Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, August 16, 2015:

Proverbs 9:1-6

Psalm 34:9-14

Those who seek the LORD lack nothing that is good. (Ps. 34:10)

Ephesians 5:15-20

John 6:51-58

In this Sunday's Gospel, we see Jesus confounding his listeners; the more he talks, the more confused they become (and a bit revulsed by the idea of eating human flesh and drinking human blood; let's not underestimate the strangeness of Jesus' message).

We shouldn't fault the people of Jesus' time. After all, Communion can be a divisive issue even in our own time. Churches differ in how often they celebrate Communion, and denominations differ widely in what they think the Eucharist means.

I have discussed going to seminary with a wide variety of people, and we always talk about what a seminary degree would give us that we don't have right now.  I always say, "I could consecrate the bread and wine for the Eucharist."  Would that be worth the cost of the degree?  Some days I say yes.  Other days, the idea that we need someone with church authority to be in charge of the sacrament seems like something left over from a darker age.

And yet I also know my history.  I know what can go wrong--terribly wrong--when no one has vetted those to whom we give authority, or those who seize authority.

Jesus didn't intend for the sacrament to become divisive (at least not to his believers). On the contrary, Communion is designed to unite us--that's why most churches offer the sacrament as a communal practice. Unlike prayer, which is easily done in private and often silently, the Eucharist should solidify us and nourish us as a group, much the way that family meals together nourish us not only as individuals, but also as a family.

Of course, we can't leave it there. Communion should also transform us to do the work of God on earth. The surrounding lessons tell us of virtues we should strive to manifest in our lives. Our goal is to be leaven to this loaf of a world, to be the light of Christ in the world.

Again and again Jesus reminds us of the necessity of nourishing ourselves with him. Our ancestors ate manna, and they died. We can feast on the food that will bring us eternal life.

God calls us to do serious work. We must live as if the Kingdom of God has already taken over our world. To keep ourselves strong for that work we need to keep ourselves fed with good food: homemade bread and good wine, grilled fish, the words of the Bible, the words of writers who inspire us to transform both ourselves and the world, the images of people who inspire us to visions of a better world, music that can wind its way through our days, prayers that keep us connected to God, relationships that remind us that we are loved and cherished and worthy, and the sacrament of Holy Communion.

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