The Rev. Jennifer Adams -August 2, 2015 -Pentecost 13, Year B: Ephesians 4:1-6, John 6:24-35
So this mornings Epistle and gospel reading come together for me to form something like a “How to be Church 101”. Put together these readings give us some of the fundamentals, some of the basics of the what we do here as well as the how to be God’s people gathered. So let’s dive in and explore a bit about what it means to be church.
In the gospel we have the second in a six-week series that focuses in hard on the presence and the value of bread. And sharing bread is part of what we do here – in all kinds of ways. Which means that this is all very simple and very not but don’t worry, we’ll unpack it together.
Last week we heard the story of the Feeding of the Five thousand which as you’ll remember Jesus pulled off with a mere five loaves and two fish. You heard that story referenced in the opening of today’s gospel when Jesus questioned the people’s reasons for following him, “You’re only here because YOU got your fill of the loaves,” he said in the not most welcoming of opening lines. But apparently he needed to make it very clear right from the beginning of this whole ‘Bread of Life’ discourse that simply getting one’s fill was not in itself a satisfactory goal of a life of faith. Point taken.
Then after that clarify was offered, Jesus began to take next steps with his disciples and all those gathered as he revealed the key to this whole “Bread of Life” discourse. Jesus explained to them that he came to feed the world not only with loaves (important but not a stand alone) – he also came to address another kind of hunger, and he did that by feeding the world with himself. Which makes for a theological mouthful. But we’ll get there today. We will actually feast on bread and Christ as bread. Remember, I said a couple minutes ago that that’s what we do here. Fundamentally as church we pray and we eat and we feed others here.
But before we get to that feast– I want to bring in the letter to the Ephesians, because it reminds us that “how” we do all of this matters just as much as what we do here.
Go about your life of faith, we heard from the letter to the Ephesians, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. . . There is one Body and there is one Spirit,” we heard and within that Body we all have gifts, we all have callings that involve being people of God within and outside of the church. We live this faith as prophets and apostles and evangelists, some as preachers and some as teachers, as parents and grandparents and kids. As musicians and acolytes, bankers and nurses, policemen, poets and priests. All for the sake of building each other up into Christ’s Body. And how do we do that again? By speaking the truth in love to each other. By going about our faith with humility and gentleness, bearing one another in bonds of peace.
Which means that as individuals and as community, we have tremendous power and responsibility given us by God – the how we go about being church actually has an effect on what we are doing here. The how we do all of this matters a great deal. Now we aren’t the only players – the Spirit has a critical role too – but we matter in this whole scheme of being God’s people.
I’d go so far as to say that how we are together actually effects how the bread tastes- this meal offered with humility and gentleness tastes different than offered other ways. And how we define ourselves, how we build ourselves up goes so far as to effect who receives the bread- if we see us as all as hungry, all as seeking, all as sinful, all as children of God, all with gifts to offer then odds are better that all are welcome to receive. Think about that – it’s more power than sometimes I’m comfortable having but we’ve been entrusted with this amazing grace – and that that grace has an effect on the feast itself. And that in itself is about as humbling as it gets.
I can tell you that as priest the most profound moments of communion happen not only because Jesus is here in the bread and the wine, but because you are here too in the flesh, at the table with your lives, with your hurts, and your hungers, and your hopes. When I look around this room on Sunday or whenever we gather you bring out some of the gentleness and compassion that I have to give this world and I become grateful all over again. And I think that’s how all of this works for all of us. We come together. We come together in love. We come together in peace. And we offer ourselves to God and one another. And we are fed by bread that is always enough for three or fifty or one hundred or five thousand. And we are fed by new understandings of humanity and holiness and hope. And through it all we learn to bear one another, to receive what God has given us because we too are part of what God has given us.
At this table are the gifts of God – bread and wine and you and me. So when you’re up here, look down, look in and look around too. At this table we open our mouths and we open our hearts to the feast of Christ while also looking across the table at lives different than our own yet bound to ours by grace and in love. At the table the bread is broken and we are broken open to hurts and hopes and hungers similar or different than ours yet bound to ours in gentleness and peace that pass all understanding.
And so the miracle often unfolds like this: the offering of bread, becomes the blessing of bread, becomes the breaking of bread, becomes the sharing of bread, becomes the feasting on and sharing of lives, the sharing of life. Lives in the here and the now and the life that is yet to come.
Thanks be to God.