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Third Quarter
2018

 

J Nichols Adams et al

August 19, 2018, 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Ord Time 20, Proper 15

 

 

LectionAid 3rd Quarter 2018

August 19, 2018, 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Ord Time 20, Proper 15

Just Another Hackneyed Phrase?

Psalm 111 or Psalm 34:9-14, 1Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 or Proverbs 9:1-6, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58

Theme: When "I wish." becomes "I will."

Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON

Starting Thoughts

The difference between journeying 1400 miles to Jerusalem to avail oneself of Solomon's wisdom (The Queen of Sheba came from what is modern Yemen) and taking the six-inch journey from one's head to one's heart with Jesus is the difference between being a spectator and being a contestant. Knowledge can be shared. Intelligence can be measured. Wisdom must be caught, or better yet, embodied. Being around wise people will not make one wise any more than going into a garage will make one a car! Having Jesus enter one's life—one's flesh and blood—is not to gain a mentor, rather it is to embody Jesus. "For me to live is Christ." said Paul. God's statement to Solomon, " Ask what you want? Ask, and I will give it to you." was as wonderful an offer as Jesus' offer to "Eat my Flesh" was repulsive.
Up until John 6:54 believing was required for eternal life, but at this verse Jesus says, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." They just wanted their physical need for bread met again, but Jesus proclaimed His need to be embodied within them in the most graphic terms possible. He literally ran them off as they returned to continue feeding at the trough. Why would He do this? Do not resolve too quickly the tension by running cross-country to the Eucharistic symbolism. John does not have the words of institution for Holy Communion in his presentation of the last supper in John 13. People are coming back for more bread to the one who fed them before and He disgusts them. What is going on? Could Christianity really be about becoming Christlike? Can one really have the mind of Christ in one's head?
Becoming Christ like is almost so often used that it has lost all meaning. Someone might say that it has become trite, a hackneyed phrase. If you look up the definition of a hackneyed phrase you will find that it is an “adjective clichéd, stock, tired, common, stereotyped, pedestrian, played out (informal), commonplace, worn-out, stale, overworked, banal, run-of-the-mill, threadbare, trite, unoriginal, timeworn That's the old hackneyed phrase, but it's true.” But just because it is hackneyed does not make it less true.
As Christ died that we might live, must we not now die to self that He might live? Bonhoeffer once said, "Those whom Christ calls He bids come and die." Eating flesh and drinking blood would be an unclean act and a stumbling block to devout Jews. It would be barbaric foolishness to the gentiles. Paul said the Gospel would be a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles. Jesus' words in John 6 without further explanation by Him and without Spirit-given insight today confirm Paul's prophecy. Let those who have eyes to see and ears to hear rejoice!

Exegetical Comments

In 1 Kings 3:3-15 the 19- or 20-year old Solomon had some idea of what he faced. Adonijab tried to take the throne at David's death. Saul's partisans still populated the land. The footsteps of glorious King David awaited his feet as he ascended the throne of Israel.
He was overwhelmed. While the Ark of the Covenant was in Jerusalem, Solomon decided to make his offering at one of the high places, Gibeon. It was seven miles from Jerusalem and a thousand miles from politically correct observance. Yet God met him there in a dream/vision. Solomon knew better than to go to the pagan high places and altars, but there he is in Gibeon making his sacrifice. David did it and Solomon followed his example.
The offer to grant Solomon one wish as he embarked upon his reign engaged Solomon with God at the level of his very soul. Would he ask for what he wanted, or would he sublimate his desires and ask for what he needed? Practical wisdom to rule his people was his request. It is important to the understanding of this text for one to believe that God was sincere and would have given him whatever he asked for. Solomon was not just a lucky man who happened to be asking for what God was giving. God will give us the desire of our hearts, even if it sends leanness into our souls. One of our human powers is the ability to get what one desires with one's whole heart. As Emerson said in his essay, Compensation, "Everything has a price and if that price is not paid then not that thing but something else is obtained. That everything has a price is absolute." There are thousands of people who asked for fame and despairingly see their reputations kicked around like a soccer ball. There are thousands of people who asked for wealth and unbelievingly find themselves jaded and unhappy. There are thousands of people who asked for power and desperately find themselves hiding from avengers. No, Solomon was not lucky. He asked wisely. Because he did, he could be trusted with everything else. One must be careful what one wishes for with one's whole heart because one's wish will come true.
The fifteenth verse shows Solomon returning to Jerusalem, standing before the Ark of the Covenant, and offering burnt offerings and peace offerings. An intriguing question is why did he not offer there to start with? God hates the "high places and altars." Idolatry never left His top ten list of offensive things Israel did. Remember, Solomon in his humility asked for wisdom. He did not have it before he asked. Would God listen to the prayers of a prodigal son in the far country? Would God honor a baptism in a swimming pool performed by a yard man in Jesus' name? Would God remember the eunuch in the assembly of His people? Then why would one be surprised, if Solomon went to the wrong place to meet the one true God and God showed up anyway? Martin Luther once said, "Ours is a God who can ride lame horses and carve rotten wood." Political and religious correctness always yields in God's economy to a sincere, seeking heart. David was a man after God's own heart. Solomon asked for God's own heart to be shared with him.
In John 6:51-58 we find the crowd was only coming back to get another meal from Jesus. He had fed them once and they hoped He would do it again. The conversation turned to eating flesh and drinking blood and everybody lost their appetite. At the extremes of human experience these things occur. The Massi people of Africa drink blood mixed with milk. Ancient warriors would cut the heart out of a brave enemy and eat it to gain his courage and spirit. Remember, the crowd had not had the privilege of having been taught about Holy Communion and its symbolism. They did not get what they came for and were completely repulsed by what was offered.
Even His disciples say, "This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?" Then they leave.
The Greek word used in vv. 54, 56, and 58 for "eat" is trogein. It is a verb reserved to refer to eating like an animal. This means to literally tear apart flesh and have a feeding frenzy. Not a meal, but a devouring is referred to here. The church has made sense of John 6:51-58 through the years by understanding the verses considering Holy Communion. The crowd hearing them on that day did not have this luxury. The liturgical language of the sacrament is Jesus' most offensive word from the perspective of the world but is closest to the heart of the matter from the perspective of faith.
What does it mean that the words which encourage and sustain the faithful are the same words that turn others who hear them off? In the ancient world of Israel to be at table with another was to be at peace with him. To accept fellowship with a meal from another was to be publicly recognized as that man or woman's friend. This is the reason Sharon and Arafat will never be seen even sitting at a table together. They are mortal enemies, and both know that the ancient symbol of peace would be unmistakable to their followers. Jesus takes this ancient symbol and through hyperbole moves it to the nth degree. He not only says, " I will prepare a feast in the presence of my enemies." Jesus goes the limit and says, "I will BE the feast prepared for you! "How close can God draw to a lost humanity? Everyone would agree that this is too close for comfort, but no one can deny that His offer is sincere. What will one do with a God who says, "Eat my flesh and drink my blood?" If one does follow His instructions, he or she will forever be identified with the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Preaching Possibilities

Taking Christ into our lives and walking like Christ is part of each moment of life is what the Eucharist celebrates. Taking in the mind of Christ, mirroring the mind of Christ is what is being celebrated. However, this is not just helping individuals to reflect the thinking and spiritual wisdom of Jesus, but it is about the whole community reflecting this together. This is about drawing closer to God as individuals and as a family of believers. This is the very essence of Holy Communion, being a disciple and of being a church

Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON

Different Sermon Illustrations

Despite the attention given to social media, most business communication takes place via email. There are three reasons why email dominates and will continue to dominate:
Everyone in business uses email. Other than the telephone, there is no other business technology that's as universal as email.
Email is equally useful for brief back-and-forth conversations (similar to texting) and for transmitting large documents. Unfortunately, most sales emails fall flat because potential customers don't bother to open, read, or respond to them. However, you can increase the likelihood of getting a response by avoiding the following trite and ineffective phrases:
1. "I hope you are well..."
The idea behind this phrase is to express positive concern for the customers so that they will think kindly on whatever you're about to propose. However, unless you're friends with somebody, inquiring about his or her health rings false.
2. "I am writing to you because..."
These are just wasted words. Rather than pointing out that you're writing for a reason, jump immediately to the reason.
3. "I would like to know if you'd be interested..."
Stating your wants and needs keeps the focus on you rather than on what you can do for the customer. Your credibility suffers accordingly.
4. "I am absolutely certain you will enjoy..."
Really? Absolutely? Either you're exaggerating or you're insane, because you can't predict the future and you certainly can't read the customer's mind before the customer has even had a chance to think about your offering.
5. "Please don't hesitate to call me at..."
In addition to being corny, this phrase is presumptuous. It's like you're claiming that you're so busy that normally you'd resent it if the customer called, but in this case you'd be delighted. (https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/12-hackneyed-phrases-to-delete-from-your-emails.html)

There are hundreds of hackneyed phrases. One could almost say that many of us live and think in terms of hackneyed phrases. These just a few to make us think about how often we depend upon such hackneyed, cliched thinking in our lives.
You're biting off more than you can chew, wanting as many as possible.
You're barking up the wrong tree.
If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?
You're beating a dead horse.
Take the high road, not the low road.
It's time for some tough love.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
It is what it is.
Let's cross that bridge when we come to it.
That train has left the station.
You've got a lot on your plate.
Drawing a line in the sand
Making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
There's two sides to this coin.
It's the road less traveled.
Teach an old dog new tricks.
Stubborn as a mule.
Raining cats and dogs.
It's not the heat, it's the humidity.
The old ball and chain.
Down in the dumps.
Stick a fork in it, it's done!
Looks like dog's breakfast.
Like herding cats.
Time heals all wounds.
There's no time like the present.
Still waters run deep.
You're driving me up the wall.
I'm madder than a wet hen.
My blood is boiling.
Another day, another dollar.
Taking candy from a baby.
The ones most commonly heard in the corporate world:
Let us cross that bridge when we come to it
Let me play the devil's advocate for a moment here
Run it up the flag pole and see who salutes it
Going forward, you may be moving towards an overarching paradigm shift.
When the rubber hits the road,
At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding.
And now you're cooking with gas!
And you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
You need to step up to the plate.
Think outside the box.
"I don't care if you're black, white, red or purple..."
"California is full of fruits and nuts."
"As long as the trains run on time."
"Bread and Circuses."
"In one ear and out the other."
"Chomping/champing at the bit."
"You can't love anyone until you love yourself."
"There's only one race - the human race."
"The only color that really matters is green... (wait for it) money."
Time wounds all heels.
Dance like no one is watching.
A watched pot never boils.
You can't have your cake and eat it, too.
It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.
His bark is worse than his bite.
It runs the gamut.
It's a golden opportunity.
Circle the wagons.
It's on the tip of my tongue.
Gone in the blink of an eye.
There are two types of people in the world...
Everything's coming up roses.
Stop and smell the roses.
Slow as molasses.
Wily as a fox.
He's as good as gone.
Kill two birds with one stone.
Can't get blood from a stone.
At this point in time there's nothing left to do but hit it out of the park.
How about a whole book "chock full" of them?
Well, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
Going forward, it's all about going forward.
And at the end of the day, it's all about moving forward, one day at a time.
Do the math, because it is what it is, and someone has to step up.
You can rearrange the deck chairs, but it's still the Titanic.
"Avoid like the plague"
Tax and Spend agenda
Hail Mary pass
Work across the aisle
Threw his hat into the ring
Grow the economy
The buzz has gone viral
Break out of the pack
Stupid is as stupid does
Seems to me you are all just preaching to the choir
Roll up your sleeves and take the bull by the horns.
There's light at the end of the tunnel.
Tomorrow is another day.
Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
It's all water under the bridge.
Act in haste, repent at leisure.
(https://ask.metafilter.com/177148/Thats-so-cliche)

The parable about King Midas is an illustration of a profound truth. Be careful what you ask/pray for because your prayers might be answered. He chose to have everything he touched turn to gold. Today one hears about a person having the "Midas touch." about his or her ability to make money. Midas' wish was granted. Soon he had a gold table and chairs. Gold lamps replaced the common bronze ones. He was reveling in his new-found power to turn everything he touched into gold when his precious daughter came running into the room and jumped into his arms. He now had a solid gold daughter! He now in sorrow saw the foolishness of his wish.

To daydream is to become a citizen of the land of "once upon a time." or its neighbor kingdom, "someday." "I wish I may; I wish I might; have the wish I wish tonight!" is about dreaming. When one puts a deadline on a dream it becomes a goal. Someday becomes now. Somewhere becomes here. Somehow becomes clear. The old saw, "Do not wish your life away!" is the distilled wisdom of countless wasted lives. If "ifs' " and "buts' " were candy and nuts what a Christmas we would have!" Eternity begins with the statement, "I will." The world does make way for a man or woman who knows where her or she is going.

The year I was ordained as an Elder in the church an older minister took me for a cup of coffee. I had known him all my life. He sat across from me and talked about how to prepare for a funeral, how to guide a board meeting, and how ministry would be both a blessing and a curse over one's lifetime. As the time approached for us to return to the floor of the conference to hear my name called out and to be voted upon for full membership, his demeanor changed. He took my hand and looked me clearly in the eye and said, "Do not do what I have done." "What have you done?" I asked. "I have spend my last thirty years in my next appointment and have missed the opportunities of my life." As I took my vows later that week, I was haunted by his words. He had lived a lifetime in a place where he was not. Strung along by his wishes, he willed nothing. One does not have forever in this earthly lifetime.

Wishing has to do with what one wants to do or to be in this world. In one's unlimited ignorance, concerning what one can become, one seeks to imagine oneself as the "doctor, lawyer, and Indian chief." The counsel to look away from the stars and unto one's own hands is despised. How dare anyone tell another that he or she cannot become president! To realize that one can only do what one can is the beginning of wisdom. Because one cannot rid the whole world of weeds is no excuse for not weeding one's own garden. God will not hook a little red wagon to a locomotive, nor will he hook a loaded coal train to a bicycle. One never gets the opportunity to be faithful in great things, until one has proven faithful in little things. One of these days! One of these days! Someday never comes and lives of quiet desperation end with a whimper.

I had a young man in my youth group at Pittman Park UMC, Statesboro, Georgia. I was a twenty-year-old youth director. He wished to play guitar in a band. He played some locally and even gave me lessons upon an old 12-string. One day he opened his life to God through Jesus Christ. He came and told me God had called him to teach in seminary. I had never been to seminary and neither of us had any idea what that would entail. His wishing about being in a band was replaced by his willingness to follow God's leading. Over the next several years he got his undergraduate degree and seminary degree from Asbury College and Seminary and his doctorate from Princeton. Today Dr. Lawson Stone teaches Old Testament at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. The power is released in one's life, not by wishing to be, but by willing to be.

The difference between photographs and movies is the speed at which one sees the photographs. At one photo per second one is seeing pictures. As the speed is increased the movement at first becomes wooden and then begins to smooth out. The miracle occurs when the speed reaches 24 frames per second. This is the speed used by our eyes to see moving objects. Now one has movies and no longer just sequential photographs.

Wishing is like turning a picture album, looking at one page at a time. One never gets the sense of motion contained in the frozen photos. Willing is like sitting in a dark movie theater watching an epic film. One soon is caught up in the action and totally involved in the drama.

Wishing and waiting will never get one up to the speed needed to fully be alive.

Being willing is being alive. Fully participating in the risky business of choosing and living, before the time for deciding is gone, is the only thing that separates life from death. Karl Wallenda, the high wire walker, who never used a safety net said about six weeks before he died in a fall from the wire," walking the wire is living. Everything else is just waiting." (Susan Ketchin, The Christ -Haunted Landscape, University Press of Mississippi, 1994, p.341) One cannot save one's life. One can only lose it by trying to carefully protect it.

"The main reason I was so depressed in St. Louis was that there was no talk of discipleship, but only of belief. Belief does not require you to do anything. Faith is active. Belief is passive." Will Campbell (Susan Ketchin, The Christ-Haunted Landscape, The Press of Mississippi, 1994, p.224) Belief and faith parallel wishing and willing in Will's understanding of life.

To be willing is not to be required to do everything. To be available to God is not the same as being the doormat for humanity. King David wanted to build God a temple. For various reasons, chief among them his sinfulness, David was not allowed to do this. Yet, one finds upon David's deathbed his being told by God,." It was in your heart and it is counted toward your good." One does not get credit for the things one wished to do. But in the marvelous economy of God's grace one does get credit for those things one was willing to do, but for various reasons was not able. To be willing to enter the Kingdom of God is to enter.

Niebuhr's serenity prayer, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." The ability to know what can be changed if one is willing and what cannot be changed no matter how willing one is the ability to invest one’s life where it will make a difference. Anyone can find a thousand causes for which to die. Wisdom is able to say, "My hour has not yet come." as well as, "For this hour I was born." Knowing the right time (kairos) is not the same as knowing what time (chronos) it is. In one's appointment with God what one asks for and what one does with it is the essence of one's life.

In 1967, about two-thirds of college students in the United States said that "developing a meaningful philosophy of life." was "very important." to them, while less than one-third said the same thing about "making a lot of money." Thirty years later those figures had reversed. Solomon wished not for wealth, but for the wisdom to live a meaningful life.

When Solomon wished for the wisdom to live a godly life, he discovered that an accompanying bonus would be long life. Research published last year in the Journal of Religion and Health indicates that religious professionals tend to live longer than their parishioners. The researchers looked at the life expectancy data for clergy in the United States and Europe and compared that with the length of life of those in the general population. In each age category, the study found that 10% fewer clergy died than did other people. In general, ministers, priests and nuns were less prone to such life-threatening ailments as heart disease and cancer.

While Solomon looked to God for wisdom, more and more people in Thailand are turning to fortune-tellers for a sense of direction for their lives. Thais spent nearly $37 million on fortune-tellers in 2002. Many believe that is due to the desperation that many in that nation are feeling because of the continuing economic downturn. Money spent on fortune-tellers increased by 50% in Thailand from 1997 to 2001.

What do you wish for? That's the traditional question posed to those who seek to be received as monk in a monastery. The potential monk is asked, "What do you seek?" The response they are supposed to give is, "I want to follow Christ and live in this community until death."

Having authorities in positions of power, without possessing godly spirits, is not a good thing. At least that is the conclusion that government officials in the Philippines are reaching. The Interior Secretary said he was going to institute a plan to distribute pocket-sized Bibles and Korans to the more than 100,000 police officers in the hope of bringing them closer to God. Before receiving the Bibles and Korans, the officers will be required to attend spiritual renewal seminars. The Interior Secretary said he hoped that such a program would help cleanse the police ranks of undesirables.

In his younger days, Benjamin Franklin published a short pamphlet in which he put forth an argument that there is no difference between right and wrong. According to his theory, since God is all-powerful and good, it would be impossible for God to have left open the possibility for human beings to make wrong choices. The pamphlet was popular among deists in England, but Franklin eventually came to regret his theory. One time he loaned money to two of his friends. But then, employing Franklin's argument, the friends contended that it was an equally good choice whether they paid him back or not. So, they decided not to repay him. Franklin then began to see the error of his views.

Wishing for too much wealth can be destructive to our well-being. A thief drowned in the Arkansas River last year as he tried to escape with over fifty pounds of stolen cameras and CDs. As the man tried to elude the police, he jumped into the muddy river water outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. But about forty yards out into the river, he began to yell for help. The weight of the duffel bag containing the stolen goods began to pull him under. The pursuing police officers took off their shirts, pants, and shoes and jumped into the water. By the time they reached him, however, he had gone under and drowned.

A desire for wisdom is a desire for God to be in touch with us throughout the many aspects of our daily lives. The largest provider of mobile phones in Italy is now offering a service whereby the phone company sends a daily text message containing "the prayer of the day, ""the saint of the day, "or "the gospel of the day." When the daily message is sent out, subscribers' phones ring four times to let them know that the words of inspiration are waiting for them. But those words of godly wisdom don't come free. The service comes with a price tag of around 15 cents a day for each message.

In making his wish, Solomon apparently placed a higher priority on his religious faith than on other more earthly desires. While the United States continues to assign a fairly high level of priority to religious life, much of the traditionally Christian world sees religious life waning. In a poll of 44 nations conducted as part of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the results showed that 59% of Americans say religion plays a very important role in their lives. That contrasts with only half that many that say the same in Canada. Around 33% in England—the homeland of John Wesley—rank religion as very important. In Germany, the land of Martin Luther, just 21% rank religion as very important to them. And only 11% of those in France, the birthplace of John Calvin, consider religion to be very important.

Solomon openly declared his religious loyalties. But, of course, he lived in a different place and age than we are in today. Pope John Paul II has been lobbying the various European governments to officially recognize the Christian roots of the European Union. Diplomatic experts believe that will be unlikely in this secular age. The pontiff wants European officials to make some strong, definitive statement about Christianity in the preamble to the European Union's Constitution, which is currently being drafted by the Convention on the Future of Europe, chaired by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estang. Britain recognizes Christianity as its official religion, and Greece is still officially an Orthodox country, although the Greek government recently discontinued the practice of listing the bearer's religious affiliation on passports. Although Italy is predominantly Catholic, their post-World War II constitution removed any reference to an official religion. France, also primarily Catholic, has chosen not to officially sanction any religion. As the European Union continues to look to expand, diplomats wonder what kind of obstacles might be presented by such a declaration. As Turkey begins to be considered for membership, how would the official sanctioning of Christianity apply to a country that is largely Muslim?

The story of Solomon's wish should cause us to wonder how much God is wanting to give us if only we would lay claim to it. Occasionally in the news there are reports of winning lottery tickets that never get turned in. The prize money, often in the millions of dollars, is never collected, although that cash is meant for someone. Could it be that God has given each of us winning tickets, but some of the time we never go to God to discover what it is that God wants to give us?

Solomon sought God's wisdom to help him make decisions as he ruled over Israel. Today people look in many other directions for guidance. A business consulting firm opened last year in San Francisco that teaches firms how to increase profits by using astrology. The cofounders of Jupiter Returns try to show executives that a failed business venture probably could have been prevented by understanding that people act according to their astrological pattern.

A Jewish legend tells about the Rabbi of Kotzk, who found himself meeting up with a childhood friend one day as he was traveling along a road. His friend had become extremely wealthy, but in the process, he had become rather neglectful of his faith. When the friend saw the rabbi, he invited him to sit in his ornate coach with him. When the rabbi noticed the extravagance that he was surrounded by, he asked his millionaire companion, "Where are your possessions `of this world'?" The rich man was surprised by the question and replied, "Look around you! Don't you see the riches that I have in this world?" The rabbi responded, "No. These are the rewards that you have taken from `other worlds,' which you are going to lack in the world that is to come. What I want to know is where your portion of wealth of this world is." The greatest possession we can have in this world is the wisdom to know and serve God. The pursuit of some other goal might seem to be alluring, but in the end, anything other than wisdom will prove to be fleeting.

There is a superstition that says that all wishes made on a shooting star come true.

"Government is not established merely by power; there must be maintained a general opinion of its wisdom and justice, to make it firm and durable." (Benjamin Franklin)

"Whoever attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening their own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity for love, will not have anything to give others." (Thomas Merton)

"When we ask for God's blessing, we're not asking for more of what we could get for ourselves. We're crying out for the wonderful unlimited goodness that only god has the power to know about or give to us." (Bruce Wilkinson)

"The more flesh, the more worms; the more possessions, the more anxiety...the more Torah, the more life; the more contemplation, the more wisdom; the more counsel, the more understanding; the more righteousness, the more peace." (The Talmud)

"It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen." (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

The passage in John about spiritual bread reminds me of the delightful little film, The Bread, My Sweet. Filled with colorful scenes of the making of Italian breads and pastries that cause the mouth to water, it is the story of a man to whom I believe Jesus would say, "You are not far from the kingdom of God," Dominic Pyzola is a leader in the shark-infested world of corporate buy-outs. Working from his swank office high up in one of Pittsburgh's glass towers, his job is to analyze each new acquisition his firm makes and decide who is to be fired—always as many as possible so that the bottom line will look good. Dominic has another life, however, one centering on a small Italian bakery he has bought, mainly to keep his two brothers employed. Here he interacts with down to earth customers, and even more with the elderly former owners Bella and Massimo, who still live above the bakery. They have become his surrogate parents, and their values that include respect for other people begin to affect him. Dominic is made a partner in the firm, but he no longer cherishes this richly rewarding promotion. When his board asks him when he is going to announce the round of firings at their current acquisition, he responds that it is just three days before Christmas. "So what?" is the gist of his colleagues' reply. Dominic is led into thinking about the deeper things of life by Bella's sharing with him her secret that she is dying from an inoperable tumor. Her daughter has returned home, and reluctantly agrees to Dominic's plan to make the dying woman happy by getting married, because it had been the old woman's dream to see her only child wedded and ready to raise a family. Dominic tells the young woman that he finally wants to do something for someone else. All this leads Dominic to give up his lucrative career and become a full-time baker—and full-time human being. His old, acquisitive values are replaced by ones very much like those of the kingdom Jesus ushered in.

Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)

Invocation

Let us wish upon a star this morning. Let us see more than we usually see, gaze beyond our usual gaze, and hope more than we are accustomed to hope. Let us join David and Solomon in being people we fear we are not, in doing things we cannot do, and in meeting God in dreams and visions that rise from the earth and kiss the sky. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, the one who makes all things possible.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: We are people who hunger for security.
People: And you provide one adventure after another.
Pastor: We are people who hunger for certainty.
People: And You place our feet on uncertain paths and ask that we follow You, one step at a time.
Pastor: We are people who desire small things, like security for our own families at the price of security for the families of others.
ALL: Heal us, and forgive us, Merciful God. Grant us enough security for adventure, enough certainty in You to risk uncertain paths elsewhere, and enough love to secure our own families and loved ones. Amen

Prayer of Dedication

These offerings are symbols of all that we have and all that we want to be. We dedicate them to your activity in our world and hope that they carry Your spirit far and wide. We are glad to be able to give. Let us give till it heals, even if it hurts, and let us be the sign of You in life lived now. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

Pastoral Prayer

When others are vulnerable, we are vulnerable. When others are insecure, we are insecure. There is no we or they, no we or they in the world you have made. We are all leaders in the new global world, and we all need the wisdom to see things whole. Grant us wholeness of vision and leadership qualities in small and large ways. Let us be like David and Solomon and let us receive visions and dreams.
In small every day ways, grant us the capacity to speak up and be heard, the capacity to be spiritually free. Rid us of anxiety. Rid us of despair. Rid us of small hopes. Enlarge us, and grant us Your peace, the one that passes all understanding. Come not only to us, Gracious God. Come to the peoples of the world and rid us all of our weaponry and armaments. Discipline our will so that our wishes can become our actions, our visions our daily planner, our way Your way. Amen