Material for Worship 15th August

Nerys writes: If you could choose any gift you wanted, I wonder what it would be and why you would choose it?

You are invited to start your time of worship today with an ancient Irish prayer which asks God for may gifts. Read or sing along as David Sawyer plays the tune.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
be thou ever with me, and I with thee, Lord;
be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
be thou mine inheritance now and always;
be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

8th century Irish prayer translated by Mary Byrne and versified by Eleanor Hull

In our Old Testament reading today, 1 Kings 2.10-12, 3.3-14, we hear what happened when young Solomon became king of the people of Israel. Can you imagine being made king – how exciting and how frightening that would be? Solomon’s father, David had been a great king who was loved by the people and blessed by God. He would have been a hard act to follow. Can you imagine how Solomon must have felt?

Solomon chose wisdom as his gift. Take a moment to consider what it is to be wise. I wonder what you think the difference is between wisdom and cleverness or learning?

Here are some sayings about wisdom for you to ponder:

‘Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens’.

‘Wisdom is often more a matter of asking the right questions than of knowing right answers to other people’s questions.’

‘Wisdom is about knowing when to be silent and when to speak.’

‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’

‘The greatest wisdom is knowing that we know very little.’

The story suggests that Solomon received the gift of wisdom with just one prayer, but it seems to me that the young king had already been learning to be wise. Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions and Solomon made a great decision with his choice of gift. The wisdom that he already possessed helped him see that he didn’t yet have all is took to be king. He was wise enough to ask God for more wisdom!

Solomon became famous for his wisdom and many wise sayings were attributed to him including this one from the Book of Proverbs: ‘All wisdom comes from God and so do common sense and understanding’. Solomon got to be a wise and successful king by walking in God’s ways.

When Jesus was teaching once in the synagogue in Capernaum, some clever and learned men, religious experts, were listening. But instead of hearing and understanding Jesus’ words, they started arguing amongst themselves about what Jesus was saying. Our Gospel is to be found in John 6.51-58.

Jesus said: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven.’ But his clever listeners couldn’t grasp his meaning. Instead of seeing Jesus’ words as a wonderful picture of himself, they started arguing about the details of what he was saying. Down the centuries there have been people who have found it impossible to see Jesus’ teaching as wisdom, but only as foolishness.

It would be much easier if our faith in God was something we could use our intelligence or learning to decide about. It took me many, many years and many prayers and tears to really understand what Jesus meant when he said that he was the living bread. I just couldn’t accept that Christ really came as a human person, that he really died and rose again, that he was more than a gifted teacher and healer, that he is not an optional extra but the only possible source of life which will last for ever. I prayed for God’s wisdom like Solomon did, and one day I came to know and experience Christ through God’s Holy Spirit. I realised that it’s not about sitting back in the pew, coolly considering him as if he was an abstract idea, but that I needed to be ready to let him take over my whole life just has he had given his whole life to me.

Christ calls us to get up, come forward, hold our empty hands and take the bread as a sign that we are one with Him, ready to live our lives so that He can live through us. This is why the eucharist it at the centre of our worship. When we take the bread, we are saying that we trust that what Christ said and did is true, that he is who he says he is, and that we are ready to receive him into our lives so that we can share his life with those around us.

Today is the last Sunday of the summer holidays for our families with children. I invite you to pray for them, asking that God would give them wisdom for the year ahead.

Pray for all those who are starting nursery, primary, secondary, or home learning for the first time – as well as students starting apprenticeships, college and university.

Pray that our educational establishments would be places of learning, creativity, encouragement and discovery for all our young people, asking that God’s peace and joy would fill classrooms, playgrounds, and lessons.

Pray that extra-curricular activities might safely resume and that through them, pupils will grow in skills, understanding and friendship.

Pray for headteachers, teachers and support staff, asking that in challenging moments, God would give them patience, energy and a sense of His presence.

Pray that staff rooms would be places where words of encouragement, support and hope are spoken and where friendships grow.

Pray for those who make decisions about education at local and government level, that they would lead with integrity and that they would be influencers for good.

Pray for those who serve on Parent Teacher Associations and Boards of Governors.

Pray for School Chaplains, asking that assemblies, SU groups and other Christian support might be allowed to happen this year.

Pray for wisdom for our ourselves, asking that God would help us bring encouragement to our children and their families at St Mary’s both practically and through ongoing prayer.