Thursday, August 23, 2012

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

The readings for August 26, 2012:

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

Psalm 34:15-22

The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous. (Ps. 34:15)

Ephesians 6:10-20

John 6:56-69

In some ways, the Gospel readings get more difficult with each passing Sunday this August. They're difficult in part because they seem so repetitive: another week, another set of verses on flesh and bread and feasting on what actually nourishes us. You might find yourself protesting, "O.K., O.K., I get it."

They're also difficult because some of these verses have been used and misused in a variety of ways. Consider this passage: "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father" (verse 65).

Throughout the centuries, Christians have interpreted this verse as meaning that Christianity is the only way to salvation. At its worst, this verse has been used to justify massacres and empire building, a way to de-humanize those who don't believe the way we do. What does Jesus mean for us to do with this verse?

Peter testifies that Jesus is the only way. It's one of those moments that endears Peter to later believers. He can be so obtuse (like later in the story, when he'll cut off a soldier's ear and then go on to deny knowing Jesus); and yet, he gives Jesus full support in other places. Peter's story gives solace to believers who aren't always consistent. God uses this inconsistent man to form a huge Christian community. How could we become more like Peter, more consistent over the course of our faith journeys?

We've spent the last month hearing about the importance of both physical and spiritual nourishment. As school starts, as the political campaign season goes into full swing, as the peak of hurricane season heads our way, it’s good to be reminded of the importance of nourishing both ourselves and others.

Maybe it’s time to recommit to the good nourishment patterns that we know will keep us healthier. Go to the last of the farmer’s markets and buy those glorious fruits and vegetables. Bake a batch of bread or muffins. Watch the bread rise and remind yourself of the larger Christian task of being leaven in the loaf of society.

Think of ways that you can nourish yourself spiritually so that you can be that leaven. Can you add some additional reading to your day? How about some extra prayer time?

You say you have no time? Stop watching the news: a spiritual practice that will benefit in all sorts of ways. Spend as much time in prayer as you do on Facebook. Listen to your favorite spiritual music as you go through the day’s tasks.

The world groans more and more each day. We must fortify ourselves to face the task of repairing the world. Our month of bread readings reminds us of the ways to do that. As delicious as our home-baked loaves of bread are, Jesus reminds us of the source of our true nourishment.

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