Tuesday, August 18, 2015

“We will serve the Lord.” – 23 August 2015 – Lectionary 21/ Proper 16

In the Gospel and the reading from the Old Testament, we receive the command to “choose this day whom you will serve,” as the reading from Joshua puts it. Jesus, also, asks the disciples to choose. Seeing some of them leave him when he teaches about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, he asks Peter, “Do you also wish to go away?”

Whom do we choose? How can we choose? Isn’t it God’s promise that instead of our “choosing,” we are, in fact, chosen by God?

What can make our staying with Christ Jesus possible? These readings give us two images to hold: meal and prayer. The sermon on this day might benefit the assembly by focusing on those two vital gifts for faith.

John 6:56-69

Since Jesus declares himself to be, in person, the bread of life (vv 41–71), those who partake of Jesus' flesh and drink his blood will abide in Jesus, and Jesus in them. Thus they will have life, because Jesus has life from the living Father. This revelation provokes questions, even denial, within the ranks of the disciples, and many of them leave Jesus, since they cannot understand his words in terms of the life-giving Spirit. Those who remain (vv 67–71) renew their confession that Jesus is the Holy One of God, with the words of life. Yet even so, one of them has the hidden role of an enemy. The scene then moves to another season, that of Tabernacles, and further conflict, with Jesus confronting the conservative religionists of Judea with his declaration that he is the giver of the water of life (ch 7).

The former lection lays stress on Jesus' declaration of himself as the life-giving food and drink, while the latter is largely taken up with the negative responses of some of the disciples—largely, but not exclusively, because Jesus' insistence that the remaining disciples confront their own uncertainty opens the way to a fresh commitment to faith in Jesus as “the Holy One of God,” even though Peter's words do not necessarily as yet indicate a full understanding of Jesus' teaching. Saint Anselm's “I believe, so that I may understand,” occurs to our minds at this point. – David Tripp

Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18

The image we receive from Joshua’s gathering of the tribues at Shechem is, again, one of choosing. The people are situated in the land of non-Israelites, the Amorites. Will they be drawn away from YHWH? Their response is a recounting of the Lord’s faithfulness to them in their wandering and struggle. 

[This reading] calls us to share the decision of the Israelites to serve the God of Exodus—which is impossible unless God grants it (vv 19–25). – David Tripp

Ephesians 6:10-20

The armor of the Roman soldier here is subverted into the “armor of God,” the garments of the “warrior” whose power comes not from the trappings of violence but from faith that prayer is the ultimate defense and offense.

In a couple of months, or even soon when Halloween items become available, you do not have to look hard to find biblically inspired costumes. One can purchase a “whole armor of God” costume (which is basically a relabeled gladiator suit)!

I've always been bothered by the visual way the images in this passage are portrayed without reference to the underlying character trait to which this points—courage. I'm troubled not just because of children being outfitted with a helmet and sword in Roman soldier style, but because of the lack of reminder to them that to be outfitted with courage comes from the Spirit through the Word of God, through peace, through salvation and so on. – Cheryl Magrini

Prayer gives structure to God’s armor.

The power to pray and to maintain faith in prayer is given through the body and blood of Christ. Joining these images is a window into the life of the Christian. Meal and prayer: two fundamental aspects of faith.

David Tripp, a United Methodist minister, served Salem United Methodist Church in Indiana, served in the British Methodist ministry for twenty-eight years, and wrote in liturgics and related subjects.

Cheryl Magrini, a United Methodist minister is Minister of Christian Education of First United Methodist Church - Chicago Temple, Chicago, Illinois.

Homily Service 39, no. 9 (2006): 35-42.

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