Sunday, August 19, 2018

Year B Proper 15 2018 Captain Obvious

Year B Proper 15, 19 August 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Captain Obvious” 
Collect: Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.  

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 
Ephesians 5:15-20 
John 6:51-58 Jesus said, “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.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 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. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 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.”  

Driving back and forth to Ashland has become old hat. I do it a lot. What seemed so long in my first few weeks now zips by. Every so often, there are new things that catch my attention. On Thursday, the electronic boards over the interstate had some signage against Drunk Driving. But they do them so you will laugh, and remember them. Just because it is from the government does not mean it should be boring. They did some good ones around movie premiere weekends. Thursday they had one from Sherlock Holmes. “Sober Driving is Elementary, my dear Watson.” The other one my daughters just loved. “Sober is Safer. Thanks, Captain Obvious.”

That phrase, Captain Obvious, could apply to today’s readings. “BE WISE,” I Kings, Ephesians, and John all remind us, “BE WISE.” God wants what is best for us. It should be Obvious, and even more, it should be encouraged to be Wise. “Innocent as doves, but also as wise as serpents,” Jesus urged his disciples when he commissioned them and sent them out. [Matthew 10:16] If life has taught me nothing else, it is how rare common sense is. It is anything but common. Another thing that it has taught me, related, is that if ignorance is bliss, there should be more happy people.  

Solomon was wise. In his dream, God inquires what he would choose for a blessing. “Wisdom,” plain and simple, he responds. He chose wisdom, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of all God’s people. To this day, he is considered the wisest of them all. God granted him wisdom and long life to use it. 

Paul, writing to the Church in Ephesus, calls for Wisdom as well. “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Just as true, just as applicable. Consider each choice, each and every day. Choose what is right, and good, and true. 

Jesus urges Wisdom as well in today’s Gospel. Jesus is not as blatant as Solomon or St. Paul. He comes at it from the side. He calls us to Wisdom, but approaches it from what we take in. He uses metaphors, harsh, startling metaphors. Anathema to the ears who were hearing it. In the Jewish mind, in the blood is the Life. No medium rare burgers here. One would just not consume the blood when one at of any meat. Well done, only. Now the opposite rings true. 

When Stephanie and I lived in Northern Virginia, we had a favorite Steak House. They listed the levels of temperatures for the steaks:  
  • Rare = Very Pink and Juicy 
  • Medium Rare = Very Pink in the Center  
  • Medium = Pink  
  • Medium Well = Slightly Pink  
  • Well Done = Just Order Chicken.  
But when Jesus instructs us to take him in, to consume what he offers, it reminds me of our Collect for Proper 28 when it speaks of Scripture: “Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them…” It has to move beyond something that we do till it becomes who we are. 

We all have heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” And we all know it is true. If we bring in junk, we become junk. If we bring in the wholesome, we become wholesome. If we bring in Christ, we become like Christ. “...whoever eats me will live because of me. 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. 

There is a recurring theme in the Gospel of John, Life.  
  • “In him was life and that life was the light of all people…” John 1:4 
  • “Whoever believes in him may have eternal life…” John 3:15 
  • “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life…” John 4:14 
  • “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly…” John 10:10b 
  • And more and more. John mentions Life, Zoe, 42 times. 

The Gospels were not photographs, they were portraits. They are as much about the style and eye of the composer as they are about the subject. Think of the controversy around the Obamas official portraits just a few months ago. John’s portrait came DECADES after Jesus lived. And we need not be threatened by this. If the words shared were not true to the nature of Jesus, the community of followers would not have stood for it. John has had time to think, to ponder, to say what Jesus meant as much as what he did. In John, we have these beautiful “I am” statements from Jesus, proclaiming who he is and why he came. This is the Gospel of an old soul who has had this Jesus stuck  in his cud a long time. There are no accidents, and there is utmost belief. He stakes his life on it, this Bread of Life.  

Jesus: “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. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink… But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” Those that heard him in the story were of two camps. Those that understood him metaphorically: “He obviously was not speaking literally.” They were all the Captain Obvious folks in the room. Then there were the Literalists, those that were being obstinate and nit-picky because they had already made up their minds on Jesus, the Captains Oblivious. 

For thousands of years we have thought of taking God in and making God a part of us. Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” 

So it comes down to who we want to be. To what we want to be. Captain Obvious. Captain Oblivious. The choice is yours. 

But there is more than the obvious. Jesus spoke of the bread that came down from Heaven. This is a reference to when the People of God were wandering in the Wilderness after they escaped from Egypt. They had to rely on God for any and everything. They had no choice. They were in a desert. The only way to survive was to have the heavens let down its Manna. Manna was the Hebrew word for “What is it?” I find it fascinating that even Jesus recognizes that people have no idea who he is, or what he is about. The Jewish leaders in today’s passage were oblivious, we discussed that. But is it any different today? 
I have heard Jesus used to justify any and everything. Guns. Discrimination. Division. Hate. I find it an apt metaphor that even Jesus recognized that he was Manna. He was a “What is it?” Do we even know? 

Instead of Jesus being something we define, let us do what he said today, and let him define us. Look at what he did. Act like that. Look at what he said. Do what he says to do. Think like he says to think. Be. Be like he would have us be in this lonely and hurting world. Take him in. Let him become who you are. 

And if you do, know this. People will not know what to do with you either. You will be Manna for those who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear. And as we are this Manna, we will merge with the one who is the Quintessential Person, the Son of Man is the biblical phrase. And in him we will have not only life, but life everlasting. As we prayed, may we: “follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life.”Amen. 

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Blessings, Rock