. Wisdom has taken the time to build a grand house and has prepared a meal that exceeds the expectations of those who accept her invitation. Her house is solid and stable, and her meal is of fine quality, giving life to those who partake. This is a theme in Proverbs. In chapter 1, she, wisdom, is calling out to anyone who will listen. She’s mourning for the people who do not heed her call. She asks the simple ones how long they will love being simple. I suppose this is akin to the old saying about ignorance being bliss. She warns her audience that when things go badly for them, she will not come to their aid, because they have refused her as things were going well. But those who take her counsel “will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster”. If you read further in Proverbs 9, around verse 13, foolishness is also portrayed as a woman inviting passersby into her house for a banquette of sorts. She tells them that “stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”. But the warning at the end of her section says that to be her guest is to be dead.
Ephesians also gives us advice regarding how to live a life filled with wisdom and warns of foolishness. The wise person can see the new day has dawned in Christ and choose to live their lives in that knowledge. He or she seeks to understand the will of the Lord and gives Him thanks for everything. The foolish one seeks earthly pleasures, such as drunken debauchery. But the wise person, we are told, rather than being filled with wine, is filled with the Holy Spirit.
But it’s not just the quick pleasure that is the mark of a foolish person. In Luke 12, Jesus tells of a rich fool. He says that “the land of a rich man produced plentifully,17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” I don’t think that Christ was saying that the one who plans for his future is necessarily a fool. It’s a matter of having your priorities straight. If one makes extravagant provisions for himself in this world but fails to build his relationship with God and set aside treasures in heaven by caring for his brothers and sisters, that’s where the foolishness lies.
In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus declares that He is the living bread from heaven and that the bread He gives for the life of the world is His flesh. To the Jews who were listening, this must have sounded very foolish. After all, who is able to give others their flesh to eat. They were unable to see what Christ was really trying to show them. This continued even after Christ’s death and resurrection. In First Corinthians, Paul tells us that proclaiming Christ crucified was still a “stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles”. He also tells us that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength”. So to those of us with faith in Jesus Christ, the concept of eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood, as we do when we partake in Holy Communion, which may sound like foolishness to the world, is known to us to be the key to our salvation.
Prayers of Intercession
Rooted in Christ and sustained by the Spirit, we offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all of creation.
A brief silence.
God of wisdom, enlighten your church. Guide theologians, biblical scholars, authors, and seminary professors as they seek greater knowledge and invite others into deeper understanding. Bless Elizabeth & Daniel, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, with similar guidance and wisdom. Teach us to ask faithful questions and open our minds to new ideas. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of creation, mend the earth. Cool warming oceans and preserve melting ice caps. Increase our awareness of changing climate patterns and reveal new approaches to the ecological challenges we face. Shield those in the path of hurricanes or tropical storms as well as tornadoes and other natural disasters. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of all nations, direct our leaders. Grant them courage to lay aside political grudges and renew their determination to address difficult conflicts. Guide them in the work of reconciliation, especially in this age of bitter divisiveness. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of compassion, tend to the wounded. Rescue those tormented by mental illness or mired in addiction. Ease the anxiety of those struggling with dementia. Come quickly to help all who are grieving and all those who suffer especially those whom we remember on our prayer list and those we bring before you now, either aloud or in the stillness of our hearts. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of beauty, inspire artists. Bless those whose visual and musical gifts enliven this assembly. Bless the creative work of poets, hymnwriters, composers, painters, sculptors, and others that enrich our worship and daily life. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Watch over Pastor Howard as he is away from us on vacation. Grant him rest as he seeks a respite from the struggles of daily life and return him to us safely and well rested. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of resurrection, bring us to new life. Give us the living bread from heaven through which we abide in your love, and on the last day raise us with all the saints to eternal life. God, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We lift these and all our prayers to you, O God, confident in the promise of your saving love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.*
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
The blessing of God,
who provides for us, feeds us, and journeys with us,
☩ be upon you now and forever.
Go in peace. You are the body of Christ.
So bless the world by being God’s grace.
Thanks be to God.