Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost—Year B—August 12, 2012
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Today’s Prayer of the Day says: “ give us this bread always, that [your Son] may live in us and we in him.” This is a seemingly simple fragment of a sentence, but it is actually quite theologically complex.
After three weeks of hearing Jesus talk about bread in the sixth chapter of John, it should come as no surprise that Jesus is in fact talking about himself using the metaphor of bread. The lectionary has reminded us that God provides for us abundantly, in every form of daily bread imaginable AND through the precious gift of God’s only Son, God in-fleshed, Jesus the Christ, the true bread of life that came down from heaven. We are sustained day to day and have eternal life provided to us.
However, this all seems very individualistic. God provides for ME, and I guess God does the same for YOU, but why do we need to gather together if God already gives me everything I need regardless of my weekly attendance at worship or participation in Christian fellowship and service?
This is where the “US” and the “WE” in that prayer come in. The plural pronouns could easily be overlooked.
Some elements of our liturgy use singular pronouns and others use plural, sometimes they seem random; for example, the Apostle’s Creed begins “I believe,” while the Nicene Creed begins “WE believe.” But I truly believe that today’s “us”s and “we”s are very intentional.
– They point to the last verse we read from John 6 today, where it is proclaimed that “the bread that [Jesus] will give [his flesh is] for the life of the world.” It is not just given for the life of one, or even for many individually. There is a collective life of the world that Jesus sustains.
– Those plural pronouns also point, with big flashing signs and arrows to the Ephesians text:
This seemingly-list of rules for the young Christian community is just that. It is a list of how Christians can attempt, with a whole lot of help from the Holy Spirit, to be imitators of God. This is less about being perfect and God-like, and more about being able to be helpfully, successfully, and fulfilling in relationship with others.
It is only through the strengthening power of the Bread of Life and the, constantly at work in our lives, Holy Spirit, that we can successfully live and function as the body of Christ in the world.
Personal relationships with God and solitary devotional lives are a great way to build a relationship with and gain understanding about God and God’s vision for the kingdom, but without relationships with the rest of God’s people you are not fully able live as part of God’s kingdom and creation.
Remember, God is all about relationships. God works in the midst of those relationships to spread the good news of God’s love throughout the world, in essence distributing the bread of life. At the same time God works through those same relationships to distribute daily bread throughout the world as well.
Do you remember Martin Luther’s explanation of daily bread that I read last week? Relationships with families/spouses/bosses/employees/etc were mentioned in that list. Relationships are a gift from God that God turns around and uses to distribute all the other kinds of bread, both daily and the Bread of Life, to others.
I am not called to do God’s work alone, just like you do not have to do God’s work alone. There is no need to “sit down under a solitary broom tree” exhausted, feeling defeated, and give up, asking for your life to be taken away; it is not hopeless! The problems of this world might seem daunting and impossible for you personally to make a difference. But you are mistaken! We are strengthened and sustained by the bread of life and God given daily bread, and pushed by the Holy Spirit to be in relationship with other, building up the body of Christ in the world.
Think about it…
– The quilters in this congregation do not sit at home in front of their sewing machines by themselves every Wednesday. Instead they gather together for food and fellowship as they work to help spread God’s warmth, protection, and comfort to those in need, and they even do so with members from other congregations!
– Those who serve dinner at the Salvation Army every third Friday of the month do not do so individually. They partner with each other and members of the Episcopal church to make delicious ham, rice, and lentils for those who cannot always count on getting enough food for themselves and their families.
– This is why I said time and time again when I was interviewing here that I am not a “lone ranger” pastor. I need your stories, guidance, prayers, and help to serve God. One person cannot be a body. This is also why I attend meetings of my local colleagues, both Lutheran and not. It is those partnerships, both intra-denominational and ecumenical, fueled by the bread from heaven, which embody God and do justice to the fragrant offering and sacrifice to God given on our behalf.
– This is why in the Baptismal liturgy in the ELW not only the parents and sponsors, but the whole congregation are asked to “promise to support [the newly baptized] and pray for them in their new life in Christ.” And this is why, even though it is not printed in your hymnal, I am going to include that question during today’s baptism.
– And that is what we are enacting when we share God’s peace with one another, we are attempting to put our human ways aside and be imitators of God as we are gathered as one body around the table to commune as the body of Christ across space and time.
So, God WE pray once again, “give us this bread always, that [your Son] may live in US and WE in him, and that strengthened by this good, WE may live as his BODY in the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.”