This sermon was given by our Reader Christine on Sunday 19 August.
In today’s readings, we start with a house with seven pillars, a banquet and the gathering of people to, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed”.
One of the things I find interesting in Proverbs is the fact that Wisdom is personified as a woman in a patriarchal society and a strong woman at that. One who builds her own house, which in society at the time would have been unthinkable and she builds it with seven pillars indicating that it would be an extremely large, grand house. She also prepares all the food, sets her table and sends out the invitation to dine. Only then does she send out her servant-girls to call the people in.
Wisdom is often associated with Solomon, David’s son, but she is also mentioned at the beginning of creation.
So, the seven pillars mentioned could symbolize the seven gifts of the Spirit, which are described as:
- Fear of the Lord, or wonder of the Lord.
Or it could be indicative of the seven days it took God to create the world.
The story itself is also very reminiscent of a parable told by Jesus, recoded in Matthew about a King inviting guests to his son’s wedding feast. Many of whom give excuses for not being able to go and he therefore extends that invitation to everyone around.
Paul writing to the Ephesians is extending that invitation and he is warning them about making wise and unwise decisions about how to live, because of the unrest during his time. He is warning them about the dangers of drinking too much wine and he is trying to guide them to follow Jesus, filled with the Spirit and to remain faithful through rejoicing and giving thanks to God.
Jesus in John’s Gospel is describing how he is, “the living bread that came down from heaven,” and “Those who eat his flesh and drink his blood abide in me, and I in them.” Jesus has already said earlier in the chapter, “He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”
However, to some of the people present at the time this is just too much and even some of his followers desert him.
As Lezley Stewart states, “We don’t often hear about people choosing to desert Jesus in this way, for we are more used to hearing about people joining his following. It is a stark reminder to us that the decision we make to follow Christ is not an easy one, and his teaching will continue to be challenging as we live our lives in faith.”
Unfortunately, those who deserted Jesus didn’t understand his message and to think of eating flesh and drinking blood came too close to cannibalism for them. The thought of drinking any blood was abhorrent to the Jews as well as being against their law. This reading is also before the Last Supper takes place and maybe it’s the first time Jesus has referred to his body and blood being the living bread that came down from heaven.
Jesus also refers back to the bread or manna that their ancestors ate and died, this is because the manna sent to them was sent only to sustain them on a daily basis, but Jesus’ flesh and blood is given for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life.
I suppose if we think of the Eucharist and compare it to a meal, Jesus would be the main course, the one which fills us and nourish us the most.
As a child, I remember sitting down at the table as a family to eat a meal, especially on a Sunday and our Dad was fairly strict about table manners and respect. Although one of my brothers used to complain that he had got milder with us younger ones and we could often get away with things that my elder siblings couldn’t. However, the meal, especially on special occasion, may have consisted of a starter, main and pudding (dessert). However, one thing remained the same and that was that we had to ask permission to leave the table when we had finished eating.
After the meal we would often relax, we would be full and that would sustain us until breakfast.
We don’t have to ask God for permission to leave his table. God’s meal consists of more than what we can make, he offers us Jesus through the giving of his life, by his shedding his body and blood for our sins. Instead of us leaving his table, he gives us his Holy Spirit and the offer of taking the bread and wine to strengthen and sustain us spiritually.
However, we sometimes lose sight of what is expected of us. Jesus died to forgive our sins and offers us eternal life, but he asks us to give of ourselves and there are many ways we can let Jesus into our lives. He sacrificed his life for us and we need to let him become part of us.
How many of us when we’re busy and begin to feel a bit peckish will reach for a piece/bar of chocolate or packet of crisps. We know we should probably choose a piece of fruit like an apple or orange, but an orange is hard work as you need to peel it and then the juice runs down your fingers and you need to wash your hands before you can begin that job again.
Following Jesus and letting him into our lives is not easy, it’s like taking that orange and slowly peeling away the skin to reach the fruit at the centre. To follow Jesus takes prayer and commitment, perhaps in the form of reading, Bible study, meditation or becoming involved in a church activity or volunteering for something. I know personally that time management can be difficult, especially with family commitments and the demands of everyday life, but in those quiet moments, when time allows, God is waiting to hear from you and his table is always ready.
Let us pray
- Lord we thank you for the gift of hope that
- you generously give us and your loving
- and real presence in the Eucharist through
- Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
Christine Hardy, Reader
@ St. Margaret’s, Holyrood & St. George’s, Simister.