In the name of the one who offered himself as a sacrifice for us and who opens the way to eternal life, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Amen.
During my vacation this month, I experienced a gastronomical delight in the glorious food. So much so that after the third day, I decided that I must limit myself to two substantial meals a day and drink plenty of water. I’ve since recalled that whatever the occasion for celebration, we tend to gather around food: at weddings, funerals, confirmation, baptisms, birthdays and anniversaries. Sometimes we gather to eat with family or friends for no reason other than the fellowship of love and care.
Lest we begin to feel the least bit guilty, it’s biblical. We hear of Jesus’ first public appearance and miracle taking place at the marriage feast. Up until his ascension, we hear of him eating with friends, the disciples, the publicans and the sinners. His last meal is recorded of him cooking up breakfast on the beach after his resurrection. Most of his ministry had been attended by food. But he speaks of a different food for today. He speaks of himself as the life-giving food for those who hunger.
Jesus is not speaking of just those who go to bed at night and navigate the next day with empty bellies, but he speaks to all of us who, in the midst of what appears to be abundance, are still hungry. Jesus, the storyteller, uses the images of feasts and parties for he understood what food was to all of us. Nothing has changed over the millennia. But it was an image that helped to clarify his message of feeding the human spirit.
We seek more than just physical food. We are looking for the sustenance that satisfies our spirits and brings contentment. At a time when we hear about the prosperity of this nation: the economy the best it’s been, unemployment down, building and industry up, it becomes easy to be lured into notion that all is well. We may begin to believe that we have done it all by ourselves. If you listened to any part of either presidential convention, we are led to believe that there are two possibilities of a savior who will lead us into a better time, maintain peace on our shores and create a panacea for everyone to prosper.
It all sounds quite wonderful and we wish that it could be so. It’s a part of the abundance of earthly bread that nourishes and sustains some of us. It’s about the “plenty” that swirls about us and yet is illusive to so many of our sisters and brothers. Our presidential candidates are harbingers of what a wonderful and prosperous society we can be–all of us pulling together to create a society of productive citizens. It’s a glorious thought but time has proven otherwise.
The deep hunger at the core of our lives is not satiated by another car, another vacation, a house on the beach or on a mountain or the size of our bank accounts. These things certainly are a part of the good things of life, and God does not begrudge them to us. But Jesus invites us into a deeper understanding of what it means to be accepted and acceptable to God just as we are–with our human weaknesses and frailties. He opens to us a path to forgiveness and peace. Jesus’ ministry to those who do not share in the abundance of bread in the society reveals our purpose as the children of God.
Building relationship with Christ and each other holds out to us an opportunity to like ourselves, love those whom we do not know and be a living icon of the one we are called to serve.
We are surrounded by hunger of many kinds. Some yearn for acceptance. Just look on the streets as we pass by those who are dirty and huddled with their bundles. Or the vacant eyes of teens who swagger by with jeans dangling precariously between waist and knees–that is if we don’t cross the street first. Let us not forget our brothers and sisters who face our rejection because we sit in judgment of who they are and how they live their lives. The imago Dei, the image of God, is in every person.
Others desire a sense of accomplishment. Have they made a difference in the lives of others? Have they done all that they might with their own? The lost opportunities and wasted time weigh heavily on some. But Jesus continues to invite us to begin where we are at this very moment.
How Jesus does it is rather strange, indeed. He calls his flesh the bread, his blood the wine. He invites us to eat and drink of him. The Jews who heard this message were quite baffled and debated the statement. And so it was that Jesus tells them that “to eat and drink of him” is to believe in him and his message of salvation.
We strange people called Christians gather then around the holy table to partake in that mystery of the body and blood of Jesus. We come as imperfect people living in an imperfect world. We feed that Christ may indwell us and strengthen us. The prophet Isaiah brings the message home to us as we commit ourselves to the message and the person of the Christ. “The spirit of the Lord has anointed [and empowed] us to: bring good tidings to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to bring liberty to the captives, to open the prison to those who are bound, to those who are outcasts and who mourn — [we must] give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isa. 61). It is the same gift that the Lord gives to us.
My sisters and brothers, in this body and blood, the offering of Jesus to us is our past, present and future. The past event of our Lord’s death and Resurrection is brought to this moment, this hour, creating a personal experience. It lifts to us the future of the heavenly banquet to which we are invited. We have been created by God, loved and sustained by God. We were chosen. We are accepted. The abundance of God’s grace is there for the taking. As the psalmist says, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Amen.