By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
August 16, 2009
Read: John 6:51-48 and Ephesians 5:15-20
Our gospel reading from John for today is a little disturbing. And it’s meant to be. The idea of eating Jesus’ flesh and blood conjures up thoughts of cannibalism. His words would have been equally offensive to the Jewish people that he was addressing at the time. So, we can be relatively sure that Jesus’ intent was to disturb us, to cause us to think much more deeply about the meaning of his words.
We can surmise now that Jesus was speaking metaphorically about his death, about the sacrifice of his very life for all the world. He was speaking about the spiritual nature of his life and his death and his glorious resurrection. And what that means for all of us.
There is an ancient legend of a man with a scarred face who, in trying to hide his scars, had a mask made to cover his face. The mask appeared as a saint. He winds up falling in love in the legend. Years later his past is revealed, and in an attempt to reveal what he really looked his mask was ripped away. What they saw was a face, his face that had taken on the form of the saint’s face.
We become what we habitually imitate. We become what we make ours just as the bread we eat. The thoughts that fill our minds, the loves that fill our souls–these are creating who we are. If we fill our hearts and minds with the trivial, the faddish, the debase, we’re making ourselves a smaller person. That is why it’s so important what role models we choose for ourselves and our children. We will become the patterns by which we live. If we fill our hearts and minds with God’s Word and attempt to love as he loves and to care as he cares, we are creating a soul for eternity. We are becoming imitators of God.
There is the old story of the farmer and his mule. In order to save money, he tried mixing in sawdust with oats. About one-fourth seemed to work. Then he tried half. That seemed to work, so then he tried three-quarters, which seemingly had no effect. The farmer went to all sawdust. Two days later the mule died. The farmer commented, “That mule ate himself to death.”
We must be cautious on what is filling our lives. At first it may not seem to matter, but what we are filled with will be what we are.
Jesus is offering his life to fill our souls. His bread, his body, his blood, his drink. And the one who eats this bread from heaven will live forever.
I have a friend, Rod, who loves to paddle down rivers in his canoe. And he recently wrote about how the currents in wild rivers are similar to the currents in our spiritual lives, in our creative lives, in our relationships. The currents are often stronger than we are, we cannot outpower them. All we can do is tune in to them and exercise leverage at the crucial points on the journey.
He writes, “There is usually more than one water path through a rapids, but usually one is deeper than others and requires fewer turns. Streams of water move through rapids at different speeds. Rocks, the bend of the river, the different depths across the breadth of a river, all affect the speeds of the water paths. If part of the canoe is in one water path, and part in another, the current will exert conflicting pressures on the canoe’s hull. In harmony with the river’s flow, the paddler uses the differing currents as part of the turning strokes. Out of harmony, the river turns the paddler. That’s rarely good”.
It’s rarely good when we make a choice to fill our lives with sawdust. We all have scars that we wish we could hide. We need the true bread of life that God offers us through Jesus Christ.
We are welcoming Aiden Palmer Brown into the community of faith today through baptism. We will give thanks for the gift of water and all that that water represents – the promise of new life. And we will renew our own Baptismal Convenant. Seeking the choice to look for God in our lives. Seeking choices that fill our souls with the bread of heaven. Seeking choices that heal our wounds. Seeking choices that contribute positively to the world in which we live.
My friend also writes, “to connect with the currents moving through your life, or with the currents moving through a rapids, you need to move slower than the energy flows. There are just too many haphazard rocks around to move faster than the current. If you go with the flow and leave your speed up to the river, the river will determine where your canoe goes and it will go into rocks. In life too, I don’t want circumstances to determine my path. I want to get a lot out of life, and that takes vision, effort and courage.”
We are faced with choices every day. May we be granted the grace to put our paddles into the deep water path that is the force and movement of God in this world. May we tap into that strength and stand firm knowing that a decision made for the Kingdom of God, is a decision that we will not regret. May we continue to feed on the bread from heaven that keeps us strong and sure of our current in life. May we make that melody referred to in Ephesians, that melody to the Lord in our hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The spiritual life is a process, not an event. It takes time and love and help and care. It takes our patient presence. It takes our energy and commitment.
God loves us so deeply, so completely, that he gave his Son, Jesus Christ to the world. Thank God! Amen.
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