Monday, 20 August 2018

Food glorious food!

Next Sunday 19th August: Trinity 12: Proper 15

Proverbs 9: 1-6. Wisdom in the Bible is a divine quality and so gaining even a little wisdom is much prized. Wisdom is also closely associated with the Logos (the word) so we can say that Jesus Christ is the wisdom made flesh!
Ephesians 5: 15-20. Paul also extols people to gain wisdom. Part of this wisdom is to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit rather than wine. Jesus liked a drop of wine himself so is a warning against excess obviously.
John 6: 51-58. "Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man". We are used in Christian circles to talk of the "body" of Christ but using the word "flesh" adds a more carnal dimension. John starts his gospel by stating that the word became flesh, so flesh is the physical reality of Jesus, and "eating his flesh is communion with the humanity of Jesus.

There are lots of different genres of literature in the Bible, such as history, prophesy, apocalyptic writings such as Daniel or Revelation but there is one kind of writing that at first sight seems to be a strange category; Wisdom literature.

Wisdom is the voice of reflection and experience, which instead of a list of commands, persuades us, almost teases us into seeing the connection between God’s order in the world and his orders to humanity and tries to show us how absurd it is to go against the grain of his creation.

So we have in books like Job or Ecclesiastes or pre-eminently today in Proverbs we have a literature that wrestles with problems of suffering or the meaning of existence mixed together with down to earth advice about more prosaic problems about how we should live, react, or deal with everyday problems of life.

The starting point for all true wisdom is “the fear of the Lord” and the book of proverbs gives advice on all aspects of life which has its source in God.

Remember in our gospel reading last week Jesus said, “They shall all be taught by God”.

How? Through the word of God in the Bible.

God’s wisdom is revealed in these books for the living of a good life.

But more than that, wisdom is a quality of God who appears to emanate from God the Father himself.

Wisdom appears personified as a woman and according to the text in another part of Proverbs (chapter 8: 22 on) she was there at the dawn of creation and in that same chapter in verse 31 she delighted in the human race.

It is inevitable that wisdom and the word (Jesus) became forever entangled to the extent that it is entirely orthodox to equate the word made flesh with the wisdom made flesh.

God’s wisdom, his way of life made concrete in the enfleshed Jesus of Nazareth is he who shines from the pages of the Bible.

And when we speak of the word made flesh, we are bound to emphasise the humanity of Jesus.

We commune today not just with his divinity, but with his humanity.

We have a dignity in being human because God chose to become incarnate in his son.
There is no room in Christianity for a theology that downplays our very human needs and wants. Those needs and wants must be channelled in the right way if we are to please God – that is the purpose of wisdom literature – but those needs and wants – are wholesome in and of themselves.

When Paul writes today that instead of getting drunk on wine we should aim to get drunk in the Spirit, this is wisdom.

He is not saying “don’t ever drink”, that would be absurd. Jesus, wisdom made flesh himself enjoyed wine and parties, and the central sacrament of the Christian church involves drinking wine. But there is a big difference between enjoying a few glasses of wine and debauchery.

The wisdom lies in knowing and recognising the difference. 

Returning to John’s gospel, the thrust of it is in knowing that we recognise that Jesus was a fully functioning human being and we commune with that humanity as well as his divinity that we have life.

The Hesychast (Charismatic) tradition of the Eastern church has a saying;

That God became man so that man could become God.

The goal for humanity is deification, becoming one with God – sanctification as it is called in the west – but that starts by knowing in our hearts that God first became human in Jesus. 

This is the bread that came down from heaven. You eat of it (commune with it) and you have LIFE.

Eternal life – that quality of life I talked about last week – our present possession. We all already have eternal life.

Our response to that fact can only be one of joyous celebration.

Filled with the Spirit of God we respond by

“singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
Singing and making melody to the Lord in our hearts,
Giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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