SERMON Pentecost 21 B Proper 24 St. Andrew’s Grove, OK

Job 38:1-7, (34-41); Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37bHebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

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Success vs. The Cross

            James and John asked Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Jesus nicknamed these two “Sons of Thunder.” The Greek word for “Thunder” is Βοανηργές , which I believe defined James and John’s fiery and critical zeal.  True to their name, these two disciples’ request of Jesus surely sounds a bit like they felt entitled to something special. They longed for power and success, which made them act so “thunderous.”  Like the “Sons of Thunder,” we all want to be efficacious, and to be closely associated with equally efficacious and powerful people. We all like the winners.   Our culture reserves seats of honor for those who are “on top.” 

            Nontheleess, the story in today’s gospel is about two of Jesus’ disciples who wanted their way, their own success, and their glory, but they were very foolish thunderous disciples.  The crux of their entitled feelings became evident when they asked Jesus, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  When you hear this passage, we hear it through the lens of knowing the path Jesus took, which led to a cross and to his ultimate trial, crucifixion, and death.  So, we hear this request and think, “do these two not get what Jesus mission was all about; were they not listening to Jesus talk about going to Jerusalem to be rejected, beaten, and to die?”  They must have thought that Jesus was going to be welcomed into the city, and be glorified as a hero, as a great king, as a repairer of all that was wrong in Israel (initially he was).  

            James and John, the “Sons of Thunder” wanted their special place, their seats of glory at the throne, a seat reserved based on some misguided notion of Jesus’ upcoming success.  They did not comprehend what it really meant to “be a follower of Jesus.” Sometimes, we are like the “Sons of Thunder, unaware of the costs of discipleship. Despite James and John’s ill-advised ideas about Jesus’ mission, and even with their bold demand for seats of Jesus’ glory, both of them still dared to be a disciple.

Get into the story

            A few years ago, one of the college ministry interns I worked with in South Florida asked, “what does it take to follow Jesus these days?” I easily could have suggested she read a good book or an article about some awe-inspiring saint, but I decided to encourage her to go to the source himself for the answer; Jesus Christ. I explained to my intern, “If you are going to follow someone, if you are going to call someone ‘Lord of my life,’ then you have to know who He is, how he lived, the depth of his love, and how he interacted with his disciples, as well as his opponents.”  I continued, “We all need to learn more about him, then live in gratitude for his grace and finally, go and show him within ourselves to others.”

            We all say we want to be disciples, but some of us are not versed in the narrative of Jesus’ life.  We followers once a week hear the scriptures read to us, but that is like eating a good appetizer, and missing the nutrition found in feeding on the whole meal.  We all need to eat often and ravenously on the life of Jesus every single day, so we can be changed by the one we all call Lord. 

            If Jesus’ story intrigues you, let me share are some facts about him to whet your appetite for more study: (1) Jesus was clear about who he was and what his mission was going to be in the world. (2) Except when praying, resting, eating, Jesus was always moving towards an objective; reconciliation of creation through the self-giving love of the cross.  (3) Jesus let nothing stand in the way of his mission.  (4) Jesus reordered the power structures of his day by going head-to-head, with the religious and political leaders who kept the people in spiritual bondage.  (5) Jesus loved folks who did not love him back and gave of himself, when others denied him even a place to lay his head.  (6) Jesus was kind, compassionate, loving, and self-denying and yet, he was a bold, radical, and a truth teller who held people to account.  (7) Jesus endured the abandonment of his friends, and the rejection of his followers, as he died a gruesome, shameful, and scandalous death.  (8) Here is the key to it all: Jesus is fully God: Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all we perceive. God in Christ was born, lived, died, and his unimaginable love raised him to life again, and he lives today. Now that is something to sink your teeth into.

Seats in the Jesus’ Movement 

            Jesus’ focus on others was so unimaginable, that it ultimately led to his death.  Jesus loved in ways that to say the least, we all find difficult to incorporate into our own way of being today, especially when success is our primary driver. Jesus calls us to follow him, but to take our seats beside him in his movement, those seats have a shockingly different focus than that espoused by the success of our culture. 

            Jesus disappointed James and John, when they did not get the kind of seats of success they desired.  Even so, the Sons of Thunder, journeyed on with him all the way to Jerusalem.  As misguided as their ambition seem to have been, they did not become mere passive, disinterested sideline fans of the movement. They went the distance with Jesus to the cross and remained well, almost to the end.  We like them may have a hard time going all the way in the Jesus mission of love, but Jesus does not turn his back on us, if we cannot.  

            Jesus loved James and John despite their foolish ambition, and maybe that kind of love is what we need, when we become distracted away from what it really means to follow him.  We often desire a discipleship that steers far away from the rugged path of the cross. What we need is a reminder that Kingdom life is about shedding our mistaken ideals about the kind of life to which we hold so dear. We get distracted from the Jesus’ way, and the way of success and ambition becomes our target.  One way to get back on track is to live a life of gratitude and to DARE to BE a DISCIPLE!

Gratitude

            “How can I practice that kind of gratitude Canon Eric,” you may ask? Try this.  Take a deep breath and let it out.  You see, all that we have, all that we are, all that we see, even that little breath you just took is a gift from God. Discipleship begins with a life of gratitude, acknowledging God is the source of every aspect of our life.   Gratitude humbles us, makes us vulnerable, and infuses us with God’s love. Gratitude is more than a feeling.  Gratitude is our love for God and others in action. Our Presiding Bishop The Most Rev. Michael Curry said in a sermon, “if it isn’t about love, it isn’t about God.”  I will add, God’s love moves us to action.

            Christians are not mere “fans,” “cheerleaders,” or “card-carrying members” of the movement of God’s love in the world.  When we proclaim Jesus as Lord, we should be moved to do more than just show up on the mission field.  We are Christ’s ambassadors in the world and representing Jesus in the world requires us to go out, to move out, and let our lives proclaim the gospel.  When we call Jesus Lord, we are really saying, “I am willing to be Jesus for others in the world today.”  So, take a risk and DARE to BE a DISCIPLE!

Dare to be a Disciple

            So, what does “Dare to be a disciple mean Canon Eric?”  It means that if we are to really follow Jesus, then we must do as he does, serve as he serves, take a risk and be faithful in love!  When each of us stands on the left or right of people traversing the pain and abyss of life’s terrible situations whatever they may be, we are daring to be a disciple.  When we bring solace to those living in poverty, loss and broken heartedness, we are daring to be a disciple.  When we love each other, even when it is difficult we are daring to be a disciple.  When we love others outside our circle of friends we are daring to be a disciple.  When we live with a spirit of gentleness, compassion, mercy, boldness, and forgiveness we are daring to be a disciple.  

            Following Jesus means we must be engaged, we must be involved, we have to be generous, and be willing to be changed forever.  Following Jesus absolutely means that (when like James and John) we seek a place nearer to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we will certainly lose our life and the things that were once important to us.  

            God is calling his church in a bold way, to re-discover the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbors around us, and then to build teams to bring our gifts of love (hands and hearts) to bear on their situations. God is calling all of us to his mission field, and when we decide to faithfully and fully engage in this Jesus’ way of life, we will surely discover a life of abundant love, peace, and joy.  If this Jesus Movement of active and engaged love is true and I believe it to be so, what are we waiting for?  Like James and John, the Sons of Thunder, it is time for us to Take a risk and DARE to BE a DISCIPLE!  

References

1 Wadell, Paul J. “Living By The Word: Reflections On The Lectionary [O 18, 2009].” Christian Century 126.20 (2009): 19-318. ATLASerials, Religion Collection. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.

2 Chapman, Stephen B. “Sons Of Entitlement.” Christian Century 123.21 (2006): 20-318. ATLASerials, Religion Collection. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.

3 Kim, Yung Suk. “Jesus’ Death In Context.” Living Pulpit 16.2 (2007): 12-13. ATLASerials, Religion Collection. Web. 15 Oct. 2012

SERMON 9-26-21 Pentecost 18B Proper 21, St. James OKC

Watch Online: https://fb.watch/8hrNQfb0Qv/

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22; Psalm 124 ; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

Stumbling in faith

            Jesus said, “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Jesus is teaching his disciples using the metaphor of salt to encourage them to remain faithful and perseverant.  Wikipedia defines perseverance as ” persisting steadfastly without giving up; continuing in spite of difficulties or setbacks; persevering.”  Perseverance is deeply embedded in our tradition in the church.

            A Benedictine monk was once asked, “What do you do all day long in that monestary?” He answered, “we fall down and we get back up, again and again.”  The monk meant that the life of discipleship requires us to always try, to fail, and we must try again.  Trying to be a disciple of Jesus means we often fail one another but if faithful, we make amends, and then try and love again.  We all fall down and we all get back up again.   We are imperfect beings filled with grace.  Grace is key because getting back up after stumbling requires of us to rely not on ourselves to pull us up from our falling, but to rely solely on God’s grace.

            So, if being a disciple means we are not perfect, why then do expect other disciples to be, well, so darn perfect? Why do we expect our clergy and lay leaders to get it right all the time?  We act surprised when others fail our expectations.  Even Jesus’ first disciples stumbled. They betrayed him, ran off when he was arrested, denied him in the streets after the trial, and they failed his mission of love by jockeying for power and influence within the group.  

            In today’s gospel, Jesus warns us not to trip up a sister or a brother, who is trying to do the best they can do.  The consequences of putting stumbling blocks in front of others are far worse, than having a weight around your neck and being thrown into the sea.  The consequences of causing others to stumble are far worse, than if we were to cut off our foot or hand. Even though we believe the community should be perfect, the early God fearers failed each other just like us, and they often tried to trip one another up.

Leaders Beware 

            We hear this in the Old Testament reading in which, the Spirit came upon some of those on the outside of Moses’ leadership team. Joshua son of Nun, the assistant to Moses, heard about the spirit-filling event, and they became a little jealous because it did not happen to them.  Joshua went to Moses and said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” Joshua got tripped up and fell down, because his motives were self-centered, misguided, and unloving.  

            Back to our Gospel reading, some of Jesus’ leadership team demonstrated that same self-serving attitude.   John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”  Both Joshua and John were insiders who became frightened when their plans for influence were turned upside down, when others threatened their so-called “special places” in the kingdom. Unknowingly, these leaders tried to stop God’s mission, just as it was bursting through in unexpected ways and through unexpected people.  God’s kingdom always emerges from those we least expect.

            Theologian Kenneth Carder explains how fear of change and loss makes us act in often, unhealthy ways.  He wrote, “When threatened with loss, when feeling insecure, we circle the wagons. Gathering the clan and resisting the outsiders is a popular reaction against insecurity and fear.” (1) Like Joshua and John, those early biblical leaders, we church people today often become threatened by change, or by people we just do not like, and we begin circling the wagons, pointing fingers, and becoming exclusionary.  

            These are the kinds of stumbling blocks Jesus speaks of in Mark’s gospel today.  Carder explains, “Jesus, the very incarnation of God’s power and presence … challenged the practice of confining God’s redemptive and transforming action to one’s own race, one’s own religious institution, one’s own political party.” (1) I would add that Jesus does not deny grace to the people we do not like, or those that do not meet our expectations, or to those who are just not like us.  Jesus tells us rather, to “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”  This is especially true for church leaders, but the fact remains, each one of the members is a LEADER as well as a disciple!

Saltiness – Discipleship in God’s mission

            No, you may say, “Canon Eric, I am no leader, I merely follow the crowd.”.   By virtue of your baptism, every single one of us in the church is a leader and we all must strive to be leaders with “salt in ourselves.” Let me explain this metaphor of saltiness Jesus used.  Salt was a preservative placed on fish and meats to draw out moisture and keep it from rotting.  Salt enhanced the flavor of food. 

            “Salty disciples” are just like salt and by their actions and influence, both preserve the movement of God’s Spirit, and they enhance the movement of God’s Spirit in the life of the church. We all are leaders despite the fact some of us have titles and formal roles, and others are not formally designated. Some leaders do not even recognize their own leadership identity, but because of their influence, they serve in leadership positions outside the formal organizational structure. Whether you’re are a formal or informal leader, you have the choice to act as salt in the community, enhancing and preserving God’s mission, or you can put out stumbling blocks for God’s people and God’s mission. 

            “Salty disciples” are helpful coaches, mentors, and supporters of those struggling to walk the path of Jesus.  Likewise, “Salty disciples” can be unhelpful by making decisions that sometimes cause unanticipated, unexpected, and unintentional injury or stress, because no one is perfect.  Hopefully, healthy “Salty disciples” do not intentionally try to put out stumbling blocks for others.  Rather, they help others recognize that spiritual growth depends on flexible, open, willingness to respond to God’s call to transformation, to traverse the fires and trials of discipleship.

            Theologian Christine Bartholomew said, and I quote, “God is constantly refining us with fire, whether that fire be conflict, persecution or sacrifice. These events can change us and draw us closer to God. This is a work of sanctification, not salvation.”(2) We often have to walk through the fires of difficult circumstances, in order to be led into the grace God has in store for us. 

Daring Leadership

            Sometimes we need to release our Burger King mentality about our ministry (have it your way), allowing God to direct us so that we might trust that he has a better plan than us.  That plan may not be easy because we all traverse a path of fiery circumstances and unexpected challenges, and that is the time to persevere and remain faithful and engaged.

             “Salty disciples” must leave the safe and secure sidelines of church life and get into the middle of the arena of ministry.  It is easy to disengage from active ministry and just poke the bears when they stumble and fall.  It is easy to criticize those who are trying to do their best, being faithful and obedient.  It is easy to undermine God’s progress, because it does not fit our own idea of church.  “Salty disciples” must reject the safe seats of inactive criticism or finger pointing, and choose the risky arena of hard work in mission and ministry, while all along remaining open to God’s life-altering and transformative grace.

            Dr. Brene Brown in her book, “Daring Greatly” describes the kind of bold, focused, and committed “Salty discipleship” each of us must strive to embrace.  She quoted President Theodore Roosevelt who once said; “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

            We are called to be salty disciples who focus on the mission and not the detractors, to put away fears of failure, change, and the desire to maintain the status quo, to get out in the arena of mission just like Jesus, who took a risk for us, who let his face get marred by dust and sweat and blood for us, let his hands and feet be pierced for us, gave his life for us, and he cleared away the stumbling blocks, all along the path for us.   Despite our constant falling and getting back up, despite our failures and imperfections; if Jesus did all that for us, should we as “Salty disciples” in the Kingdom, do the same for one another; we who boldly claim him as Lord? 

REFERENCES

(1) Carder, Kenneth L.Bp. “Unexclusive Gospel.” The Christian Century, vol. 114, no. 25, Sept. 1997, p. 787.

(2) Bartholomew, Christine R. “‘For Everything Will Be Salted with Fire.’” Touchstone, vol. 28, no. 1, Jan. 2010, pp. 5–7.

A Call to Unity as We remember 9/11 (Never Forget)


Twenty years ago on 9/11/2001, America was forever changed by an unimaginable tragic event that we will never forget. Within hours of the planes crashing into buildings, churches and synagogues were filled with people praying, healers and helpers showed up on the scenes, and we came together as one people like we never have before. We came together to console our grief, to bind up our wounds, and to give each other hope.

We lost so much on that day and the attacks in New York, Washington, and the loss of life in Pennsylvania changed us forever. It was a smoldering trauma that ignited a fuse of strife that continues today. The flames that event set afire in us, has over these past two decades become a destructive inferno against our common life as a people, bound together by ideals of justice, domestic tranquility, and common good. We are losing that unity of purpose, that common hope, and that mutual welfare. We are now on the verge of being forever changed beyond repair. Despite that unimaginable injury twenty years ago, we seem no longer able to be together in moments of tragedy but rather we are divided over the challenges we face today. We have forgotten what we shared, endured, and fought to overcome so many years ago.

,Today, we not only disagree with our fellow citizens about opinions and ideas, we are literally attacking and demonizing our fellow citizens over different viewpoints. We no longer set aside differences and embrace each other as our sisters and brothers like we did when attacked twenty years ago. The flame of division continues to burn and the evidence of that is found in the equally tragic event nine months ago when another enemy that we did not expect attacked our nation; ourselves… American citizens. On January 6 in our Nation’s Capital an attempt to undermine democracy was instigated by propagandized and misguided American citizens. That event nearly ended our democracy, when the very institution (Congress) was ravaged and overrun. Members had to retreat to hiding behind closed doors, cowering in fear from threats by their fellow citizens. This is not the narrative of America, but one found in other places and other countries. If not for the brave Capital Police that day, we can only imagine how bad that event might have been.

Despite the atrocities enacted, violence invoked, and hatred proclaimed that day, some of our leaders even now, still deny the reality of that event, its impact on our nation, and the truth of those several hours when America almost fell to an attack. Some of our people refuse to accept just how close we came to losing it all, and if we do not wake up soon to the truth, we will find ourselves ever closer to a fate worse than the one we faced more than 20 years ago. The adversaries of the American democratic republic stand against us today from without: Al Queda, ISIS, China, Russia, or other evil actors. The most lethal adversary to our republic comes from though within, and our failure to remain a diverse nation bound together by common ideals may not withstand the ongoing attacks.

In 18 months, we have tragically lost 652,000 American lives. From without, we have an invisible enemy, a pandemic whichrages on, even though we have the weapons to defeat it. Yet, we are fighting over wearing face coverings that really do save lives. Some elected leaders proclaim and our people consume destructive false information that purports wrongly that the vaccine is unsafe. We are fighting against a disease yes, but the battle seems to be against the values of union and even truth itself, and against our common welfare. We have the means to defeat the pandemic, but our divisive ideals are ripping the threads of our unity apart and yet, we keep battling on as the pandemic takes more American lives.

We have been forever changed by the tragedy of 9/11, and many of us fear for the future of our nation now, more than on that tragic day twenty years ago. I for one though have hope that we will find a way back together. To do so, we will need to seek Godly reconciliation within our divisions, and seek a commitment to a renewed unity of purpose. We will need to set aside our exclusive individuality, political warmongering, and the steady flow of social media disinformation. We we will need to sit with one another again and talk, listen, and become friends once again. We we will need to embrace compromise for the sake of unity.

Like so many Americans, who over the last two centuries have given their all to defend our freedoms in all the past battles of this great nation, we today must become the freedom warriors who are willing to sacrifice our personal needs for the common good. We must fight this pandemic together. We must set aside all the polarized stands that we have taken and which divide, and seek God’s wisdom and grace so that we might find common ground together, and so we might create solutions to our problems.

There is still hope that we will overcome this time of division and tragedy. There is hope that we will not fall like other nations who throughout history, allowed the enemies without and within to destroy them. The beauty and hope of the American experiment is found in our Constitution, which states We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. It is in these words that we find our common purpose as a nation. May we never forget 9 11, but may we never forget how fragile this great nation really is, and how we must once again accept the mantle of the holy God-given stewardship of these ideals that we have been given. May God help us.

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.BCP, p.820

Great Plains State Park RV Adventure

Labor Day Weekend 2021

If you are looking for a beautiful lakeside getaway with full hookup RV sites, check out Great Plains State Park, Snyder, OK. This state park is one of the best places we have stayed, since we purchased our Jayco Travel Trailing in January 2021. The lake is absolutely gorgeous, the whole park is immaculate, and the fishing pond is full of bream and perch. We highly recommend this location for a weekend getaway. Although isolated and a 10 mile drive from the interstate, this park is within a short drive of Hobart, OK, a quaint village with a grocery store, historic downtown, and great restaurants. We will be posting videos of our visit to Great Plains State Park soon, so check out our YouTube Channel for more adventures.

SERMON Pentecost 11B Proper 14, St. James, Wagoner, OK

1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34:1-8; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51

Community and Unity

Two Sundays ago, we heard about Jesus feeding the 5000 with bread and fish, last week we heard Jesus describe himself as “True Bread from Heaven,” and this week, we hear Jesus portray himself as the “Bread of Life.” Be ready because this bread theme continues for the next two Sundays. Despite the repetition of theme, we preachers in August will need to dig a little deeper into the readings, so that we might find the subtle nuggets of spiritual nourishment. The holy appetizer for the main course of the “Bread of Life” today, can be found in this week’s epistle reading.

            “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus is a sweet and sour first course of delicious spiritual food for the soul.  

            This reading is an exhortation to a little upstart church that was finding the path of living together in community rather difficult.   In the first century, Ephesus was a very important center of culture, trade, and commerce.  You would think that a sophisticated city like Ephesus would be filled with people who treat each other with respect and love.  However, that was not the case.

Ephesus and Community

            Paul saw the strife in that little community and so, he had to lovingly discipline God’s people for behaviors that were not Christ like.  He chastised them for not speaking truth and for lying to one another.  He called them out for their anger, for stealing, failing to share with the needy, for evil talk, bitterness, wrangling, slander, and malice.  He reprimanded them for not being kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving. The Ephesian Christians were a little messed up. 

            We often romanticize those early churches as perfect little groups but they were not.  They struggled to live out the faith each day just as many of us do.  No faith community is perfect and so, we too need to take heed to Paul’s exhortations, because loving one another is how we follow Christ, and loving one another is never stress-free.  

            We grow together when we know God and practice his “no strings attached” love.  We mature when we are in the middle of this messiness of Christian life together.  As recorded in Acts 2:42 those early communities thrived because they continued in the apostles teaching, the prayers, through fellowship, and in the breaking of the bread; the Bread of Life.  Returning to this simple model of community is how our churches will thrive today, and when we center our lives on the “Bread of Life.”

“I am and Jesus and I am”

            Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.”  It sounds simple, but there is more meat than bread in Jesus’ words.  When God sent Moses to lead Israel out of bondage, Moses was not sure what to call God.  God told him tell them, “I am, who I am. ‘I am has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)   Did you know that Yaweh, the name for God throughout scripture is translated as “I am?”  

            It is no coincidence that Jesus called himself, “I am the light of the world,” “I am the door of the sheep,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the way, truth, and life,” “I am the true vine,” and “I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus was proclaiming that he is the “Great I am.” In his ministry and life, he was showing us the very character and essence of God through images of light, door, way, vine, Good Shepherd, and “Bread of Life.”

            When we feast on the “Bread of Life,” we gather together in this blessed messiness we call church to connect forever and intimately with the great “I am,” the creator, redeemer, and sustainer of all of creation.  Imagine for a moment the mystery of communing together with the “source, beginning and end” of all we perceive. We can, when we commune with Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Eating the Bread of Life

            Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life,” and then added, “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  The literal eating of Jesus’ flesh was a difficult concept for his Jewish audience of the day, but Jesus was not talking about literal cannibalism when he made that statement.  

            Early Christian father Clement argued that when Jesus spoke of eating his flesh, he was referring to “the faith and hope by which believers are nourished, and … (faith) in terms of repentance and the search for spiritual truth.”(2) Consuming Jesus is a metaphor for a quest for the true nourishment found in the truths of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ.  We spiritually eat when we take into ourselves the teachings, the way of life, and conversion found in Jesus and further, when we spiritually eat at the Lord’s Table.

            In the Eucharist, the priest offers the Gifts of God for the People of God saying, “take them in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your hearts by faith with thanksgiving.”  This is a reminder that Jesus is the true nourishment and the only food in which, we can trust.  He is the only sustenance we need, in order to have life abundant and life everlasting.  I believe Jesus is really present among us in the Word proclaimed and the Bread and Wine consumed.  

Community filled with Bread of Life

            Methodist pastor Juan Huertas writes, and I quote, “we come to the “bread of life” again and again with the promise that God will come, that the spirit we are calling will show up, that the claim that we make will be made present, that you and I will find ourselves part of a new reality, transformed into God’s own, pushed, propelled, into the reality of God’s kingdom in the world.” (3)

            Like that quirky little church in Ephesus, the church will always wrestle with our brokenness, messiness, and failures.  Truth be told, each one of us has the capacity to hurt one another, to fail in our mission, and to get sidetracked from the way of love.  We also have the capacity for so much more, when we live in faith together in Christ.

St. James’ is not an association of like-minded individuals, who like eggs in a crate, occupy common space once a week. We are a tapestry of individual threads woven together, and like a beautiful cloth, the lines that might separate our individual gifts and lives become blurred, and the whole body takes on a new hue. When we feed on Christ together, when we love one another, when we go out there and show others where to find bread we are being sent into the world rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

            The hymn by which, we rejoice, the tune we sing is the song by which, the world will find holy food in us, find Jesus in us.  That little tune goes something like this: 

I am the bread of life.
They who come to me shall not hunger;
They who believe in me shall not thirst.
No one can come to me
unless the Father draw them.

And I will raise them up,
and I will raise them up,
and I will raise them up on the last day.

REFERENCES

(1) Berge, Paul S. “John 6:1-71 – the Bread Which Gives Life to the World.” Word & World, vol. 5, no. 3, Sum, pp. 311-320. 

(2) Koester, Craig R. “John Six and the Lord’s Supper.” Lutheran Quarterly, vol. 4, no. 4, Wint, pp. 419-437. 

(3)  http://day1.org/4041-sharing_in_the_life_of_jesus (Pastor Huertas)

Cruise Travel Update August 8, 2021

Well, it is has been two years since we were on a cruise ship. We long for those lazy days on the Serenity Deck, awesome dinners in the Main Dining Room, delicious Guy’s Burgers, snorkeling the clear blue water, and the sound and smells of the ocean. We hope to get back to cruising in 2022. Check out a “flashback” video on our YouTube Channel that we posted about our last cruise adventure.

Our Most Recent Aviation Adventure

Training Flight with Joseph Alsay

My dear friend and clergy colleague Joseph Alsay had never flowing in a small aircraft. I took him up for a local flight, then surprised him when I said, “this is your first flight lesson brother.” He loved it! Check out the video.