I am going to begin this morning by reading words that should be very familiar to many of us. We say one of these every Sunday. As I read them, I invite you to listen for a phrase that stands out for you, one you hadn’t noticed before, or one you are hearing differently. Yes, we can still be shocked by the familiar words. A friend says, “The Gospel is ALWAYS astonishing. If you are not astonished, you are not reading it right.”
So, let’s see what astonishes us today.
Celebrant “I am the bread of life,” says the Lord.
“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry;
whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
All Taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are they who trust in him!
Celebrant We break this bread
to share in the body of Christ.
All We, being many, are one body,
for we all share in the one bread.
Celebrant “I am the bread which has come down from
heaven,” says the Lord.
All Give us this bread for ever.
Celebrant “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
All May we dwell in him, as he lives in us (Book of Alternative Services, Anglican Church of Canada, p. 212)
Would anyone be willing to share? What astonished you?
Those who heard Jesus’ words that day were definitely astonished. It was a bizarre thing to say. It is one thing to multiply bread and fish to feed 5,000, but to feed the world with his own flesh? It’s impossible, and, yet, there was something to it, he couldn’t simply be dismissed. They took his claims very seriously. You don’t go out of your way to discredit someone unless you think they are a threat.
So, they try to bring him down a notch. He’s a nobody, son of Joseph. And he’s young, he doesn’t know anything. If they could discredit him, then perhaps fewer people would take him seriously, maybe, even, ridicule him. Even worse, they may completely dismiss him. He’d be a blip, fifteen minutes of fame.
Except, they don’t realize how truly hungry they are.
Jesus responds very simply, those who will understand are those who are drawn to me. Here is what the Jews of the day find so repulsive about this teaching. Their power, their measure for being part of the community, was birth and understanding. If you come from the right family, learn the Torah, learn our ways, follow the laws, you are in. Jesus is turning that completely around. He has provided a teaching that is so impossible to understand, that the only way to enter into this sacred feast is through faith.
A wise man once told me, “The biggest mistake we have made is to give the impression you have to have it all together before you walk through those doors.” The grumblers and complainers, they can’t receive this invitation, because they have it too much together. They have their status, their knowledge, and, they believe they don’t need anything else.
This week, I do not have it all together. My dad is in the hospital. He is 80 years old with a major heart condition, should have been dead 15 years ago, but he’s still kickin’. He is recovering, thank goodness. Every hour my older brother is texting me from England. EVERY hour! I am waking up to his text messages. We are also a blended family, so that comes with its own set of joy and humour but also complexity.
I don’t share that to solicit anything except for your prayers, but simply to share that, this morning, I am coming to this altar HUNGRY! Really hungry. I need life. I need to be filled. The technicalities of how Jesus is present in that little host don’t mean a whole lot to me right now, nor how God could be the son of a carpenter, or how a young man could have the confidence and pride to make such grand claims in the face of such opposition. I can only approach that altar by faith because, right now, as family is arriving and I am driving back and forth to the hospital, faith is about all I have.
And Jesus says, “Great, because faith and hunger is all I need!”
What an incredible invitation. It’s like preparing a huge meal and telling your guests, “Come hungry!”
These are the words of a song written and performed by Gord Johnson. it’s called, This is the Table of Christ.
This is the table of Christ
He stands here arms open wide
Calling your name
Make no mistake
It’s you he invites
You who are weary come, come
You who are hungry come, come
If you would follow Him come, come
If you have failed Him come, come
Come to the table
Jesus would meet you here
All who are joyful come, come
All who are broken down come, come
If you have faith come, come
if you have none come, come
Come to the table
Jesus would meet you here
Taste and see that the Lord is good.