August 19th, 2018
Proper 15 2018
OK. I get it. I get their complaint against Jesus. This does not make sense. Jesus tells us that he is bread and that if we consume him, literally, then we will live forever. “and the bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh.” I get why they question what Jesus is saying.
I spoke a little about this last week. Each week we come together for the Eucharist - central to what we do in the Holy Thanksgiving. We come together to offer to God, not just what is in the plate. We come to offer ourselves. If I could change any image it would be for you to think of that which comes forward, the plates and the bread and wine as yourselves. Money represents your life and labor. Bread and wine represent God’s creation which he has given to sustain us. I wish you could imagine that what is placed on that table is yourself. You are the gift which God desires and, in this moment, we are seeking for God to transform us, to change us.
I, as your priest have a role. The main liturgical role I have is to take what you offer - the money, the bread and the wine, you. I stand at the altar and lift and offer those gifts to God. And God transforms them. He changes them. They become holy gifts and then I give them back. I give the money to your vestry, who represent you, to sustain and do God’s work in this place and beyond. Being on vestry is a holy calling to become a steward representing you in caring for those gifts. And I give the changed bread and wine to you.
And what does God give back? He gives himself.
I have been asked over the years “what do we believe about communion?” What is it that we understand when we come forward. First, I say listen to the words. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi means ‘what we pray is what we believe’. Our corporate theology is found in the Book of Common Prayer. We do not believe what some Christians do that this meal is some fond remembrance of Jesus. We do not take communion just to remember the person and the moment. The words I say when you receive the bread are “The body of Christ”. That is what we believe. But we also do not believe in transubstantiation. Transubstantiation means the conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the body and blood of Christ at consecration, only the appearances of bread and wine still remaining. Literally the bread becomes human flesh. That is not what we believe. No, we believe that the bread and wine is changed, but the elements are not. It remains bread and wine. For us this is a mystery. Yes, you take Christ into you. Jesus is really present in this thanksgiving, this Eucharist.
We often get hung up on what we do here and miss what is important out there. I do not want you to think that this holy meal doesn’t have anything to do with the world you live in. I have known too many Christians who so separate this moment that it has no meaning; because what we do here should move with you into the world. Debates on children at the border who have been separated from their parents have everything to do with this moment we share. Keeping accountable those whom we elect has everything to do with this Eucharist. If you are not willing to bring your life - the joys and struggles and offer them to God then there is nothing for God to transform. If you are not transformed in this moment to live out God’s love when you leave this place, then it has no purpose. If you are not an agent for changing what is wrong, then what is wrong will never be changed. “Always take a side. Neutrality helps the oppressor never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel. This meal means you cannot be neutral.
As Christians, this meal is our center but what we have been and what we will be and can only have meaning if we offer it to God.