St. Paul’s is a welcoming and inclusive community of about 280 members who come from all over the greater Milwaukee area.
We treasure the richness and diversity God has given our community, as it enhances our understanding of God.
I imagine Jesus’ audience stops listening when he says, “Eat my flesh; drink my blood,” never hearing what comes next. “I’ll abide in you and you’ll live.” We get mad, hear what we don’t like, we walk away, or tune out. You are better people than I. When I hear a politician, especially candidates these days, I stop listening, or reach for the remote. With Jesus we know what’s at stake – eternal life, now. And eating flesh and drinking blood is not literal but points us beyond this physical, impermanent existence to a realm we can’t understand. It’s not literal – after all, how many of us say, “Come worship with our church – we eat flesh and drink blood each Sunday. You’ll like it.”
Have you had your fill of bread yet? Today is the fourth of five consecutive Sundays John’s Jesus serves up bread – living bread – and today “fleshy bread.” What’s John’s point – bread, bread and more bread, and more? Eating and drinking are crucial metaphors for living with Jesus at several levels. That’s why we eat and drink so often – for physical cravings that point us to spiritual food we need. John is saying, “Pay attention. This is important.”
Martin Luther sometimes addressed his congregation with vivid metaphors, intending to encourage their faith. Being proper and refined Episcopalians, I rephrase one of his challenges: “People, I wish I could get you to go for God like my dog goes for his food.” I doubt that evoked widespread reform in devotional practices, but you get the point. I once told a congregation that if they cared for God just half as much as they care for their building, the church’s membership would double. That fell flat, too.
Did you eat breakfast this morning? I hope so. Hunger can make people snarky. People used to come to church hungry, required to fast starting at midnight before receiving communion. That may be why 1928 Prayer Book people didn’t pass the peace – they were irritable. That’s changed today. We’re learning it’s not just physical hunger, but also people can be starving spiritually.
Today’s gospel reading is one of the best known bible stories, since all four of the Gospel writers recorded the so called “loaves and fishes miracle”, Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, which most bible scholars believe was likely thousands more with the women and children.
Rest – what a concept – “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while.” Does that sound wonderful, or what? Rest – Jesus’ words ah-rrest my frantic, over-anxious and over-extended self. Ah – rest – sounds so inviting – but you people – you, stay awake for the next few minutes. Sorry.
Today I have invited a special guest, well – sort of. Mark, Gospel Writer, is here through the power and magic of “Creative Non-Fiction,” to be questioned about what we’ve just heard in his gospel. I know what you’re probably thinking right now and no, I haven’t lost it, nor have I been hearing voices. Just fire up your imagination and just come along with me.
Last Sunday I rather boldly revealed the trajectory of today’s sermon. Normally, I wouldn’t announce ahead a topic, but I’ve thought a lot about and been deeply pained by the tragedy in Charleston and what’s taking place in our nation. I thought I might know something to say by today. My confidence lasted until last Monday. Writing a sermon is a lot like playing golf. You tee it up, swing, and only God knows where it’s going. I wish I were smart enough to give you the answer as to what’s wrong in our nation these days, and what to do. But I’m not that smart. I’ll point us to a story, though, that might shed a little light.
In today’s gospel reading, there are two different stories of healing woven together into a single story. While Jesus is on his way to heal and restore life to Jairus’ 12 year old daughter, he heals an unnamed woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years.
So who has the real problem here? Is it the growing masses, following Jesus closing, beginning to think he could be Messiah? They’ll soon be turning on him. Is it Jesus and the disciples, so popular, attracting such crowds, they can’t get a table even at McDonald’s? Is it his mom and brothers who hear neighbor’s rumors: “Your boy ain’t right” and try to drag him home? Is it the scribes Jesus calls out, saying they blaspheme the Holy Spirit? That’s pretty serious. Is it Jesus, accused by the scribes of being in cahoots with Satan? Whose side do you take in this squabble? Our default choice, of course, is Jesus. Yet also according to Jewish norms, he’s doing some goofy things that cause him problems.