Archive | August, 2012

Proper 18 (Year B) – 9/9/12

25 Aug

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 or Track 2  Psalm 146 & Isaiah 35:4-7a

James 2:1-10 (11-13) 14-18

Mark 7:31-37

Psalm 125

Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, 

and to those who are upright in their hearts.

Opening Question

What is the value of a good name….and do you have one?

Appointed Passages[1] (RCL)

Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, 22-23

1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.  2 The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all. 8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail. 9 Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. 22 Do not rob the poor because they are poor, 0r crush the afflicted at the gate; 23 for the LORD pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.

  • What exactly is a good name and how does one get and maintain it?
  • In what ways can rich people be classified as “poor” and thus need to be fed?

James 2: 1-10 (11-13) 14-18

1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

  • We do have a tendency to judge people quickly on their external appearances.  How do we condition ourselves to look more deeply?
  • How much action is sufficient in order prove that your faith is not dead?

Mark 7: 31-37

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

  • Is everyone in need of healing in some sense?
  • What is our responsibility, as Christians, for the healing of others?

 

Comment:

Today’s lessons speak to me about moral integrity (i.e., the firm adherence to a code of values – especially moral).  The Proverbs reference to a “good name” starts the ball rolling in reminding us that who we are is an outcome of what we do.

Further, assuming our actions reflect what we believe, what we do is a reflection of our fundamental motivations.  The important challenge to each of us is to periodically review two things –

  1. The basis for our motivations – specifically, our moral codes.  In just the same way as a secure building is only possible if built on a firm foundation, our good name can only be built on a framework of sound moral principles.
  2. Are our actions truly aligned with our motivations?

I can hear you think, “that sounds good, but how do I do it?”  A few things come to mind – I suppose the most important initial state of mind is sometimes the most difficult to achieve.  That is to embrace the truth that we are all loved.  The love of God and of those who are close to us – in spite of who we are and what we may have done is a fact.  When I think about growing up, perhaps the most significant thing that my family taught me was the personal strength that comes from unconditional love.

Second is the ability to be honest with ourselves.  I think we have to not only be open to, but actively invite opinions from others who will help us see ourselves as we truly are.  Change is possible only when you know that you need it.

Third is to take risks….as the book of James reminds us, faith requires works….we have to live the results of our decisions – and be smart enough to learn from all of them – particularly the ones that were wrong.  Perhaps the most important thing is to appreciate the value of mistakes in the teaching they can provide.  In an interesting study of innovation, the Economist magazine wrote a special report remarking about how the most successful innovators were those who figured out how to pursue more opportunities and “fail faster” in order to grow their body of experiences of what did not work.

Finally, I suppose as Jesus shows by example, we all are in need of healing.  Keeping a watchful eye on those around us and reaching out with the touch of compassion – particularly those who we take for granted – is of remarkable value.

May God give us the strength to love by translating faith into action.

 

Quotes for Today: 

Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.

Barbara De Angelis

 

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

Alfred Adler

 

These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future.

Vernon Cooper


[1] All NRSV

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Proper 16 – Year B (8/26/12)

18 Aug

 Assigned Scripture for today –

1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11) 22-30, 41-43 or Track 2 Psalm 34:15-22 & Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18

Ephesians 6:10-20

John 6:56-69       

Psalm 84

No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly.

 

Opening Questions

  • Is it possible (and if so, how) for someone who has found salvation to lose it?
  • What are the minimum requirements for living our salvation in order to maintain it?

 Appointed Passages[1] (RCL)

 1 Kings 8: (1, 6, 10, 11) 22-30, 41-43

1 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.

6 Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim.

10 And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. 23 He said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24 the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. 25 Therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, “There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! 28 Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O LORD my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, “My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.

41 “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name 42 –for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm–when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, 43 then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.

{Montreal Commentary:  The King asks God’s attention to his and the people’s “plea”, and gives seven illustrations:

  1. by being just (v. 32);
  2. when they “turn again” (v. 33) to him after God has punished their waywardness by an enemy defeat;
  3. when he punishes them with drought (v. 35);
  4. when he does so with famine and various plagues (v. 37);
  5. to respond to a foreigner’s pleas when he or she seeks and finds the God of Israel (vv. 41-43) – so that people everywhere may know God and hold him in awe;
  6. when they battle an enemy and pray for success; and
  7. when they “come to their senses … and repent” (v. 47) and seek freedom, after their sin has caused God to have them exiled.}
  • What is the significance of moving the Ark of the Covenant (10 commandments) to the permanent temple?
  • Is there a physical place that you deem to be sacred in terms of the presence of God?  Describe…

Ephesians 6:10-20

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

  • How is being a righteous person the same as living with integrity?
  • While armor can protect, it can also prevent experiences that may be helpful in shaping perspective.  How should we decide when to wear it?

 

 

John 6: 56-69

56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Caper’naum.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

  • How does “the spirit” manifest itself in giving life?  What should we look for in others that we might recognize as the demonstration of spirit?
  • What perspective in the disciples was Jesus aiming to identify when he asked, “Does this offend you”?
  • How do we live our lives in a way that shows we choose not to “go away” (v.67)?

 

Comment:

I read from today’s scriptural passages the admonition that Christianity may start with a decision, but is only achieved by our actions in relationships with others (i.e., our communities).  We abide in Christ by living his teachings.  We learn to give of ourselves as spiritual bread to others in the same way that Christ gave of himself – and continues to do so daily – to those who listen for his voice and follow his direction.

That is not to say that we should give others easy lives.  Part of the challenge for all of us in evaluating our relationships with others is the continuing assessment of the inner core (beliefs, motivations and intentions) of both those who are close to us and those whom we wish to help. We look for appreciation, shared enthusiasm for hard work and personal growth in character and spirit, as well as the crucial capacities for empathy and humility.  While we might have to live the example at first, ultimately, others need to grow in character as well to continue to earn our contributions to the relationship.  Assessing people’s underlying motives is not easy, but it is important.

It seems to me that we also have a responsibility to follow Christ’s example when he takes action against those who corrupt the message (i.e., when he overturned tables and drove away the money changers and corrupted officials at the entrance to the church).  We obviously expect people to be human, and sometimes make mistakes as well as need support.  However, we also have reason to expect they can and will learn and improve to earn a position of shared appreciation of the value of their relationships with others.  If someone continues to only take and never give, shouldn’t we ultimately conclude that they have made a personal decision to focus on their own needs and wants to the exclusion of friendship and community?  Deciding how much (in time and content) we should give of ourselves as the relationship building process unfolds is never an easy clear decision, but it is important to periodically evaluate.

I look back at my formative years with fond memories of how my family and community recognized and appreciated the respect and dignity that arose from hard work and earning “relationship legitimacy” by meeting or exceeding contributions to it.  We seemed to intuitively ascribe “character” to those who actively made contributions of themselves to relationships with others. 

I pray for all of us to contemplate the value of shared spirit in not only giving of ourselves, but holding others responsible for the shared human development that makes our community stronger.

 

Quotes for Today: 

 Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.

Booker T. Washington

 

Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that spirituality is a separate department of life, the penthouse of existence. But rightly understood, it is a vital awareness that pervades all realms of our being.

David Steindl-Rast

 

The Roots of Violence:

Wealth without work,
Pleasure without conscience,
Knowledge without character,
Commerce without morality,
Science without humanity,
Worship without sacrifice,
Politics without principles.

Mohandas K. Ghandi

 


 

[1] All NRSV

Proper 17 – Year B (9/2/12)

18 Aug

Scriptures for today –

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 or Track 2 Psalm 15: & Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

James 1:17-27

Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23   

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10

Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever,  a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;  you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

Opening Question

We all seem to admire and respect people who are “authentic” (my definition is those who live their principles openly).  Are you an authentic person?  If not, is that something to which you should aspire?

Appointed Passages[1] (RCL)

Track 2 – Deuteronomy 4: 1-9

1 So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you. 3You have seen for yourselves what the Lord did with regard to the Baal of Peor—how the Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 4while those of you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today.

5 See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. 6You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!’ 7For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? 8And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

9 But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children–

  • To what extent does the phrase “watch yourselves closely” (v.9) imply you have a responsibility to help others enforce statutes for themselves?
  • How does one keep things from “slipping” from mind (v.9)?
  • Is teaching children a valid channel to self-examination?

 James 1:17-27

17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.

26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

  • What else is required, beyond reading the bible, as action sufficient to “look into the perfect law” (v.25)?
  • What degree of action is required to be classified as a “doer” of the word?

Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

1 Now when the Phar’isees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Phar’isees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles). 5 So the Phar’isees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isai’ah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’  8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

  • Assuming Jesus is suggesting that what is presented to us is of less significance than how we respond to it, bad ideas are of no consequence if we take no action to pursue them.  However, when should we take action to stop people from doing things that are wrong?
  • How do you identify actions that have spiritual significance and thus warrant some thought before taking them?

Comment:

Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily routines of life that we don’t think.  In one sense, embracing so fully God’s love that it becomes an automatic component of our actions is a good thing.  On the other hand, most of us would admit that we can probably improve the relative state of our soul in our quest for salvation.

The phrase Jesus uses that I find most interesting is “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile”.  The implication is that we are free to choose our responses to what happens in our world.  The consequences of our choices shape our spiritual character.  Our actions (over time) measure of the relative status of our salvation.

All of today’s readings contain hints of how we might measure our progress toward salvation (assuming, of course that is the ultimate objective).  In my geeky style of deliberative thinking, my first reaction is to produce a series of questions with answers to be scaled in order to produce a “salvation” score for our souls. 

I suspect we could get a curious collection of responses by asking a range of people what the key questions should be asked in interviews if our task was to help St. Peter assess the relative standing of a person’s soul for admission to heaven.  But then again, isn’t that sort of what we do every time we have an interaction with God – either in a church service, or perhaps personal conversation in prayer, or maybe just in a contemplative thought?

That is precisely the point – we have to think.  How we shape our responses to good and evil in the world every day by the actions we take affects something more important than life itself – salvation.

Quotes for Today: 

The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves.

Eric Hoffer

Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.

Plato

The greatest discovery of our generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. As you think, so shall you be.

William James 


[1] All NRSV

Proper 15 – Year B (8/19/12)

11 Aug

Assigned Readings for today –

1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 or Track 2 Psalm 34:9-14 & Proverbs 9:1-6;

Ephesians 5:15-20

John 6:51-58       

Psalm 111

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; 

all those who practice it have a good understanding.

Opening Questions

  • Do you believe that your personal spirituality needs nourishment?
  • What sort of spiritual diet is appropriate and why?

Appointed Passages[1] (RCL)

1 Kings 2: 10-12, 3: 3-14

10 Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in He’bron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

3:3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 4 The king went to Gib’eon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gib’eon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

  • What do you suppose an “understanding mind” describes?
  • What do you think were Solomon’s motives and how do they distinguish his leadership model?
  • To discern good from evil, should we evaluate the act, the motivation/intent, or both?

Ephesians 5:15-20

15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • What makes days become evil (v.16)? More importantly how do you make them good?
  • Does pursuing the spirit bring wisdom or are additional actions required?
  • Is it possible to be excessive in giving thanks to God?  If so, how do you asses limits and what are the consequences of exceeding them?

John 6: 51-48

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

  • Is receiving the Eucharist (communion at church) the only way to receive the flesh and blood of Christ?
  • What else (other than Eucharist) is required to “abide” (v.56) in Christ?
  • Is active participation in a community of fellow Christians necessary to maintain your relationship with Christ?  If so, what are appropriate measures of success?

Comment:

Using the analogy of food and drink for our faith is appropriate, because of what it represents.  The phrase “you are what you eat” comes to mind.  The daily requirements for minimum nourishment are perhaps at one end of the spectrum, but you can also imagine food and drink, depending upon content, surroundings, and those present to represent extravagance, elegance, pleasure, comfort, class, warmth, community, quiet contemplation, austerity, humility, responsibility, and perhaps community.

Food and drink are ingested and become part of us.  They perhaps become habits that we don’t think about, but if someone examined carefully (and objectively) what, when, with whom, and how we eat, I suspect they would know a great deal about each of us.

Perhaps Jesus is using that sense of food to suggest that we become part of him and he of us by living our relationship with Christ on a daily basis.  It is easy to think of how a modest prayer before each meal is a healthy reminder of his presence, and how it may be folded into our routines and actions.

We ingest Christ and enhance our relationship with him every time we think about his teachings – and how our lives can incorporate the best of what we learn.  The Eucharist at church is a tangible and real reminder of God’s presence in our lives and the shared community of other believers within which we live our faith.  But sharing the spiritual presence of God is always an option in our daily routines.  

I think it is important to think of faith in God as not only individual, but lived as reality through all the relationships that emerge through our various communities of involvement.  The realization of a well lived life inevitably must include some measure of the quality of relationships we have with others.

If we knew that our admission to heaven included a review of the scorecard containing a batch of information assessing the quality of our relationships with others, perhaps we might spend more time thinking about improving each of those relationships.  And what better teacher can we find about relationships than Jesus?

Quotes for Today: 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

Francis of Assisi

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection.  ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.

Thomas Paine

George Gray[2]

I have studied many times

The marble which was chiseled for me —

A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.

In truth it pictures not my destination

But my life.

For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;

Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;

Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.

Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.

And now I know that we must lift the sail

And catch the winds of destiny

Wherever they drive the boat.

To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,

But life without meaning is the torture

Of restlessness and vague desire —

It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.


[1] All NRSV

[2]Excerpt from Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology (Macmillan Publishing Company, 866 Third Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022)