A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Prayers of the People: Armored Bread ~ 14th Sunday after Pentecost '18 Yr B

For Sunday, August 26, 2018, 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, Readings: 1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84 [1-6], 
Ephesians: 6:1-20, John 6:56-69

Hear the plea of your servant…O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive. [1 Kings 8:30a, c]

Happy are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way…No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity. O Lord of Hosts, happy are they who put their trust in you. [Ps 84:4, 11-12]

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication [Ephesians 6:18a]

Jesus said, "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them..." When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?"...[But Jesus said to them] "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." [John 6:56, 60, 63]

      Some weeks ago we read of David dancing happily through the streets leading the Ark of the Covenant to his own City. Last week we opened the story of Solomon ascending David's throne with God's continuing love. This week Solomon completes the journey his father began in seeing the Ark brought home to Jerusalem, proclaiming to all assembled that "there is no other God like you" who keeps the covenant and steadfast love for all.  
       The Psalmist, speaks over and over about the joy of dwelling in the House and Courts of the living God, the Lord of Hosts. A tiny phrase points us in a definite direction when it says hearts are happy when set on the pilgrim's way as those who travel through a desolate valley will find it a place of springs. Paul exhorts us to shield ourselves from all that could turn us away from God, and to Put on the whole armor of God for strength and to pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer
       This week we also come to the end of the seemingly endless discourses of Jesus telling his followers to "eat my body and drink my blood." This piece of the paschal mystery is so difficult to comprehend that many of those who were following Jesus in his time walked away because of it. Yet many stayed and struggled and today we each reconcile ourselves to this idea in various ways. Some Christians believe in Transubstantiation at the time of the consecration, that the bread and wine on the altar become, mysteriously and mystically, the True and Actual Body and Blood of Christ. Others accept the consecration as metaphor, or, symbolic representation. Some denominations have no "communion" service at all but rely solely on preaching the Word. But the question remains, why is there so very much about BREAD?
        Bread is one of the oldest foods to be "made" from other ingredients - even just flour and water can render some form of it. Leavening, or yeast, is what gives us the bread that westerners are most familiar with. It is nutritious enough to sustain a diet of "bread and water" for quite a long time. It's been called the "Staff of Life" as a staple food for most of the people in the world and would have been understood in his time that it was basic to everyday life. The graphic language is what is most confounding but hearing it in plain and simple terms, when we consume the bread and the water, they are in us, feeding our bodies. When we consume the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ - however one accepts the form as actual or symbolic - it represents Christ within us as he tells us we are in him. It is our spiritual sustenance to nourish us on our earthly journey, our pilgrimage, that culminates in eternal life through salvation. Consuming the small piece of consecrated bread and wine in the Eucharist, is, for me, a literal physical connection to an abiding spiritual Presence.
       And, finally in the Gospel of John, Jesus asks the Twelve if they wish to also turn away and Peter says, "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."  From those times to our times, we are still seeking to understand, to strengthen our faith, to travel the path to God in our own way and with each other. We struggle with questions and doubts and confidence in our faith. We are pilgrims.

       The Oxford dictionary defines pilgrim as: a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons and offers the synonyms: worshiper, devotee, believer, traveler, wayfarer. It isn't important to physically travel, we can make progress as a pilgrim in our spiritual journeys wherever we are through prayer and contemplation, in worship and through Communion with fellow journeyers. But just as in travel, sometimes there are delays and detours, yet with determination, eventually the destination is reached. Prayer, perseverance, desire, and longing to be part of God's Household is all it takes ... but it is easier if we go together. As the old hymn from John Bunyan, author of the 1678 Pilgrim’s Progress, concludes:

Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit,
We know at the end, shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away! I'll fear not what men say,
I'll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.

Let us put the on Armor of God, eat our Bread, and continue to our sacred destiny.
To listen to an unusual and beautiful rendering of Bunyan's hymn, click here: Steve Parsons: To Be A Pilgrim


Leader:  ~ Living God, our Sun and our Shield, fill us with Your strength that we may reflect Your steadfast love and your grace and glory in all that we do. Help us on our pilgrim way to pray in the Spirit at all times, for all reasons, for all of Your people.

                                         O Lord of Hosts                        
RESPONSE:    We put our trust in You

~ Living God, guide us to stand firm and proclaim the Gospel of peace and justice to all who hold authority over the governments of this World, of this Country, and of this Community. Let us take up Your Truth and walk with the integrity that we expect and require of our leaders. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                         O Lord of Hosts
                                         We put our trust in You

~ Living God, breathe fresh hope into the spirits of all who are weighed down by serious illness, desperation, or addiction, and lift the hearts of those who give them care. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need… add your own petitions

                                         O Lord of Hosts
                                         We put our trust in You

~ Living God, ease our sorrows with the comfort of knowing that those we have sent on to You, now transcend all earthly woes, and live forever in the newness of life, holy and eternal. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                         O Lord of Hosts
                                         We put our trust in You

~ Living God, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials, aloud or silently… add your own petitions

                                         O Lord of Hosts
                                         We put our trust in You
~ Living God, You have gifted us with disciples who do not turn away but give their lives in Your service, guiding us by Word and Sacrament. As Christ abides in us and we in Him, we join and journey together toward the threshold of Your Eternal House. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                         O Lord of Hosts
                                         We put our trust in You

The Celebrant adds:  Holy and Eternal God, hear our plea and draw us together to clothe ourselves in Your armor of faith, being nourished by the Holy Food and Drink of Christ. With Your helmet of salvation and belt of truth, we can resist all evil, as we seek to live forever in You, rejoicing beyond all time. We ask through Christ Jesus, the Holy One; and the Live-Giving Spirit, who together with You, reign as One God, now and forever. Amen.

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