When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think back through your week. Consider who you would like to pray for, and for what you may need prayers for yourself. You may want to write these down, if you would find it helpful. Last week, the response was that you would like some kind of guided prayer. The prayer below comes from St. Patrick's Breastplate.
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your disciples,
‘I am with you always’.
Be with me today, as I offer myself to you.
Hear my prayers for others and for myself,
and keep me in your care.
[Take time here to pray for those people and problems you thought about earlier. You may choose to order them in some way, perhaps starting with the physically distant and moving to those things closest to you.]
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
The lesson below comes from our adult Sunday School book. Scripture references have been linked to an online text, and are shown in bold, italic print. Just click on the scripture to open it in a new window.
Our scripture for this week’s lesson is Proverbs 9:1-6, 8-10, 13-18.
Introduction: Life-Changing Meals
Has a dinner every changed your life? Examples of meals that changed a person’s life abound. For instance, without a dinner party during a ferocious storm in Switzerland in 1816, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein would never have been written. The name Henri Rousseau might mean nothing to the art world if not for the dinner thrown by Pablo Picasso in 1908. Without a meal at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in 1960, we may never have seen the brave example of the men and women who participated in the sit-ins that furthered the cause of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. Most of all, without the Passover there would have been no precedent for the Lord’s Supper, which continues to be the most important meal for Christians.
In today’s scripture text, Wisdom invites us into her house; her meal is prepared, and she is ready to give a party to change your life. Folly is also ready. The choice is yours to make: Who will be your hostess and change your life?
Today’s lesson concludes our studies from the book of Proverbs. It is drawn from the final chapter in the opening section of Proverbs (chapters 1-9), in which Wisdom (personified as a woman, see Lesson Context from this lesson) presents her case for being embraced -- and followed as a way of life -- by the hearer or reader (see Proverbs 9). From Proverbs 10 on, the book consists primarily of brief saying and statements of advice covering a wide range of topics, often contrasting the life of wisdom with the life of folly.
In person, we usually discuss the lesson scripture. We might talk about our impressions, something the passage has reminded us of, or ask questions we have. The questions below are from our teacher’s book. Take some time to think about each question, relating it to our scripture from this week. Sometimes, these questions can be hard, and there is not necessarily one right answer. If you have questions or comments you would like to share, you can always put them in the comments.
When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, the choice of breakfast cereals was limited. Today many grocery store aisles are filled with nothing but cereals. In fact, almost anything we buy today involved selecting from a huge (and often confusing) array of choices. Truly we live in a world with an abundance of choices in a variety of areas.
However, as today’s lesson from Proverbs has pointed out, the essentials of life and eternity come down to a single choice. The first psalm concludes with a contrast of this choice:
The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1:6)
The prophet Ezekiel urged the people of his day to turn from the way leading to death and thereby live (Ezekiel 18:23, 32). All this is reinforced by the teaching of Jesus concerning the good way leading to life versus the evil way (Matthew 7:13-14), the two builders (Matthew 7:24-27), and the two groups at the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).
Throughout the book of Proverbs, the choices are presented as wisdom and folly (or foolishness) dozens of times. Following wisdom leads to life (Proverbs 9:6), folly to death (Proverbs 9:18). Today’s scripture text from Proverbs 9 uses the illustration of two houses and two hostesses to present the choice that we all face. This is consistent with the choice that Moses gave the Israelites:
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
The same options are reflected in the choice that Joshua later gave to the Israelites as to whom they would serve: other gods or the true God (Joshua 24:15). Then as today, it’s either/or, not both/and.
Despite the many who advocate that there are many paths to life from many different (and even contradictory) religions, the scriptures still offer the only possibility. Jesus is the only way to life (John 14:6); every other path leads to death. This is why responding to the gospel with acceptance remains so crucial. It is a matter of great urgency because it makes all the difference between life and death.
Two houses stand, but one will fall. Two meals are offered, but one is poisoned. Two hostesses extend invitations, but one is deceptive. It is up to each individual to decide which house to enter, which meal to eat, and which invitations to accept. Choose wisely!
Father in Heaven, thank you for Jesus, who reveals his treasures of wisdom and knowledge to those who seek him. Thank you for the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise concerning salvation. Grant us grace and strength to follow the way of wisdom, knowing that it is the way to life. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This week, our benediction is from Young's Literal Translation.
Next week’s lesson will be on Matthew 11:7-19.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.