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POST DATE: 2009-10-23
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
Psalm 111 or Proverbs 9:1-6
First, my apologies for the tardiness of this post. I'm off on vacation and I just couldn't get my head around writing for a couple weeks there.
But for the last couple of days I've been struggling with the writing bug again, so here I go. Trouble is, for the last 3 or 4 weeks we've had those passages from John wherein Jesus speaks to us as the Bread of Life and I'm having trouble finding something to say that doesn't sound trite.
Most of us, I think, have joined the side of those Jews who took offense at this teaching and muttered, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?"
Oh, we don't say that exactly, but we've reduced this saying to something Eucharisitic, or symbolic, or just so un-earthly that we don't hear it any more. At the same time we sing "I Am the Bread of Life" so often that we don't hear the words any more, we just enjoy the familiarity of it and the uplifting chorus, "And I will raise him/them up..." (Depending on how PC your translation is.)
We're all for being raised up, but not too many of us fancy the imagery of feeding on Jesus' flesh. Not the bread, His Flesh. Not some spiritual symbol of His being, His Flesh.
I know that Jesus in John's Gospel frequently uses double meanings to talk about things that defy description with our limited vocabularies. This is surely one of them but I just can't let that become an excuse for me to spiritualize His Flesh into something that doesn't rock my world.
In the third chapter of the Fourth Gospel, Jesus speaks of being born "from above" and Nicodemus misunderstands this and thinks of a second physical birth. From this we have taken the phrase "born again" although this is not what the text says. The thing is, those who have made the phrase "born again" a cornerstone of their relationship with God are trying to describe the totality and violence of this re-birth "from above" and the only image that fits is that of passing through the trauma of entering into life at birth, not some spiritual awakening that wouldn't offend a New Ager. So I think that even if the text doesn't say "born again," Nicodemus gets the meaning more right than those who insist on the literal meaning of "born from above."
In the same way I think that we need to recover the enormity of these words about Jesus' Flesh, the offensiveness of them. Of course you and I don't feed on bleeding flesh taken from Jesus' arm or leg, but the gift He gives is no less costly, and the effect on us is likewise no less profound than consuming muscle, tendon, and bone.
The hunger for "being" that Jesus satisfies in us by giving us His Flesh is so ravenous, so carnivorous that we are terrified by it and rarely look deeply enough within to risk its discovery. Still, in the company of the Savior, you and I are encouraged to travel to the place of such black-hole emptiness that it threatens to suck us and everything around us into it. There, at the threshold of of oblivion Jesus gives us Himself, His Flesh, and the ravening and roaring lion is sated.
Then we sing. Not just songs, but heart-worship. Then we discover ourselves transformed by the Love that has rescued us from the abyss at the expense of Love's Own Life, possessed of a new life that is truly eternal.
I have been thinking a lot lately about how we can grow ministries. Along with the church, two of the ministries I am especially interested in are the Brotherhood of St. Andrew and Cursillo. All of these ministries started with tremendous growth and then slowed to varying degrees. The conclusion I came to is for them the get back to their original growth rate they would need to return to living out their core values. There is a saying that I think would apply here, “The main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing”.
In the church I believe the main thing is the two “Greats”, the “Great Commandment” and the “Great Commission”. The Great Commandment is found in Matthew 22:37-39, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it. You should love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depends all the law and the prophets”. The early Christians were often martyred because of their refusal to denounce their God (Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend…”). Today’s Christians are reluctant to be even mildly embarrassed for their faith. As for loving our neighbor as ourselves; it was said of the early Christians, “they were known by their love for one another”. In today’s church we are known more for our divisions.
The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age”. We are not all called to be missionaries in foreign lands, but we are all called to be missionaries where we are, our church, workplace, and in our community. We should be a living witness for our loving God in both our words and deeds. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel. And if necessary, use words”. So for our church to grow, making the main thing the main thing is for professing Christians to love God with all their heart and soul and their neighbor as their self.
In the Brotherhood of St. Andrew and Cursillo, the “main thing” is its rule of life and mission statement. The rule of life for the Brotherhood is regular prayer, study, and Christian service. For Cursillo it is piety, study and action. And the Brotherhoods mission statement is, “The spread of Christ’s Kingdom, especially among men and boys”. For Cursillo, “Make a friend, be a friend, bring that friend to Christ”. These are great words, but in James 1:22 we are told to “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving (ourselves)”. For our churches and Brotherhood chapters to grow, we as individual members should be more faithful in walking our talk.
“Day by day, Oh Dear Lord, Three things I pray; To see thee more clearly - Love thee more dearly - Follow thee more nearly, Day by day. Amen” (Goodspell)