Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Year A 4th Epiphany WED 2020 True Bread from Heaven

Year A 4th Sunday of Epiphany WEDNESDAY, 9 February 2020
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“The True Bread From Heaven”

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Genesis 22:1-18 (The Binding of Isaac)
Hebrews 11:23-31 (The Faith of Moses)
John 6:52-59
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.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

We have had quite the readings today, with the Binding of Isaac as our Jewish sisters and brothers call this passage, Hebrews looking at the faith of Moses, and Jesus claiming to be the perfect “Manna.” We are looking at things that are substituting for the perfect what is imperfect. Just before this, we see Abraham sending off Hagar and Ishmael for the promised heir, Isaac. In Hebrews we see the adopted son of Pharaoh being seen for a true child of God (the true King), the leader who will redeem his people, passing through the waters by faith. And Jesus, offering up himself as the true “manna” from heaven, superior to the bread that lasted a day, or two (if it was the Sabbath).

And the highly technical argument that Jesus is making, makes me ponder the nature of the Eucharist, the nature of “manna,” and the what is most real.

On the Eucahrist, I have to agree with Queen Elizabeth, who epitomized the “middle way” thinking which was the foundation of the Anglican Church. If you have not heard it, her poem: This is my Body… (or in Latin)...
Hoc est corpus meum‘Twas Christ the Word that spake it, The same took bread and break it,And as the Word did make it, So I believe and take it.
And yet, in this apparent mystery, we see the underlying paradox of our faith. Jesus is the Word, Jesus is the Bread of Life, Jesus is What We Need (Whatever That May Be). We believe that this will work. We trust. We trust because of what we have been taught, what we have seen at work in the world, and what we hope to be true.

What is now, we hope for something better. We see in a mirror dimly, as Paul says to the Corinthians, but then we shall see face to face.

But that Jesus would compare himself to one of the most curious of details in our faith heritage, the 40 years of sustenance that the Hebrew Children ate while they were wandering for a lifetime in the desert on the way to the Promised Land. The name itself is like unto the Mystery of the Eucharist, with the Hebrew word Manna translating more clearly to “What is it?” We each would have a different answer if we were asked to explain who Jesus is to us, what the Eucharist is to each of us. The growing prominence of the Sacraments was a huge part, probably the biggest, in my coming into the Episcopal Church and all the side implications of a sacramental theology.

And the last thought for the day, the nature of what is most real. Both of these quotes came to mind from our reading of The Little Prince, which our Book Club read last spring. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince)

  • And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
  • The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.

And both of these, for me, point to Jesus Christ. I know that my life has the better story with him in it. I know that he makes no rational sense, but my life only makes sense with Jesus in it. I know that in the bread and wine I find and feel a Truth beyond my ability to describe. I will let Jesus speak to it, for he cannot be surpassed. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. ...the one who eats this bread will live forever.” Amen

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Blessings, Rock