“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
You know that old cliché about whether you say toe-mae-toe or toe-maa-toe that it really doesn’t matter either way, well I know a guy who lives with his elderly mother. I mean she’s well up into her 90’s. But she still loves to garden. Maybe that’s how you get well up into your 90’s.
He has a couple of jobs. He works a lot of hours every week. He told his mom that he just didn’t have the time to also take care of a garden. But when you’re in your 90’s and you set your mind on something, you can usually get your way. The mom convinced her son to plant like 20 tomato plants. He didn’t want to, but when mom asks, what you gonna do?
His mom would actually head out to the garden to do some weeding and look things over, but for whatever reason there just has not been a bountiful crop of tomatoes for her this year. It was getting discouraging for his mom.
The son who didn’t want the garden in the first place then goes out to local farmstands, buys beautiful looking tomatoes, and brings them in to his mother with the one or two from her own garden. He tells her nothing about going to the local farmstands, and instead tells the little white lie that all of the tomatoes are from her garden.
She’s always so happy to see those tomatoes that as far as she knows have grown right in her own yard. I told him he’s a good son. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter where gifts, where the blessings, come from. It’s just the blessings that matter.
Our two readings today kind of reflect this toe-mae-toe toe-maa-toe saying. Sharon read for us the dedication prayer of King Solomon as he stood in the Jerusalem Temple. It is a beautiful prayer of place and one that still resonates today: “O Lord my God, heed the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day towards this house …” This place.
The Jesus story we heard in today’s Gospel is instead about the sacredness of person. As people of faith looked back on the life of Jesus, they realized that He had become our temple.
Pentecost convinced them that He was the Spirit among them, wherever they were.
This was hard to accept for people who after a thousand years still remembered Solomon’s words about place.
And followers, disciples, deserted Jesus. People who once came to Him as a man of God walked away. They could no longer accept Jesus’ revelation. As Jesus watches this stream of people walk away from Him, He wonders out loud if even His closest followers will join them.
This is when Peter utters those profound words that probably reflect the attitude of so many first generation Christians and of so many Christians still today: “‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.’”
Remember my friend slipping in the farm stand tomatoes with the garden tomatoes? Place wasn’t as important as his act of kindness for his mom. In today’s readings, Jesus is the farm stand tomatoes. Place isn’t as important as His words, His gospel, His person.
That gospel shares with any and all “the words of eternal life.”
Around the time of Jesus, King Herod had rebuilt the Temple and it even dwarfed Solomon’s efforts. It was an impressive structure. In Mark’s Gospel, there is only one recorded journey to Jerusalem. The awe of the disciples in this one-time visit comes across when they say to Jesus, “‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’”
It’s like the proverbial first-time tourist to New York City who keeps bumping into people on the sidewalks because he keeps looking up in amazement at the skyscrapers.
The Temple represented a thousand years of religious practice and tradition, and it was an impressive place.
But Jesus, as we read in today’s Gospel, is in His adopted hometown of Capernaum’s synagogue.
He is among people who had known Him for a long time, and now Jesus, such an ordinary looking Jesus, no halo glowing around His head but dirt on His holy feet,
and now Jesus the friend of fishermen, tax collectors, the unclean, the unwell, the unwanted and the ordinary,
He dared to say that He Himself was the bread of life, that He Himself would raise them up on the last day, that He Himself was the Son of Man who would ascend back to His rightful place of authority and glory in heaven.
This is when those people in the Capernaum synagogue asked, “‘Who can accept [this kind of talk]?’”
This is why Peter’s words are profound not only for him, but for any Christian: “‘ [Jesus]You have the words of eternal life.’”
That’s what faith is all about. It’s trusting in the person of Jesus no matter where you find Him because the where doesn’t matter as long as we have the person of Jesus.
It’s trusting in Jesus more than impressive buildings or even impressive churches, clergy and traditions.
It’s trusting in Jesus even when it’s hard like when He preaches the parable of the Good Samaritan about everyone is our neighbour and mercy and compassion are required of us.
It’s trusting in Jesus when He preaches that we must treat others as we would like to be treated. It’s trying to put ourselves in their places, to see life as they see it.
It’s about making sure that wealth and stuff never become our idols.
It’s about loving enemies, about forgiving 70 x 7 times, about turning the other cheek, about loving first instead of loving back.
None of this is easy and just as the Temple was large and looming so are all of the examples in our modern society that would have us not listen to these words of Jesus or take them very seriously.
That’s why Peter’s words are so profound and that’s why they have been remembered and shared for thousands of years.
We still remember Solomon’s words of place. Let us never forget Peter’s words of person: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
May this place and this community help us to focus on the person of Jesus and His words. In His name we pray. Amen.
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