Proper 13, Pentecost Year B: Ex 16:2-4, 9-15; Ps 78:23-29; Eph 4:1-16; Jn 6:24-35
St. John’s Episcopal Church Sunday, August 5, 2012
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. Eph 4
About a week and a half ago, my parents were in Montgomery and invited me to a quick lunch. So, we went to Chick-Fil-A. I had not heard the comments Mr. Cathay had made regarding his views on marriage at the time, as the story broke that day.
But, I have heard his and others’ views, read the remarks, and listened to sound bytes several times over since that day. One need only to have glanced at facebook last Wednesday to see post after post of people complaining or celebrating about other people eating a chicken sandwich.
Jesus said, I came to give you a new commandment, love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
I don’t remember him saying love only the people who eat a chicken sandwich or love only the people who don’t eat a chicken sandwich. I wasn’t even sure what day of the week I should go to Chick-Fil-A last week so I went yesterday. But I have a feeling that eating or not eating a chicken sandwich is not as important to God as my sharing in the Bread of Life that Jesus talks about today.
I think this issue with Chick-Fil-A and same gender blessings lines up with the warning Paul gives us today in his letter to the Ephesians, We must no longer be children tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.
Paul has this uncanny ability to write a letter to a group of people almost 2000 years ago and yet, speak directly to us. Don’t allow yourselves to get caught up in doctrinal squabbling.
Its not about he said/she said, or what one person deems right and another deems wrong. It is not about alining with liberals or conservatives in the church. As my friend Hunter McDonald says, The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. Its about coming together at the table. Its about declaring that you actually stand for Jesus and that you believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life.
Jesus tells us today that he is the bread of life, whoever comes to him will never be hungry or thirsty. He is not talking about being the answer to physical hunger–but to spiritual hunger. The irony is, if we would listen for more than just words to justify our own desires in this world, but truly listen to God’s desires in this world we might just be one step closer to ending hunger, to living what we profess to believe.
It seems to me we get a little too caught up in how we should judge our neighbor and not in how we should love our neighbor. And yet, if we could just release our need to control the world, release our need to solve the world’s problems, release our need to be right and instead embrace our need to be righteous, we just might find that when we come to this table we take away more than a wafer and a swig of wine. When we come to this table we are nourished by Christ himself.
While chicken sandwiches taste pretty good, they are not the new manna and quail that God rains down from Heaven as an offering of His glory. Christ is the new manna. He is the bread of God that has come down from Heaven to give life to the world. And we partake of that life every time we come to this table with those who we love and those who we do not even like, with those who we agree with and those who do not agree with us.
Coming to this table has little to do with doctrine and everything to do with the recognition that we need Jesus–a little taste of him on Sundays and a whole lot of hope from him all the other days.
The people by the Sea of Galilee looked for Jesus because he nourished them physically. But we know something they had not yet discovered, Jesus is our past, our present, and our future.
When we gather at this rail to receive the gifts of God for the people of God, we do so with all those who have gone before us professing the name of Christ, we do so with all those who gather this day throughout the world to profess the name of Christ and we do so with all those who will do so at this rail and every rail, table, or altar in the future.
We become one body struggling to grow into the head of Christ–not because of our sameness, but because we bring so many different gifts, different beliefs, and different ideas to this rail, this table, this altar.
Why do you look for Jesus? Is it so that you can shape and mold him into your own version of rightness or is it so that he can shape and mold you into his version of righteousness?
Jesus tries to explain to the Galileans that there is something bigger, something better out there than simply having your belly filled. Moses tried to explain the same thing to the Israelites in the wilderness. In both cases, the people miss the miraculous-the gift of God-the sign of Emmanuel, God with them, because they are more concerned with their own physical well-being.
We can hardly blame them. How often do we gather at this rail and remember that not only do we nourish ourselves spiritually through this meal, but that our very presence at the rail is a sign of Emmanuel–to one another, to the world.
How many of us will walk out of St. John’s this morning remembering that we, as partakers of Christ, have now become manna to the world? How many of us will be sign bearers?
How many will bear the symbol of the cross recognizing that it does not stand for us, but for who we believe in and will act accordingly in all the activities of our personal and professional lives? How many of us will lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 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?
Paul goes on to tell us there is one Body and one Spirit. He does not say that there is the same body and the same spirit. We are called into oneness not because of our alikeness or because of our similarities, but because we desire to be with one another.
Our differences compliment us. We draw together into one, looking to Christ to lead us. And yes, sometimes we grumble and complain about the fleshpots we left back home,
but really, our complaints are evidence that we trust the God we are following. We receive the manna, the bread of life in recognition of his glory, of the eternal life that he offers us, as a sign that we are his and he is ours.