Rev’d Jonathan Gale
1 Kings 2: 10 – 12, 3: 3 – 14
Death of David
10 Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 11The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned for seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.
3 Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 4The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt-offerings on that altar. 5At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ 6And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.’
Ephesians 5: 15 – 20
15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 6: 51 – 69
51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ 53So Jesus said to them, ‘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. 54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
The Words of Eternal Life
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ 68Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’*
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord. Amen.
I’d like us to spend a bit of time “self-reflecting” this morning.
What I believe God wants us both to consider and to act upon this morning comes out of Verse 61: But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’
Taking offence. I don’t mean giving offence. Most humans (because there are always exceptions) don’t want willingly to give offence. Most of us want to get on with other people. And God has very clear directions about how we are to behave when we are genuinely offended – which sometimes happens.
No. I’m speaking of the altogether too common practice of taking offence. It is said that you can gauge your spiritual maturity by the degree to which you either do or don’t take umbrage.
“Umbrage” – lovely word that.
The dictionary defines it as “take offence, be offended, take exception, take something personally, be aggrieved, be affronted, take something amiss, be upset, be annoyed, be angry, be indignant, get one’s hackles up, be put out, be insulted etc”
It is so easy to get miffed, isn’t it? You just have to be alive to do so! One sees it all the time – yes, in the church too.
You know how often there is an object in the house that people frequently trip over. Holly tells me that as far as our premises are concerned it’s the mat in the entrance to the hall. People seem to focus on what lies ahead rather than on what is in front of them and they catch a toe or the sole of their shoe on the mat.
Taking offence seems to be the tripping-mat we Christians stumble over frequently. We manage great obstacles like steps, doorways and sloping driveways, but we trip over the mat of “taking offence.”
Another dangerous object is a chain slung between bollards. They are lethal. Rather walk round.
Faith tells the story of how she was selected for the hurdles team to compete in a secondary schools athletics competition. She was mincing along and noticed a group of boys from another school sitting in the shade near some bollards that had a chain slung across them. She decided to elegantly skip over the chain – and you’ve guessed it – she caught her toe and landed flat on her face. What I like about that story is one of the boys said, “I guess you’re not here for hurdles.” It happens.
Christians seem especially prone to tripping over the whole business of taking offence.
It’s easy to forget that we are not perfect and easy to begin to expect perfection in others. And that perfection is frequently allied to our perspectives – to our belief as to how people should behave.
But we’re not all identical. We need to make allowance for people!!
Some people are defensive, some people are rude. Some people are strange. When they say something offensive it may just be ‘cultural’ and by that I mean their personal culture. We need to get over it. We have ample capacity in Christ to handle that.
Goodness me, we should be turning the other cheek, let along not taking offence!
Do you know that one of the most common things ministers do is design the way they work in such a way as to keep certain people apart. It’s crazy!
Ecclesiastes 7: 9 says “Do not be quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.”
No-one says it’s easy. Some people seem to jump consistently on the one exposed nerve you have. But getting along – especially in the church – is the one thing we have to do.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’
You know what the problem is? We struggle to hold an adequate understanding of the value the church. I’m not talking about the institution. I’m talking about our having a poor understanding of just how much we need one another for spiritual growth.
Ephesians links spiritual health with the effective articulation of the joints in the Body of Christ. If we are a part in the Body of Christ, it is our articulation, the way we relate to one another, that produces growth and health in the church. (Ephesians 4: 16)
This is one of the reasons why the church grows in times of persecution. God forbid that we should have to go through some of the horrors Christians in some parts of the world endure, but it’s true. We only fully appreciate one another when the going gets really tough.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. We don’t need to wait for persecution for we flourish.
I heard a lovely saying the other day, and it relates to an image from the Book of Ezekiel. “You see bones. But I see a mighty army.”
The prophet sees a valley of dry bones and God asks, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
And we know the story; how the prophet obediently spoke over the bones and they rose up becoming a great army. Bone articulating with bone: spiritual; growth!
We can believe the same for how we respond to one another. In God’s strength we can get along without taking umbrage.
The Jews took offence at the idea of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood.
And it is in this very thing that our greatest opportunity lies.
In the bread and wine are the symbolic body and blood – in other words the life of Christ. For us to receive Christ’s life as the animating principle of our own lives – as that which nurtures and drives us – we have to make room for it. And that is where the potential lies.
When we realise that the greatest resentment – the greatest offence we are capable of – lies in a reluctance to give up our priorities and receive God’s priorities, we are half way there.
The bread and wine are taken into us. They are absorbed into our very being, they are internalised. The greatest joy (and this is so evident when one reads the lives of the saints) is when we put aside the animating principles of our own lives and deeply internalise the life of Jesus. Jesus lubricates the joints!
Jesus says The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. In heeding them, we make room for more of him, our characters become less defensive and we are less likely to be the kinds of people others feel they have to tiptoe around lest we are offended by them.
When we truly know who we are in Jesus, when we take every thought captive to obey Christ as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5 we will be accommodating of difference and even offensive behaviour in others. Learning to forgive is of course the key.
Proverbs 19 tells us Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offence.
Paul tells the Romans Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Getting there is a process and we certainly can.
There are one or two people who really get on my wick. Thankfully they’re not members of this parish. I’ve had to work hard at not allowing their behaviour to affect my ability to walk with Christ. Make sure you do the same. I don’t always succeed, but I keep working at it. The people who offend you consistently may never change. If you can’t forgive, you have a problem. You are stuck in a cycle of immaturity going round and round and not getting anywhere.
Other parts of you might mature but there will be this one stunted area acting like a handicap and ruining the healthy side of you.
Make room for more of the character of Christ in your life. If you think things are a bit creaky, think of Ezekiel and say in faith, “You see bones. But I see a mighty army.”
God bless you.