Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, August 15, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 12

Pentecost 12, 2021
Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:9-14
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Every three years, in the heat of the summer, we get four weeks in a row of Jesus saying that he is the bread that has come down from heaven.  They’re all very much the same, from the 6th chapter of John’s gospel, and we’re in the third Sunday of these four weeks, so there’s one more to go.  I tell you that to reassure you that we haven’t accidentally been using the same bulletin inserts this month.  The idea that Jesus is the bread of heaven is an important concept, so it’s worth placing all this emphasis on it.  At the same time, we get some other really wonderful readings as well.  All things work together for good.  Which is good enough for me.

And speaking of good enough, back when Cristin and I first got married, I had just graduated from college with an English degree, with a writing concentration, and we were living in Massachusetts.  I had it in my mind to continue my education by getting a master’s in English and then to try to write professionally.  I was really interested in the programs offered at Boston College, in Boston . . . obviously.  But as I looked over their requirements and expectations, I realized that I did not have what it takes.  I did not apply to the Master’s program at Boston College because I decided in advance that I wasn’t good enough.

Now, you expect me to say that one day the president of Boston College called me out of the blue to ask if I was interested in working on a master’s degree, right?  But no; that’s not how this story goes.  This is a story about how I made a fairly significant life decision because I decided that I was not good enough.

We all have stories like this in our lives.  The people we never asked out on a date, the house we never made an offer on, the play we didn’t audition for, the promotion we didn’t ask about, all because we decided in advance that we were not worthy of it.  That we weren’t good enough.  Didn’t have what it takes.

We go through life assuming that in order to join something good, we have to be good.  And . . . we’re not wrong about that.  I mean I’m an okay piano player in my own style, but I’m not about to try out for the Cleveland Orchestra.  You might think I do okay as a priest, but you wouldn’t nominate me to bishop somewhere.  (I mean you’d better not nominate me to be bishop somewhere!  No thank you please.)  But the reason we decide we are not good enough to do some things is because . . . well . . . we’re not.  And society makes it very clear that we are correct about that.  But my point is, we often pre-judge ourselves and decide which things in life we are not worthy of.  

In the first reading today, from the book of Proverbs, we heard about Wisdom.  Wisdom, as a character in the scriptures, always takes she/her pronouns.  And Wisdom is also identified with the Holy Spirit.  So many theologians hold that our creeds use the wrong pronouns for the Holy Spirit . . . but that’s a topic for another day.  As we heard, Wisdom has built her house, and she has prepared a banquet.  She sends out her messengers to invite folks to the banquet.  

Now we would expect that Wisdom, being wise, would only invite the wise.  The smart, the discerning, the educated.  Birds of a feather and all that.  In order to eat with Wisdom herself, it makes sense that you would need to measure up; you’d need to be wise.  Turns out, quite the opposite!  She has her servants call out:  “‘You that are simple, turn in here!’  To those without sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed’.”

Wisdom calls not the wise but the unwise.  Not the clever but the foolish.  Wisdom wants to share her gifts with those who need them.  And it makes sense.  How boring would it be for Wisdom to surround herself with people who already know everything?  The whole point of learning something is so that you can tell other people, right?  I learn Bach’s Prelude in C (that’s the easy one) so that I can play it for other people.  We plant flowers around the church so our neighbors can appreciate the beauty of them.  Wisdom invites people to the banquet who could benefit from a little wisdom!

We don’t hear how Wisdom’s feast ends.  We don’t know whether the simple and those without sense declined the invitation, decided not to go because they were not good enough for Wisdom—just like I decided I was not good enough for Boston College.  But if you are without sense, and Wisdom offers you a free seat at the banquet, you should accept that invitation, unworthy though you might be.  Because the very people Wisdom wants are the unwise.

And this is all related to how we view God, I think.  If I ask you to tell me some attributes about God, chances are that somewhere on your list you would include the words “good” and “holy.”  The Scriptures tell us, God is the source of all goodness.  And if God is pure goodness, then it only makes sense that we would need to be good in order to be in the presence of God.  We must be holy for God to accept us.  But the very opposite is true.

Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come not to call the righteous but sinners.”  God does not need to seek out the righteous, because they are already with God.  Just as Wisdom invites the foolish, our good and holy God invites the sinners and the unrighteous.  Welcomes the outcasts, and gives companionship to the lonely.  And that is why the Church is the place for sinners.  We are in need of a physician, and that is why we are here.

Some days we will feel wise, clever, righteous, and good.  And that’s great . . . even if it isn’t true.  But on the days when you and I know and admit that we are foolish, ignorant, unrighteous, and unworthy, that is when God is calling us.  Sending out servants to announce the good news, that Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners.  And that means everyone.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.”  We naturally focus on the phrase “live forever,” and we naturally want to connect this “living bread” to the Eucharistic Feast we are about to celebrate.  But for today, I want to focus on that word “whoever.”  There are no conditions on the word whoever.  It means anyone and everyone.  No one is excluded.  It is not a particular person or group; it is whoever.  It is not those who behave and lead godly lives; it is whoever.  

And that means it is every single person who ever decided in advance that they were not good enough, or worthy enough, or righteous enough.  It is the foolish and the wise, but especially the foolish.  It is the sinner and the saint, but especially the sinner.  Everyone, everywhere is included.  Even you and me.  Because Jesus is the living bread that came down from heaven.  Wisdom calls out to us:  “‘You that are simple, turn in here!’  To those without sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed’.”  Everyone is welcome.  Whoever they may be.


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