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notre dame montreal

Worship, Prayer, Sermons and Bible Teaching Notes

Ordinary 19 - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Green


Introduction

We live in a consumer society in which it is assumed that happiness is determined by the ability to purchase and enjoy material possessions.  This is not just a modern problem. Jesus warned of the dangers of gathering more than we need, telling people to be more concerned with the stuff that rust and moths cannot destroy. Jesus understood the real needs of the human heart, it is not what you have that counts, but what you are. It isn't what we can purchase that matters but what we can give of ourselves to others.  

In our reading from John today, Jesus tells people that they need to be concerned about their spiritual diet, to be discriminating about what we allow into our minds and hearts. It makes little sense to be concerned about our calorie intake if randomly inundate our minds with malicious gossip and hateful thoughts. What use is daily exercise if we never exercise our minds with new learning or our souls with prayer?

Real life transcends our physical needs and involves our spirits, only when we recognise do we have the possibility of finding true happiness and fulfilment.

Opening Verses of Scripture  John 6:35

"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

Collect Prayer for the Day -  Before we read we pray

Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Traditional

Lord of heaven and earth, as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer, give us patience and courage never to lose hope, but always to bring our prayers before you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship Additional


First Bible Reading   1 Kings 19:4-8

Verse 3 (Not sure why the lectionary does not include this verse!)
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,
 

4-8 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

Alternate reading  2 Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33
The king [David] commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absolom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absolom to each of the commanders. The army marched into the field to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. There the army of Israel was defeated by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great – twenty thousand men. The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword. Now Absolom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absolom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in mid-air, while the mule he was riding on kept going. And ten of Joab’s armour-bearers surrounded Absolom, struck him and killed him.
Then the Cushite arrived [before David] and said,” My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has delivered you today from all who rose up against you.” The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absolom safe?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.” The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said, “O my son Absolom! My son, my son Absolom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absolom, my son, my son.”

Second Reading Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Gospel Reading  John 6:35, 41-51

35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
 

36-40 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"

"Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." 

Post Communion Prayer

God of our pilgrimage, you have willed that the gate of mercy should stand open for those who trust in you: look upon us with your favour that we who follow the path of your will
may never wander from the way of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Commentary: Elijah

Fr. John Foley writes that Elijah had just come from a dangerous showdown with 150 prophets of the god called Baal, in the land ruled by Jezebel.  The God of Israel easily won this encounter, but Elijah progressed into violence against the surviving prophets anyway. Queen Jezebel, understandably enraged, sent a message that she would do the same thing to Elijah and more within that same day.  Elijah was frightened, exhausted, and dispirited, especially when he came back to find the Israelites themselves being unfaithful to the only true God. He became depressed in spite of his great triumph. So he prayed to God to give immediate death to his worthless self. Then, as depressed people will do, he went to sleep. He was under a broom tree (a tall hedge with which desert people shielded themselves from the sun in the day and the wind at night).  God could have been harsh to Elijah as a result. But instead, a quiet touch from God’s angel awakened the prophet, and the angel whispered: get up and eat. Lo and behold, "there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water."  Elijah did eat and drink, but then settled right back into sleep again. With tender care the angel whispered, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" He did and was strengthened for the unknown mission he was to be sent on. Today’s other readings are all about God’s kindness to us too, his goodness even in small things.  In the Gospel, Jesus offers nourishment too, but this time the provisions are for a very long journey: eternal life. The people listening will not have a bit of it. They argue among themselves, ridiculing his silly offer of miraculous food. They "murmur" that they knew his parents, which made him just a local boy acting crazy. Jesus ordered them to stop complaining and listen. He made the same comparison that we saw last week, between manna that came down from heaven in the desert and Himself, "the living bread that came down from heaven."  Jesus as living bread can be a difficult concept to understand.  But leave that aside for a moment and just concentrate on the deliberate kindness God shows to his people: feeding them, giving them drink, pursuing them again and again in order to offer the greatest gift of all, God’s sacrificial love for us. God follows us quietly, gently.  How can and should we respond?  Receiving the living bread in Communion is a beginning.  Reflecting on the mellowness of God is another.  And simply slowing down. Stop running away and let the Lord find you. God’s kind-hearted and also tough love is quite worth the struggle. God is the one who will send us into the world (if he can catch us!).  Here is how Paul puts it in the Second Reading.  "Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma."

The “I am” sayings of Jesus run throughout John’s Gospel.  When Jesus comes walking across the water to the disciples in the boat during the storm after the feeding of the 5000 He simply said to them, “Fear not, I am.” The feeding calls to mind for the Jews, the historical feeding but the central message of the passage is how the apostles took Him into their boat as He came toward them.  Jesus is presented as offering Himself as human and divine and His loving desire for all men and women to take him into the boats of their passages and journeys. The past deeds of God are being continued in Jesus who came that we may have life and life is this: believing that He was and is sent into the world.  Larry Gillick says, Elijah wanted to give it all up and the apostles were being swamped with fear.  Most of us have been there and were tempted to do that as well. But God so often sends angels to “touch” us, to give us the “Bread from Heaven” and continues to urge us “get up and eat” and then get up and get on with the living.  Our comfort is more than bread, it is that we have taken Christ into our boats, allowed Him to sweep us from underneath the “broom tree” and keeps us as His real presence in the society in which we live.   Elijah moaned, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life,” Jesus says to us, “I am enough!  You take my life, eat it all, live it all and you will be already living the eternal life I came and come to share.”

Sam Cappleman

 

Meditation: Strength for the Journey

There are times when people we know and love despair to the point of wanting to die. Perhaps there have been times when we ourselves have thought death a better alternative. Our journey through life takes us through some very dangerous country, our pilgrimage of life can leads us into some very desolate wilderness. Think of the words of the angel to Elijah, the words "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you."

To survive on our journey, to have the strength to go through the barren places of life, those places where we are alone - because of divorce, or illness, or death - we need to eat to drink the food and the drink that God has prepared for us. God does provide food in the words of his scriptures, in the lives of good people around us. We reach out to God when we are in need, when we are in despair, it is then that we must wait upon that still small voice which encourages us to believe, to trust, to rise up and feed upon the living bread. It is only as we do this that we all gain strength to enable us to complete our journey.
 

Hymns

  1. Praise my soul
  2. Who put the colours in the rainbow
  3. Immortal Invisible
  4. Who would true valour
  5. Lift up your hearts Tune Woodlands

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead


God of the way, you are the road we travel, and the sign we follow; you are bread for the journey, and the wine of arrival. Guide us as we follow in your way, holding on to each other, reaching out to your beloved world. And when we stray, seek us out and find us, set our feet on the path again, and lead us safely home. In the name of Jesus, our Lord we pray. Amen.
Praying figure
Dear Lord, we thank you for your love, for how you provide all things that we need. We thank you and we ask you, O God, to continue to feed us, to work on us - and to move us to feed others. Father, just as you graciously provide for our spiritual nourishment through the Word revealed to us by your Son, Jesus Christ, so we bring our physical needs and the needs of others before you, in the faith and confidence that you are willing to hear our prayers. We pray, O God, for the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, those who are united with us at the one table of the Lord, and also for the people of his Church, that they may continue to illuminate the Word by their words and example.

Creator God, Give us a heart for simple things: love and laughter, bread and wine, tales and dreams. Fill our lives with green and growing hope; make us a people of justice whose song is Alleluia and whose name breathes love.

Father God, when we are troubled and afraid, come to us, and make us hungry for you so that your love and presence may sustain and encourage us all the days of our lives and evermore. Amen

Risen Christ, whose absence leaves us paralysed, but whose presence is overwhelming, breathe on us with your abundant life; that where we cannot see we may have courage to believe that we may be raised with you. Amen

The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, establish, strengthen and settle you in the faith; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen

 

Additional Material

Commentary

The Story of Elijah is an interesting one, he was one of the first of the great prophets. Elijah background is known only from his description as Elijah, the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead?1 Kings 17:1. He first appears warning King Ahab of an impending drought, this drought would only end when Elijah proclaimed it so.

What lay behind this was a challenge as to who had power and authority, Yahweh, the God if Israel, or the Canaanite Baal gods. Baal means Owner or Lord and this was the name given to the Canaanite gods of storms and weather. The Baal god was the owner of the land and the inclination to worship these gods was strong. After making his pronouncement, Elijah hid in the desert and lodged with a widow. When the local brook dried up Elijah assured the widow that she would be able to feed her household many days with her meagre supplies which would not diminish. The widow also had her dead son raised by Elijah. (17:24)

After three years of drought Ahab accused Elijah of troubling Israel. Elijah responded by telling Ahab to assemble the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel, where he issued a challenge. Elijah proposed that both he and the prophets of Ball set up an altar and prepare a sacrifice. The people would then recognise as God the one whose altar caught fire. Baal prophets called upon their god that day, danced around the altar and mutilated themselves, but there was no reply. Elijah built his altar with twelve stones, to represent the unity of the Twelve tribes of Israel. He then called to God and the altar was immediately consumed by fire. The rains came later that day, proving to Ahab that God, unlike Baal, could end the drought at will.

Elijah was then faced with a death threat from Jezebel, Ahab wife, and he fled from the city of Jezreel to Beersheba. There he went out into the wilderness about a day's walk, and came to a solitary broom tree in the midst of this wilderness, and sat under it. He then asks God that he might die. An Angel fed him and he gained strength to go on to Horeb, which we call Mount Sinai, where Moses had received the ten commandments. Elijah complained that he was a fugitive, a poor reward for having served God. Wind, fire and an earthquake passed by the cave where he hid. God was not there but appeared to him in a still small voice (1Kings 9:12). So it was that God cared for Elijah even when Elijah felt there was no hope left.

At the end of this journey through the wilderness he is granted a vision of God - and given a message of hope for his own life and for the nation. Elijah went on to serve God in challenging Ahab over the murder of Naboth and taking of his vineyard. Elijah passed his ministry on to Elisha, by passing him his mantle while he was ploughing. Finally after the appearance of a fiery chariot and horses, Elijah was taken into heaven in a whirlwind.

Elijah in tradition
In Malachi 4:5 God says 'I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day comes? to reunite families in disagreement. As Elijah was believed not to have died, legend has grown around him. Jews believe that Elijah will come at the end of days to decide questions of law and that he will announce the coming of the Messiah. His presence is hoped for at the Passover Seder. A chair is dedicated to him at circumcision ceremonies, which he has to attend as each child might be the Messiah. In early Christianity the return of Elijah was attributed to John the Baptist and he was associated with Jesus at the Transfiguration. Charles Royden