simple white fading png image
notre dame montreal

Worship, Prayer, Sermons and Bible Teaching Notes

Ordinary 20 - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Green


Introduction

There has been a lot of talk about bread over the last few weeks. Jesus has made the bread multiply so that he has fed thousands with a few small loaves. He has told people that they must eat of the living bread. The message doesn't seem to get through to some people who follow jesus around so that they can get free loaves.

Perhaps to make the point most forcibly, Jesus is at his most dramatic and offensive this week when he tell the crowd that they must eat his body and drink his blood.

Eating human flesh and drinking blood was as obnoxious then as it is now and some of the people who heard Jesus were clearly upset. However Jesus want to make the point that it is no good just following him around for fringe benefits. Those who are serious will consume and be consumed by God. There are no half measures and Jesus will literally give of his own flesh and blood by his death on a cross. Those who follow Jesus today draw closer to him as they take the bread and wine of communion, powerful gifts of Jesus of his body and blood which was given for them

 


Opening Verses of Scripture  

Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.
Psalm 34 v 9
 

Collect Prayer for the Day —Before we read we pray

God of the nations, to whose table all are invited and in whose kingdom no one is a stranger: hear the cries of the hungry and mercifully extend to all the peoples on earth the joy of your salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

To set the earth ablaze, O God, your Son submitted to death on the cross, and from his cup of suffering you call the church to drink. When we are tempted give us strength to run the race that lies before us, and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

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.  Amen.   Common Worship

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.  Amen.   Common Worship Shorter Collect

First Bible Reading  1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

2:10-12
Then David rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David. He had reigned forty years over Israel--seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.

3:3-14
Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." Solomon answered, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. "Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.
So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for--both riches and honour--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life."

Alternate Reading

Proverbs 9 v 1 – 6
Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. Let all who are simple come in here! she says to those who lack judgment. Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.


Gospel Reading   John 6:51- 58

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." Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."

 

Post Communion Sentence

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

As we read through John’s Gospel we are aware that frequently there are times when Jesus speaks and people take his words very literally when he is speaking at a spiritual level. This happens with Nicodemus when Jesus says that we must be born again. Obviously we cannot be physically born twice, Jesus is speaking of a spiritual awakening. It happens when Jesus meets a woman at a well and offers her living water so that she will never be thirsty again. Jesus wants to quench her spiritual thirst, he doesn’t promise never ending water.

Jesus was facing a problem in getting his message across because people were becoming preoccupied with materialistic fulfilment and missing the spiritual message. There was a problem when Jesus fed the hungry crowds from a few small loaves because the people understandably saw Jesus as ticket to a free lunch. These were poor people and when they saw somebody who was capable of mass producing food it was little wonder that they chased Jesus around Lake Galilee. We often read the suggestion that the miraculous feedings could be explained as Jesus teaching the crowd to share. On one level it appeals to us today but we need to recognise that the frenzy which followed resulted from hungry people who had suddenly found somebody who created food like magic and they wanted more. The crowds wanted full tummies and they wanted their sick people made well. Somehow Jesus had to prevent the sign becoming more powerful than the message. Jesus cares for the hungry and sick, really he does, but he needs to tell people that it is he who is the living bread, the living water. The flesh is of importance to God, but the spiritual truths are even more important, man cannot live by bread alone. The people were in danger of becoming like the Israelites in the desert, eating manna which satisfied their hunger, but not receiving the spiritual food which gave eternal life. This is surely just as true today as it ever was. Every single living body has within a soul to feed and for many people the soul has been starved of nourishment.

It is for this reason that Jesus now uses language which many have found distasteful ever since. Jesus tells them that he is offering them himself to eat, that he is the living bread. We have already been warned tat the beginning of the Gospel that Jesus is the word made flesh (1:14). Now Jesus takes this further and uses language which is powerful, confusing, perhaps disgusting but certainly shocking
"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life
and I will raise that one up on the last day."

It was a common view in Greek philosophy that the physical world was impure and corrupt, and no self-respecting god should have anything to do with it, this later came to be the view of certain Christians - the "gnostics." Jesus associating himself so closely with the physical stuff of creation and humanity is an affirmation of the essential goodness of the God created physical world. However the description of eating Jesus flesh raises images of cannibalism, a charge which was later laid against Christians. To eat the flesh of somebody was horrible and drinking blood was considered a blasphemous act forbidden by God. In the new world order after the flood God commanded Noah ‘You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood," (Genesis 9:4) The law of Moses equally forbade the drinking of blood, (Lev 17:10) or even meat with the blood still in it. It is verses of scripture like this which prompt Jehovah’s Witnesses to abstain from blood transfusion still today.

The words of Jesus would have been shocking, we know from the passage that the hearers at the time were confused, even though they would surely not have thought that Jesus was literally going to offer himself as a banquet. However it would become clear later in the Gospel what the spiritual meaning was. There is no way that the first readers of the Gospel could read these words of Jesus without thinking of the Lord’s Supper. They would be driven to recognise that the signs which Jesus used were there to enable his hearers to have faith in him.

We are fortunate also to be able to read this in the context of later understanding of the communion or eucharist and the words which Jesus used
"… the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
Flesh and blood is an expression which we use to signify the whole person, so Jesus is giving all of himself to be our life – first on the cross and at our communion celebration. It is no wonder then that the Last Supper is something which we celebrate as a central part of faith for us. It is a focal point for all we believe, all we are and all we do. Here we are gathered around the Word, Bread and the Cup, Jesus’ gift of his total self. We in turn, give our whole selves to him by partaking in the Eucharistic feast. We are to come to the Eucharist then with fresh ears to hear and open hearts to receive – to hear the Word and to receive the Bread broken and shared. Charles Royden
 

Meditation


The book of Proverbs is seen as one of the most representative works of Israelite wisdom and is made up of two main sections called ‘The proverbs of Solomon’, Sol 10 v 1 – 22 v 16 and ‘Some more of Solomon’s proverbs’, Sol 22 v 17 – 24 v 22. These sections are followed by some other sayings and closes with an alphabetical poem in praise of an ideal wife. The book of Proverbs is not just a book of pithy sayings and maxims to live by, although it does contain many of these, it’s a book which gives unique insight into the Israelite faith and the nature of God and His wisdom. The Old Testament reading today is taken from the 9 chapter long introduction to the book of Proverbs and models a classic form of Egyptian wisdom literature with the deep impression of Israelite thought imposed upon it. In this introduction a father commends wisdom to his child in a discourse where wisdom herself intervenes. The parable which unfolds in Sol 9 v 1 – 18, of which we have the first 6 verses today, lays out the 2 paths before an individual, the way of virtue and the way of vice, from which every human must choose. It echoes the choice laid out before us by Jesus, God’s wisdom personified, the choice between the way of the cross and the way of self. And, just as in the times of Solomon, we too have to make a choice.

Hymns

  1. O worship the King

  2. For I’m building a people of power

  3. The King of love my shepherd is

  4. Great is thy faithfulness

 

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,

if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

God our Father, may we love you in all things and above all things and reach the joy you have prepared for us beyond all our imagining. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

God of mercy, whose Son Jesus Christ is the bread of life; by the sacrament of the Holy Communion you make us one with Christ. By becoming more like him on earth, may we come to share his glory in heaven. Amen

We give thanks for your Son, Jesus, who you raised to new life, and who now offers himself to us as the bread of heaven, so that all who eat and drink of him might live forever as one with him. Amen
Nathan Nettleton www.laughingbird.net

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect in every good work to do His will; 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 ups and downs of our Christian faith

The book of John is alone in the gospels in that is does not contain a lengthy exposition of the last supper. Instead of which we have John Chapter 6 where Jesus, after feeding the 5000, explains that he is the bread of life, a passage which led to early Christians being accused of cannibalism by some parties because of the phrase in the chapter where Jesus declares that ‘…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’. For the Jews, it was one of their best known dietary laws that the drinking of blood, or even eating meat still with the blood in it, was expressly forbidden. To understand what Jesus means we perhaps need to go back to the Old Testament.

In 2 Samuel 23 there is an account of David, who is fighting the Philistines who have their garrison in David’s home town of Bethlehem. David longs for a drink of water from the well at the gates of Bethlehem and on hearing his wish, three of his ‘mighty men’ go to the well and bring David a drink of water back. To everyone’s surprise David refuses to drink the water which has been so bravely brought to him. ‘Far be it for me’, he says, ‘that I should drink of the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives’. David did not want to be seen to profit from the risk of those who put their lives at risk for him. By the same reasoning, if we want to profit from the risk Jesus has taken for us we need to ‘eat of his body and drink of his blood’. Jesus put his own life at risk, and eventually lost it, so that we could profit from that risk and loss.

And as we read on in the chapter, and the rest of the gospel, it is clear that John is not just talking about the here and now, the immediate future, he has an eternal perspective to his writing. John clearly understands the words of Jesus in this discourse (in a synagogue in Capernaum) to refer to the Eucharist, the sacrament in which Jesus’ body and blood are offered to all believers to be eaten and drunk. The Israelites who had eaten manna from heaven whilst they were in the wilderness survived to tell the tale, but eventually all had died. Those who in faith partake in the mystery of the Eucharist and eat and drink of the body and blood of Jesus may not die but have everlasting life.

Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven so that we could be raised up on the last day. To the hearers it was radical talk. Many people heard the message and decided it was not for them and turned away. Many presumably continued to follow for the miracles and the teaching but in reality were only going through the motions. Next week we will read that the true disciples continued to follow Jesus because they understood the life changing nature of Jesus’ words and that, ultimately, there was no one else to follow, no where else to go.

As Christians, as we share in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Communion, as we eat of the body of Jesus and drink of his blood, we are reminded in a profound way that as we profit and share in the risk that Jesus took by the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood, so we share in His risen life. His is the life that sustains and transforms us, hour by hour, day by day, week by week. No longer are we limited by the laws of the Old Testament or the physical restrictions of our human body, through the Eucharist, and all that it symbolises for each one of us, perhaps in very different ways, we are raised up with Christ and share in h is eternal glory both now and in the world to come.  Sam Cappleman

 

Meditation

Do this in remembrance of me

The service of Holy Communion is very special for Christians, not least because it is an occasion which Jesus specifically told his disciples to repeat.

Over the centuries it has been the source of controversy. Calvin, Zwingli and Luther were all united in their rejection of the medieval Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, yet they each believed different things!

However the importance of this sacred ceremony remains for us Christians. Jesus never gave us an explanation of how bread and wine could possibly be his body and blood. Indeed the clever philosophers sometimes seem to understand it less easily than those who simply trust.

We believe that by some divine mystery the bread and wine unite us in the death of Christ, a death which in itself brings eternal life. When Jesus took the bread and wine he promised that 

'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life'

Opening Scripture

Psalm 111:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To them belongs eternal praise. Amen

 

Alternate readings

First Bible Reading Galatians 3:26-4:7
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Second Reading Luke 15:11-32

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no-one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”


Post Communion Prayer
Holy Father, who gathered us here around the table of your Son to share this meal with the whole household of God: in that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace, gather people of every race and language to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Commentary: A Glorious Inheritance
Today’s readings talk about sons and sonship. In the sense of Galatians we are all (both male and female) sons of God, for it was the sons who inherited the riches of the father. And, as we are all ‘sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus’, we too all inherit the riches of God the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul stresses how it makes no difference what our background has been, we are all ‘heirs according to the promise’ and inheritors of the riches of God’s grace.

In the gospel reading the younger son had asked His father for his share of his worldly inheritance and after the son had ‘got together all he had’, which literally can be translated as ‘turned into cash’, he left for a foreign land and a so called good time. Eventually the money ran out and he had to turn to feeding pigs to survive. Under Jewish law this made him so ritually unclean that he couldn’t even pray to God. For Luke, a non Jew, there could be no further distance between a person and God. But we see in the story that his loving father ran out to meet the prodigal son on his return (who by this time had probably acquired a very chequered background!) and slaughtered the very best beef for him to celebrate his safe homecoming. Whatever our state, however we find ourselves Jesus reminds us in this story that we have a loving Father in heaven who always cares about us, listening for our prayers, no matter how poor, dirty, lost, hurt, or headstrong we are.

The father ran out to meet the son, met him when he was still far off. He didn’t wait for him to get right back to the house, he went out to meet his son on his way back home, where the son did not expect to see or meet him. The son was probably head down, trudging along still trying to work out exactly what he was going to say when he met his father and brother! Jesus too sometimes meets us wherever we happen to be and where we least expect it. Meets us when we’re still not quite sure what we want to say to Him, but like the prodigal son know that acknowledging our sin and returning and meeting with Him is our only hope.
 

Meditation

The elder brother was angry about his father’s kindness. Are there times when we get angry about God the Father’s compassion and kindness to others, perhaps shown to those of little or other faith or those we deem to be criminals and sinners?
How do we become more like the father and less like the elder brother?

Prayers
 

Grant, Almighty God, that while your Son Jesus Christ is exalted to the throne of heaven, we may not be weighted down by the things of earth, but set our affection on the things above, where He is seated at your right hand, and lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen

Blessed are you, Lord God almighty, who gave your Son, Jesus Christ, to be our redeemer and the author of everlasting life; and exalted Him above all for ever; that at all times and in all places we might be partakers of His power and His glory. 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