Lectionary Reflections for August 19, 2012
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
In Jesus’ encounter with sight-impaired Bartimaeus, the Healer asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) To a man who had been paralyzed nearly four decades, Jesus inquires “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6) These encounters suggest that God is not coercive or unilateral in God’s relationship with us. Rather, God always seeks our abundant life and honors our creativity and freedom. God is always seeking to give us more than we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 5:20)
In the dialogue between God and Solomon, God asks the new king – like the Genie in the Bottle – “ask for what I should give you.” Everything is possible for the potentate – he can ask to rule the world or for wealth and power beyond belief. Instead, he asks for an understanding mind, and for the ability to rule with wisdom and understanding. Solomon’s wish is granted but he receives something more – wealth and power he did not request. Without wisdom and understanding, eventually wealth and power will destroy and corrupt.
Psalm 111 also extols the virtue of wisdom. Study God’s work, the Psalmist counsels. Could the Psalmist mean study the movements of the heavens, the seasons of the year, the growth of crops and children? Could the Psalmist mean study the human heart in its complexity and ambivalence as well as the movements toward divinity embedded in our lives? In light of Psalm 1 and 8, the Psalms see a creative order at work in both the cosmic and creaturely levels. You can see God’s handiwork in the immune system, the first cries of a newborn, a recently bereaved person slowly healing and learning to love again as well as in the photos from the Hubble Telescope. There is no divide between faith and science here: wherever we find truth and healing, God is its source.
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom – perhaps a better word is “awe” or “wonder.” When we appreciate the incredible beauty and immensity of this universe, we gain perspective. We see our place – small, barely noticed among the 125 billion galaxies that make up our universe, but we also discover God’s intimacy that makes each one – every cell and soul – the center of God’s universe. Wisdom is ours when we recognize that God is present in our lives, beckoning us to see the divine presence in all of life.
Ephesians also presents a pathway to wisdom through a spirit-centered lifestyle, joining individual and corporate, ethics and worship, prayer and action. Wise people make the most of the time of their lives. They don’t get distracted by ego needs, self-gratification, power plays, and consumerism. They have a big picture of life, not otherworldly, but cognizant of the countless opportunities to experience God in the shifting, dynamic, arising and perishing world. Life is short, live it to the fullest – be fully alive, glorifying God. Life is wonderful, despite its brokenness, because God is always with us as source of wisdom, energy, and adventure.
John’s words, taken literally, evoke the worst nightmares of those who critique Christianity – that we eat the flesh of Jesus. I don’t believe the point is either transubstantiation or consubstantiation but God’s intimate and healing presence in the basic elements of life. God is embedded in simple bread and wine Christ is moving through all things in chewing and drinking and singing and shouting. In Communion, we share in Christ’s life, tasting and seeing the goodness of God. Revelation includes the digestive and gastrointestinal systems. Communion is connection; it is the presence of God in our flesh and bone activities of playing with children, driving to work, and eating supper. Wisdom emerges when we see all places as embodiments of the One who gives life to all creation.
Let us strive for wisdom. Let us reflect on what really matters in our lives. Let us devote our time, talents, and treasure to an everlasting adventure of Shalom on this good earth and on our future adventures with Christ as our companion. Let us delight, awe-struck at this wondrous world.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty two books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. His most recent text is Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for lectures, workshops, and retreats.