Flesh and blood! We have this story of a flesh and blood Solomon and how important it was to him to worship God. He went off to a high place. At this point, there was an altar for sacrifice at Gibeon, which was an ancient site for pagan worship. The Israelites had a tabernacle there and another one at Jerusalem where they kept the Ark of the Covenant. There was no temple at this point. Most of the sacrifices were occurring at Gibeon, which is about 6 miles from Jerusalem. So Solomon goes there to have a flesh and blood experience at a holy site. This method is called “incubation”. A person goes to a site, worships, and then settles in for the night to sleep. Similar to a Native American going on a vision quest to find out what the Creator wants him to do with his life.
Solomon has a vision of God asking him what he wants. Solomon was concerned about the burden of leading a nation and asked God to give him the wisdom he needed to lead, because he recognized that he really knew nothing about living--let alone leading. God was pleased with his request and told him he would not only give him the gift of discernment but would also give him wealth and fame. And, if he honored God as his father did, God would give him long life.
The story continued for Solomon. Now, Solomon is depicted in the stories as flesh and blood just like David is. He amassed great wealth, became an astute horse trader, and in some ways oppressed his own people to provide the resources in materials and labor to create his wealthy empire. He built a temple for the one God, but added side chapels to other gods so his many wives and concubines could worship as they did at home. Solomon is a political animal--he works all the angles to stay in power and gain more knowledge. Solomon’s tale, like David’s, is cautionary: we need to be careful how much honor we place on the leaders in our society. We need to hold them accountable for their mistakes. Legends are never quite what they seem. We all have a dark side. [Sojourners, August 2012-The Reverend Martin Smith]
Paul is really good at looking at the dark side of humanity. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he reminds the people that things get a little crazy if we aren’t careful. We need to practice wisdom and guard our time. We need to consider God’s will. Solomon went to God to find out what he needed to do to be a good leader and Paul admonishes us to seek out God’s will. He also describes acts of worship: “Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our master, Jesus Christ.” [The Message-Eugene Peterson] Paul is talking about a flesh and blood experience--living an intentional life. Embodying Christ in the world yet remembering we all have a dark side to keep in check.
And we have Jesus in today’s Gospel in the flesh talking about flesh and blood. John is reminding us that Jesus lived in the flesh and struggled with the same things we do. And, by doing this, he made our lives as humans holy. We are reminded by his mention of the flesh and blood, that Jesus sacrificed himself for us. We are also reminded that our communion feast is holy and important. We come here on Sundays to take Jesus inside ourselves when we consume the bread and wine and then we take Christ out into the world. We, as flesh and blood people can be Christ in the world. No wonder Paul suggests that the Christians at Ephesus should sing and make melody to the Lord in their hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything.
So in each reading, we have flesh and blood people telling us to live life in the flesh-to be fully human. Yet, we also need to carry God in our hearts and live intentionally. We need to praise God with our hearts and voices, with our very lives. If we can focus on God’s will//focus on being Christ in the world, we can keep our dark sides in check and live the holy lives we are intended to live. Flesh and blood as we are.