My friends, we come together again—to be community, and we thank our loving God who has called us to be such. We are also grateful that in the milieu of a sitting bishop who does not accept our existence as a church—in good standing, nor its pastor as legitimately ordained within its ranks, we have the faith to believe and to accept what we do here as legitimate, good, and holy, so I applaud all of you for that.
The readings for this weekend call us to add another theme—that of “faith” to what we should be pondering this week. The past 5 weeks have called us to concentrate on what being, “bread for the world” is all about.
In most countries around the world, “bread,” in some form, is a staple of everyday sustenance, so to take that element of daily food and enlarge upon it, saying in faith, as did our brother, Jesus, that when you eat this bread, in the context of the liturgy, you are eating, “my body,” is quite an astounding thing! Do we totally understand how this happens? No…., but our faith, which is stronger than our doubt, helps us to believe in what we can’t truly fathom. Additionally, when the Eucharist is introduced around the world, it would behoove those who do so to have communities use whatever form of bread that is common to the people, to bring home the point that our God, in Jesus, “sustains” as does the bread of their daily lives, in the same way, only in so much greater a way.
As we think about what “bread” represents in whatever form it takes around the world, we can understand more fully the greatness of the gift that Jesus left us. “Bread” is a universal term for “life”–that element that keeps us physically going and as a result, emotionally and spiritually as well. It is for this reason—that our physical bodies need to be fed, that when missionaries go into a country, they see to peoples’ physical needs first, because until the basic needs are met, nothing of a higher nature can be attempted, and accepted.
I have mentioned in past weeks that I am reading, Ibram Kendi’s book, Stamped from the Beginning, on racism, and given the above truth that our physical bodies must first be fed before our minds, hearts and souls can be lifted up, one realizes the fallacy of the Europeans coming to our shores thinking they could, “use and abuse” even, the bodies of slaves, yet, “save their souls.” And in fact, to add insult to injury, that this ultimate, “saving” they thought, justified enslaving their bodies!
Each generation has its own issues to deal with and to somehow make sense of as humans, as perhaps followers of a greater entity than themselves. Joshua, preaching to the Israelites, puts the question to his people— “Do you believe in Yahweh?” He lets them know that it is important to believe in some god, either Yahweh, as Joshua does, or another one. This belief, he makes clear, will make them strong, following someone who guides and shows them the way. Joshua reminds them as well that this God, Yahweh, has been there for them in the past and will continue to be there in the future.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians says as much as he teaches the people about how they should be, in relationship with others. This should be an equal relationship—no one should be over another—no one master—no one slave. All of you will remember today’s reading, as in older texts speaking of “wives obeying their husbands,” which speaks to an inequality within relationships. The group, Priests for Equality, has made this reading more inclusive for women in the current form, plus has opened up an otherwise “closed” reading to gay couples.
Paul continues, “Love others as you love yourselves,” which would seem to point, in action, to each of us being inclusive of all others and treating them with equality. Groups like, Priests for Equality, encourage us to look at our Scriptures from time to time, to see if, in fact, the written words are true to the message of Jesus, or if the words that at one point in time, had meaning, still hold true to our experience and understanding today.
A very good case in point is the recent feast day of Mary’s Assumption, body and soul into heaven and its adjacent feast, the Immaculate Conception, which both really call into question, Mary’s humanity and likewise, that of Jesus; if in fact, Mary was truly conceived without original sin. Until very late in our history, women were not given credit for supplying half of the chromosomes making up a fetus but were seen merely as a “receptacle” for the growing child.
Now that we do realize this significant role that women play in the conception of every child, it would behoove us to update the Marian feasts as well. It is always good to remember that our loving God made us imperfect as we are and chose in time to enter into our “imperfectness.” If God is OK with that fact—we should be as well and not come up with untruths that “support” a certain way of thinking! In my mind, it says so much about this good God of ours choosing to come into our “imperfect” existence showing us how to make the best of this gift.
We move then to the gospel today from John which continues the previous weeks’ selections from this same chapter where John is recording Jesus’ words about, “Eating his flesh and drinking his blood,” and that if we are going to be part of him, must be accepting of these and other, hard truths.
It is at this point that we need to reflect back to my earlier words about the place of “bread” in the lives of us all, of how we need physical, emotional, and spiritual “bread” to sustain us in life.
We know from reading Jesus’ teachings in Scripture that his words were always meant to be taken more than just in a surface way. Jesus was known for, “turning concepts on their heads” such as when he preached on, “caring for your friends,” something everyone already believed and probably, for the most part, practiced. But, he taught something new—sharing that he also wanted us, as his followers, to care for our enemies.
We know too that Jesus’ teachings most often had a deeper, or second meaning such as in the parables. Take that of the “Pearl of Great Price”—not just about an actual pearl buried in a field, but about what we truly hold most dear in life—what are we willing to give up to have what we consider most dear in life? This question then calls to mind, “Is my life just about me, or is it truly about, others, too? Many today, by the wider world, are being called upon to reflect on their responsibility to get vaccinated to assist those they share this world with, because this action is truly not theirs to decide, just for themselves—personal freedom is always about considering how that freedom affects the freedom of others. If one lives on an island by themselves, that is another story!
The people in Jesus’ time as people in present day experienced and will continue to experience things that we just can’t understand, like, “eating his flesh and drinking his blood.” Perhaps Jesus meant so much more than the physical body and blood, maybe, he was speaking about, “his life—his teachings, all of him,” shared for the world. Sometimes the confusion can call us to turn from the true message of Jesus because we want to believe in something we can get “our heads around.” If that is the case, then Jesus’ message won’t be for everyone, especially those living just, “out of their heads.” The message of Jesus calls us to more—to living, “out of our hearts.”
May we each today pray for the strength to believe and have faith, even when we don’t always, “have the sight!” Amen? Amen!