Pentecost 13, Year B, Aug 22, 2021 – Serving God

 Pentecost 13, Year B (full size gallery)

Last week cloudy and dreary and this week sunny and moderate temperatures.

An unusual Sunday:

1. We had more online attendance than inhouse participants – 14 online and 8 in St. Peter’s. The mission trip to Jamaica was underway and 7 of the online people were mission trip participants.
2. His and Her Morning Prayer. Alex and Nancy divided up the readings and prayers. A creative way of conducting the service.
3. The sermon came externally from the Rev. Amy Turner though Zoom. She resides in Florida.

Two of the readings this week deal with serving God – Joshua and John. The readings are here

In the Old Testament  the generation that has come into the promised land enters into a covenant with the Lord similar to that into which their ancestors entered at Sinai (Exodus 24:7-18, 34:27-28).   The pass of Shechem (Hebrew, shoulders) is in the northern hill country of Israel, situated between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim.

The ceremony reported here may have been an annual renewal of the covenant. It follows the form of ancient Hittite political treaties (covenants among nations) of that time. Elements of such treaties were: a preamble (24:2a), a summary of historical relationships (24:2-13), the stipulations (24:14, 25), the recording of the treaty in written form (24:26) and the invocation of witnesses (24:22, 27). 

The question  How do we serve the Lord –  ““put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.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.“   Reliance on the Lord

Today’s gospel reading describes the reaction of the large group of disciples following Jesus, and especially of the twelve disciples, to Jesus’ words. The question is: To which words in particular are they responding? Overall, the passage returns to the terms of 6:35-50 (Jesus as the word/bread of revelation) rather than continuing the specifically eucharistic theme of 6:51-59. 

The particular claim that the disciples call a “hard saying” (that is, offensive or difficult, but not in itself obscure) may be the assertion that Jesus is the bread “come down from heaven” (6:38, 51) to which the Jews have already objected (6:41). This would balance the statement about “ascending where he was before” (3:13). The “flesh (which) is of no avail” is not the eucharistic flesh of Jesus as in 6:51-59, but the flesh (3:6) as the natural principle of frailty which cannot give eternal life. And again, as in 6:35-50, the issue is believing in Jesus, not specifically eating his flesh. 

Jesus laments, “some of you do not believe” Here the meaning of “believe” is  to “trust or rely upon someone. ”  He is saying some of you are not relying on me as the bread of life.  In Bible times, bread was the stuff of life.  People had bread to eat when they had nothing else, and when they had no bread, they literally had nothing!  No wonder Jesus called himself the bread of life, the bread of the Good News. They could rely on him to take them to a larger life beyond the confines of just sustenance , a large enough challenge at that time. For Jesus it was to fulfill God’s will (John 4:34).

Believing in Jesus is also echoed in the Epistle. As Ephesians notes,   “Finally, be strong in the Lord   and in the strength of his power.  These are active both in the world and in the supernatural realm, although in Christ’s victory the decisive battle is already won (1:20-22; Colossians 2:15). Paul had a strong sense of the world as being under the domination of evil powers. The struggle of Christian freedom is to overcome this evil domination and live under the domination or rule of God.

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. 

The church in serving Jesus has a valuable role to play takes the people to a larger life of service both inside the church and outside. We support St. Peter’s by our pledges which ups to help us rely on the church to do something much bigger than we could do by ourselves 

The mystical union of Christ with his Church is not an evident fact within Christendom. The Body of Christ is rent with divisions like those of an incompatible marriage. We have marred the model marriage of Christ with his Church by not really understanding the hard sayings that he has given us. The marriage covenant with Christ means to forsake all others and have no other gods.

God has pledged love and blessings to us forever. God has told us this most explicitly through Christ. How poignant is Jesus’ question to his disciples: “Do you also wish to go away?” May we answer him with Peter’s firm conviction: “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.”

The 2018 sermon concentrated on this phrase from Ephesians – ““Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist.” Truth is a matter of life or death. Truth is essential if we want to relate to ourselves, to God, and to one another in life giving ways, rather than death dealing ways

“Sisella Bok, in in her book Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, states…“Trust is a social good to be protected just as much as the air we breathe or the water we drink. When it is damaged, the community as a whole suffers; and when trust is destroyed, societies falter and collapse.”

“In John 18:38 Pilate says “What is truth?” “After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him.'” Pilate, having heard a multitude of accusations against Jesus by the Jewish authorities, and yet himself finding no case against Jesus, still ended up handing Jesus over to be crucified.

“Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” in that long conversation he had with his disciples before he was arrested and sent to his death. The word “truth” is at the center of this statement. Jesus, the truth in our lives, will never fail to point us in a life giving direction in the way that we should follow if we listen to his voice.

“In today’s gospel, Jesus is blunt about this need for Jesus in our lives if we are to be his disciples. Not only are we to strap him on as the way, the truth and the life, be we also are to abide in him, to take him in to ourselves.”

“Jesus, never one to gloss over the difficulty of discipleship, told his disciples that “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them…whoever eats me will live because of me.” In other words, Jesus is our true nourishment.”

We are nourished by Jesus at the Eucharist “We are also nourished by Jesus when we walk in love with one another, when we treat others with dignity and respect, and when we share in Jesus’ name.

“Discipleship requires commitment, devotion, time, energy and discipline.That’s why I like the image of fastening the belt of truth around my waist, because it’s a simple way to start this life of discipleship—a simple, life giving and life saving act.”