Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Bread of Life (3): You are what you eat

Reading
John 6.56–69

 

The living ‘flesh’ of the world is made up of communication with others. Into such a conversation the Word is uttered, and into the dialogue originally existing between the Father and the Son the various actors of the Gospel drama are drawn. As this process reaches out to include believers of every age, God’s unrestricted love for the world provokes the full play of human conversation as it turns on the meaning of life, God, human identity, and the destiny of the world itself. — Anthony Kelly & Francis Moloney, Experiencing God in the Gospel of John, Kindle Ed’n, loc.782

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Almost 2000 years ago, people had some very strange ideas about what went on in Christian worship.

I’ll read you a tirade which comes from a book written by a Christian in the second century AD. It’s called The Octavius of Minucius Felix (chapter 9). Here, he is speaking as a pagan who repeating rumours of what Christians do:

Yours is a religion of lust. You promiscuously call one another brothers and sisters. You apparently do this so that your debaucheries will take on the flavour of incest.

Your vain and senseless superstition revels in wickedness. I would apologise for passing on the reports I hear about you if I weren’t so certain that they are true…

…The stories of your initiation rites are as detestable as they are well known. Your priests place an infant covered with flour in front of the new convert. Then they tell the convert to strike the harmless-looking lump of flour with deadly blows. Thereby the convert innocently slays the infant and is initiated into your horrors. The Christians present then lick up the infant’s blood and divide its limbs among themselves to eat. They are united by this unholy meal, since they are bound to mutual silence because of their wickedness. Your sacred rites are more vile than any imagined sacrilege.

All I can say is You may have noticed that Uniting Church services aren’t very much like that.

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Gratitude and Grace

Readings
Ephesians 5.15–20
John 6.51–58

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see
And what I do in anything
To do it as for thee.
— George Herbert, ‘The Elixir’ (from The Temple, 1633)

 

Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness. — Bro. David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness: the heart of prayer

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When I began to think about preaching through August, I thought we’d follow along with the Gospel Reading and have a four-week series on Christ, the Bread of Life.

That was before I found that today would be my last Sunday here. So the series is cut short, just like my time here. So I would like to follow the advice of the Apostle Paul and ‘give thanks for everything to God the Father’. I want to speak about gratitude and grace on this occasion of Hudson’s baptism. 

Baptism is based in gratitude for Jesus Christ. We are baptised to share in the salvation that Christ has won for us; it is only because Jesus has saved us that we can ‘become his faithful witness and servant’. 

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Bread of life (2): Fill up on Bread

Reading
John 6.41–51

 

The ingredients for bread were always the same: flour, yeast, water, and salt. But the difficulty was that there were ten thousand ways of combining these simple elements. — Julia Child, My Life in France, 2006

A dog fed on fine white bread flour and water does not live beyond the fiftieth day. A dog fed on the coarse bread of the military lives and keeps his health. — François Magendie, The Lancet, 1826 

Note: I enjoyed dipping into 52 Loaves by William Alexander as I prepared this sermon.

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I can still remember my mother saying to me: ‘Fill up on bread!’

She said it to me often, as I frequently complained that I was still hungry after dinner was finished.

Fill up on bread. I didn’t like a lot of the bread I was given to fill up on though.

I do like good white bread—crusty loaves from the bakery are great—but the white bread I knew as a child was pretty insipid. You know, that tasteless, stick-to-the-roof-of-the-mouth white fluff that has passed for ‘bread’ since before I was born.

That was the only white bread I knew in my childhood, so it’s not surprising that I always preferred brown bread to this so-called bread.

I’m not the only one who thinks a lot of bread tastes awful. This quotation is attributed to the American celebrity cook Julia Child:

How can a country be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Indeed.

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Bread of life (1): Not like the others

O God, satisfier of hunger,
you sent your Son
to turn our hearts and minds from evil;
help us to steadfastly look to Christ
in times of plenty or famine,
that we may never hunger or thirst
for any other;
in the name of our Saviour Jesus. Amen.

Readings
Ephesians 4.1–16
John 6.24–35

 

… The next day (6:22) dawns with the promise of the new bread from heaven, even as it refocuses the cosmic presence of the Word in the scandalous particularity of the flesh-and-blood reality of Jesus’ self-giving love. — Anthony Kelly & Francis Moloney, Experiencing God in the Gospel of John, Kindle Ed’n, loc.2388

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Perhaps sometimes you’ve watched Sesame Street with a young child. (Or maybe you’ve watched it on your own…!) If so, you might recall the One of these things is not like the others song.

Did you get which thing was not like the others? I’m sure you had no difficulty. But you know, sometimes it’s harder to guess which thing is not like the others.

Once on a short trip to Norway, I was told that there are four related Scandinavian languages: Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic. But one of these things is not like the others. Do you know which one? It’s Icelandic. People from Norway, Sweden and Denmark can understand each other, no matter which language they’re speaking. But they can’t understand folk from Iceland.

Why not? It’s a similar language—but it’s not like the others. People went to Iceland from Scandinavia a thousand years ago and settled there; the Icelandic language has developed in isolation from the others.

We’re in a ‘one of these things is not like the others’ place today. We all know there are four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But one of these things is not like the others. In the Sesame Street video, there were four items—one was a strange hat, while the other three were quite odd sunglasses. And the languages of far northern Europe are all ‘Scandinavian’; three are very similar, while one is different.

It’s like that with the Gospels. All four are telling the Good News about Jesus. Three are similar: Matthew, Mark and Luke. They tell pretty much the same story; in fact, the evidence is that Matthew and Luke adapted Mark for their own purposes.

We call these three the ‘Synoptic Gospels’. That means they all see the events of Jesus together.

All four are Gospels; they each tell the story of Jesus. But John is not like the others. And for a few weeks, we are delving into John chapter 6. Do you know some of the ways that John is different?

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