Today’s readings complete two sections of themes for the past several weeks: 1) nine Sundays of OT readings about King David and his son King Solomon, and 2) five Sunday of Gospel readings from John talking about the Bread of Life—Jesus Christ. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to move ahead to other topics. Also, this is Pentecost 14 Sunday, about halfway through this very long season of Pentecost—it runs all the way to after Thanksgiving, or 27 Sundays worth this year.
“King Solomon had 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. All the people of Israel assembled, and the priests carried the ark. They brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent. King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.
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. There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses had placed there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 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.” This is the setting for our OT reading today.
“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.…
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.”
This is the height of the Israelites power and connection to God as they knew him and his covenant with them. Never again would they ever have an earthly king who really understood what God wanted of his people and did whatever he could to lead them along that righteous path. It took the better part of 300 years before the kingdom would totally fall apart, be taken over by the Babylonians, and many exiled out of their lands. Never again would they have a settled land situation where they clearly knew they were in a place that they owned for sure and without question. To this day this is true of Israel!!
In today’s Gospel, “Jesus 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.” Wise words by Peter, the Rock of the Church.
I know we have been having all these readings about the Bread of Life, but our Eucharist also has another element. I would like to read something from the Rev. Dennis Tierney (retired rector of St Bartholomew, Bainbridge Island, and property manager for the Diocese, on the challenges of being a parish minister (because it also points out the other part of our communion worship).
“I joked that, in many ways, it was a great gig. I appeared to only work on Sundays. I started work on those days with a parade with everyone standing up as I walked in – like royalty, the last person in the room. No matter how crowded the church was, there was always a saved seat for me. Nothing could start until I was ready. And every day of the week, I had a reserved parking place close to the building. The heaviest thing I generally lifted was a chalice and they aren’t very heavy. Until they are almost impossibly heavy.
Chalices themselves are not very hard to lift. But what they represent can be weighty indeed. For chalices contain the hopes and dreams, fears, worries, and concerns of those present for worship. And in that sense, chalices do hold blood – the blood of life’s challenges, disappointments, and endings, all drawn from the hearts and minds and souls and bodies of the people of God. Metaphorical to be sure, but every bit as real. Sometimes chalices are very light – when the world goes smoothly and life in the parish seems right and easy. Chalices are always lighter at baptisms and weddings; times of celebration and joy. Chalices are always much heavier at funerals and times of congregational or national distress. Somehow the prayers and thoughts of the faithful are transmitted to the chalice and lifting it up to God can be hard to do, indeed. Some chalices are laden with sadness because the hearts of so many are not filled with gladness….
Chalices will vary in weight but all will be lifted up because we never do this work alone. God surrounds us; God is with us; God is in us, now and forever.”