Proper 15b 2015: Abiding

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 Psalm 111 Ephesians 5:15-20 John 6:51-58
It is no wonder that early Christians were accused of cannibalism. The words are at least a little hard to hear and say even now. Yet, we are a faith of the body. We use our bodies in worship: we sit, stand, kneel, sing, pray silently and out loud, walk, shake hands or hug, raise our arms, intertwine our fingers. We see rich cloth, white, green, the colors in stained glass, the slant of the sun, dust, and ladybugs. We smell the scents of a wooden building and pews, flowers, wine, bland bread, each other. We are a church of the body. We treat Christ’s body as we are supposed to live: take, thank, bless, give. The body is broken that we might live. The body is consumed, holy food and drink.

We reach with our bodies – feet, legs, arms, hands, fingers, reaching for our Lord. Our Lord comes. “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Given for you. Take, eat. “Amen.” Amen – so be it – we say. We give our assent to the transformation of wafers and wine to be Christ’s body and blood. Amen. The body dissolves, or it sticks to the roof of our mouth, and we wiggle our tongue to set it free deep within us. The swallow of wine helps loosen the wafer, mingles in our spiritually hungry bodies. Amen, we say, amen.

Walking with, living with, ABIDING with Jesus is not clean. “It is not pretty,” modern language says. It involves bodies – ours and others. Living with the transforming power of Jesus within us is messy. It takes guts! We may find ourselves in a hospital, at the bedside of a young man who ended his life. No mother should ever have to see her child in that condition, a hole in his head that was but a fraction of the hole – the despair and unimaginable emptiness — in his heart. Followers of Christ are at her son’s side, praying, shielding, protecting. We give her son to God and to Jesus Christ. We pray that the family can heal. God has not abandoned them; God weeps … and gathers us into strong and loving arms.

Living as Christians means that we will find ourselves reaching out in other, as yet unimaginable ways. We are not in these places so that we can realize that our lives our better, our situations not so bad. We are in these places because we are led by the relationship, the ABIDING, with Jesus Christ. We are compelled to reach out because we can do nothing less, nothing other.

I wish to share with you a miracle. We do not hear about miracles very often, as if they do not happen today. Do you know? Do you know that miracles happen today and probably every day if we watch for them, listen for them, are AWARE of God in this world. Imagine that: God is IN this world.

Here is one miracle that I experienced. I was serving at St. Columb’s, Ridgeland, in the summer of 2007. Father Brian celebrated a weekday Eucharist on Wednesday mornings; this particular service of Eucharist took place near the 4th of July. As we administered the bread and wine that day, I realized that we would need to use the reserved bread and wine. You have seen priests do that before: we go to the extra that has been blessed and saved. On that day, we had nine people who would consume the bread. There were six pieces of bread on the paten, the plate, and two more pieces in reserve. At the end of communion, we would be one piece of bread short. After everyone had taken bread and wine, Father Brian returned to the altar – and there was one leftover piece of bread on the plate. Mathematically, this was impossible. You can imagine that I was rendered speechless (hard to do, in fact!). I had just not only witnessed, but been part of, a miracle. I counted the bread and the people over and over in my mind. It always comes out the same. It was, simply and purely, a miracle. IF GOD CAN MAKE A MIRACLE HAPPEN IN A WAY THAT WE CAN COUNT ON OUR FINGERS, HOW MANY OTHER MIRACLES HAVE WE MISSED? God opens our eyes in fantastic, totally unimaginable, and even ordinary ways. Like the story of the loaves and fishes, there was plenty, and there was food left over. God fill us, and when we have had our fill, guess what? THERE IS ALWAYS MORE GOD, MORE JESUS, MORE HOLY SPIRIT, to fill us again.

There is a catch. We have to be there. We have to show up at our Lord’s Table, we have to show up in the crowd with Jesus. And we have to give Jesus much more than our words. We have to give him our lives, our bodies, our guts. We are called to be at the bedside of those who are ill, who are dying. We are supposed to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. We are supposed to get over ourselves, beyond our selves, and into the world.

In this time and this place, what does that look like for us? In what ways can we bring ourselves and others into that holy place of abiding with Jesus? I do not have one (definitive) concrete answer. I am called to be a pastor, priest, and teacher in this time and in this place. I want to walk with you and with our Savior into those scary, bodily, fleshy, earthy places and let God, through us, transform lives, including ours. I promise to be pastor, priest and teacher. I ask you to walk with me in the light of the Lord, offering ourselves and our gifts in ways that we have never done before. Help one another envision what it means with our bodies to abide with Christ. Help us envision how we study, pray and take action together, how we bring ourselves into a messy Christian life.

Know that we will encounter those who have lost their faith and their hope. For them we pray unceasingly. We will encounter miracles. For those we pray (in thanksgiving) unceasingly. Let us be regarded with suspicion because of our experience of the Real Presence of Christ and its transforming power in our lives. Let us be Christians with our selves, with our bodies; let the living bread of heaven abide in us, strengthen us, sustain us.

(From the collect) Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of Jesus’ redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life.

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