Lectionary Preview study materials: Pentecost 13 (22 August)
(Study on 18 August)
1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43
[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. 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. 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.]
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.
“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.
1 How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! *
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
2 The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
3 Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
they will always be praising you.
4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.
5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, *
for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.
6 They will climb from height to height, *
and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.
7 Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; *
hearken, O God of Jacob.
8 Behold our defender, O God; *
and look upon the face of your Anointed.
9 For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, *
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.
10 For the Lord God is both sun and shield; *
he will give grace and glory;
11 No good thing will the Lord withhold *
from those who walk with integrity.
12 O Lord of hosts, *
happy are they who put their trust in you!
“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.”
15 The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, *
and his ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, *
to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them *
and delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted *
and will save those whose spirits are crushed.
19 Many are the troubles of the righteous, *
but the Lord will deliver him out of them all.
20 He will keep safe all his bones; *
not one of them shall be broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked, *
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
22 The Lord ransoms the life of his servants, *
and none will be punished who trust in him.
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.
Jesus said, “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.”
ECUSA Bible Study Material
Pentecost 13 August 22, 2021 Brian Pinter
RCL: 1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69
1 Kings 8: (1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43
Solomon’s prayer strikes many important themes – the all-encompassing presence of God, the intuition that God hears prayers and forgives, the affirmation that God responds with graciousness to all. The king’s words also highlight for us a key question – What is the importance of sacred space? Our ancestors in faith invested a great deal of spiritual energy in temples, altars, and mountains they believed to be holy. Our verses from 1 Kings are an excerpt of Solomon’s dedication prayer for the Jerusalem Temple, the ultimate sacred space. Yet Solomon acknowledges that no place can hold God’s presence but rather is a symbol of a liminal place where God can be experienced. Sacred places can be powerful symbols of God’s presence and action in the world, but as the biblical narrative unfolds, ritual actions and pilgrimages to holy places are deemphasized in favor of right living in the imitation of a holy human being.
- How can sacred places inspire us to live more faithfully and more authentically a life of holiness?
“My heart and flesh rejoice in the living God!” Our psalm verses speak of the grace experienced when we encounter those sacred symbols that point to God’s presence among God’s people. A song of ascent sung by pilgrims journeying together to Jerusalem, Psalm 84 celebrated both the holy Temple and city as what we would call a sacrament – outward signs of grace felt deeply in the heart. This grace is received in response to heartfelt longing – “My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord” (v. 1). How often have we experienced both this desire and grace as we anticipate being with our church community in a sacred space to which we have been connected for generations.
Psalm 84, with its focus on sacred space, is also a call to fidelity, for God’s abiding presence among God’s people is a reminder of their election, their chosen-ness for service, their call to be a light to all. We might hear in these verses a number of invitations – where are we being called to deeper solidarity on our great pilgrimage of life and faith? What are the symbols of God’s abiding presence among us in our time? When we encounter the grace of our sacred places, how is God calling us to renew our vocation to the service of God’s people?
- How have you experienced God’s grace in sacred spaces?
Our verses from Ephesians ironically utilize apocalyptic imagery to encourage us to preach the gospel of peace! While images of battle-ready Roman soldiers perhaps don’t animate our imagination as they did for our ancestors, we might, however, reinterpret this “call to arms” as an invitation to name and resist the powers that seek to thwart the good news of peace. Our tendency will be to look outside ourselves for these powers, to point to our ecclesiastical, political, and ideological opponents. Indeed, sometimes we must resist those who brazenly seek to advance that which offends human dignity and contravenes the Gospel. Let’s also humbly look within and ask of ourselves, “What part of me rebels against being ‘strong in the Lord’ (v. 10)?” It is the human experience to be a collection of contradictions and conflicting desires. It requires the courage and spiritual armor of the warrior, so well described in our text, to face the shadow within, to admit our rationalizations, to name the roots of our resistances. This kind of work does indeed require the support of spiritual friends – the supplication of the saints (v. 18).
- How and where in your life are you being called to put on spiritual armor so that you may boldly face those “forces”, within and without, that stand in the way of the gospel of peace?
“To whom can we go?” Peter’s words are on one level a great expression of humility. Anyone who makes a deep, abiding commitment will ultimately come to such a point, a realization that we’ve invested so much of ourselves into a relationship, cause, vocation, etc., that the doors to other options, for better or worse, are closed.
On a deeper level, we might interpret Peter’s confession here to be a great spiritual truth – ultimate, real meaning can only be found in faith and relationship with God. Many people struggle to find meaning in their lives. I believe this is what lies beneath much of the restlessness and happiness-seeking that goes on in our culture. It is the search for meaning. And to satisfy this search, we are directed toward many avenues – making a name for ourselves, achieving something great, having a family, becoming famous, accumulating wealth, etc. In the end, none of these satisfy our soul-felt longing, because that longing comes from something infinite. As Augustine said, our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
Our theology teaches us that God is the One, the True, the Good, the Beautiful. All of our striving is in some way a reaching toward these virtues because we know that’s where meaning is. Ultimately, we’ll find authentic meaning in our lives when we’re in relationship with this God as we know God. This is when and where we will find the answer to the question, “to whom can we go?”
- Where in your life have you experienced the emotion underlying Peter’s words, “to whom can we go?”
Brian B. Pinter is a teacher of religious studies at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx and a Pastoral Associate at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan