By Barbara Klugh
1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Solomon asks God for wisdom, Paul encourages us to live carefully and wisely, and Jesus tells us that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood have eternal life.
1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14: The books of Kings were originally one book covering about 400 years; they take us through the death of David and the reign of Solomon to the division into two kingdoms after Solomon’s death, and then to captivity and exile.
This week and next we have two lovely readings from 1 Kings, but things were violent beforehand. As David’s life was ending, there was a struggle for the throne between Adonijah, David’s oldest son, and Solomon, David’s second son by Bathsheba. With a guidance from Nathan, the priest Zadok, and Bathsheba, David declared Solomon to be his successor.
After “David slept with his ancestors, and was buried,” Solomon consolidated his reign by killing or banishing Adonijah and his supporters. It seems almost like he was purging the past and trying to make a fresh start. During his forty-year reign, Solomon built the Temple, increased Israel’s wealth and influence, and became known for his great wisdom.
As we begin this week’s reading, “Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.”
“Solomon loved the Lord,” and offered 1,000 burnt offerings in Gibeon, the principal high place. (This was before the Temple was built, so there wasn’t a single center of worship in Jerusalem.) One night, God appeared to Solomon in a dream, and said, “Ask what I should give you.” At this time Solomon is twenty years old, and begins by expressing his gratitude for succeeding his father to the throne, “although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.” Rather than asking for power or riches, Solomon, asks for “an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.” God is so pleased with Solomon’s request, that he grants him “a wise and discerning mind,” and riches, honor, and a long life as well—so long as Solomon walks in God’s ways and keeps God’s statutes.
Psalm 111: this week’s psalm is a hymn of praise to the almighty and awesome Lord for his works of “majesty and splendor” and because he “is gracious and full of compassion.” The first part of the final verse is a well-known teaching: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Ephesians 5:15-20: In this brief selection, Paul counsels the Ephesians—and us—to live carefully as wise people. Use our time well. Don’t get drunk with wine, but be happily intoxicated by the indwelling Spirit. Show this joy in community by singing psalms and hymns, by making music, and by “giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
John 6:51-58: In this week’s reading, Jesus continues the Bread of Life Discourse and continues to shock his listeners. Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Again, the people didn’t understand that Jesus was expressing a meta-truth (if there is such a word) and they were taking his words literally.
But now Jesus goes further, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” This was even more appalling to his listeners, because in Jewish teaching blood was always equated with life and all life belongs to God.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” To me, Jesus is saying that just believing in him is not enough. We need to participate in the Eucharist in order to abide in Christ and have Christ abide in us. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are able to receive spiritual nourishment and live forever—not like the manna that our ancestors ate, which lasted for a day, but the living bread which lasts forever.