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Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
A sermon preached by parishioner Michael Marcinelli on August 16, 2015

Christ Church Andover Sermon

8/16/15

Relationship

Michael Marcinelli

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Amen.

As I’m sure many of you have heard before, the measure of our lives will be based on the quality of the relationships we form throughout our lives, not how much money we make or how high a status we attain.  The “TRUE currency” of our lives lies in the relationships we cultivate.

So what does Jesus have say about relationships?  Not only does Jesus have quite a lot to say but he has pretty radical things to say about relationship, both human to human relationships as well as our relationship with God.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus tells us that some aspects of OUR notion of relationship is completely opposite to GOD’S notion of relationship.  For example:
In John 13, The great high king is also the servant washing the disciple’s feet.
In Matthew 5, If someone steals your coat give him another.
In  Luke 6, Jesus overturns “an eye for an eye” and says to “turn the other cheek”.
Love your enemies. (Luke 6)
Pray for those who persecute you. (Luke 6)
Do good to those who hate you. (Luke 6)
Bless those who curse you. (Luke 6)
Pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6)

God’s way to be in relationship is sometimes the opposite of what our instincts tell us.  We have a hard time understanding, and even believing in, how radical God’s love can be.  But these ideas point to human to human relationships.

Now let's turn to today’s Gospel.  In John chapter 6 we hear MORE radical concepts about being in relationship, but this time, Jesus is not referring to human to human relationship but our relationship with God.  Jesus says:

“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. (and this is the important part) Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.“  More on this part later.

This sounds pretty graphic and shocking, even violent, but at its core this is essentially a simple message calling us into relationship with God through Jesus.  This, too, is a message about relationship.

So we’ve heard this “eating the bread of life” message several times before in Mark and Luke.  So what’s shocking about this passage isn’t the message itself, it’s HOW Jesus is calling us into relationship.

But, as I say, the real shocking part isn’t so much the graphic description, it’s the IMPLICATION of what Jesus is saying.  It’s hearing THIS message (in particular, the key line: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”), hearing this in context of what John says earlier in chapter 1.  John says: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us”.

John is equating the Word of God, to the very person of Jesus, to his body and blood.  And we are what we eat, right?  Jesus is not asking us to merely “accept” this relationship or to “agree” to this relationship.  Since what you eat becomes part of who you are, through the Eucharist, Jesus is inviting us to make HIS body part of OUR bodies so that we, too, BECOME the Word of God WITH Jesus.  And by doing so, Jesus is inviting us into HIS relationship with God.

This is shocking to US but this must have been even more shocking to those hearing it in Jesus' day since the eating of blood and flesh was strictly forbidden.  To ancient Jews this statement would have been blasphemy, an abomination.  The scandal of these words were so great it seems that all but the 12 disciples had abandoned Jesus, verse 66 says: “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”  Many of Jesus’ followers clearly thought he was crazy.

WHAT Jesus is calling us into is not a distant relationship between a king and his subjects. This describes a relationship that is more of an intimate one-ness with God.

Jesus’s love is a radical love that we ALL have a hard time accepting: answering hate with love, turning the other cheek, loving your enemy.  This time, in John chapter 6, it’s JESUS’S turn to show radical love to US.  This time this passage is not about our relationship with one another, it's about our relationship with GOD.

In many ways, John chapter 6 is about various kinds of nourishment.  In this chapter nourishment has an interesting narrative arc to it.  It starts with the feeding of the 5,000, a miracle where a relatively small number of people are given food to sustain their bodies (an earthly kind of nourishment) and it ends with Jesus offering spiritual food (his Body and Blood or spiritual nourishment) to all of humanity.  He’s offering “the Word of God”, through his flesh, as spiritual food for us all.

Here’s some other interesting commentary on John chapter 6:

The New Interpreter’s Bible says:
“Participating in the Eucharist is sharing in the life-giving relationship of God and Jesus.”

Bishop Craig Satterlee, a Lutheran bishop in Michigan, says:
“Through the Eucharist we are participating in the promise that Jesus fulfilled on the cross.“

Rev. Martin Copenhaver, President of Andover-Newton Theological School says about the Eucharist:
“[Jesus] can no more be taken from the believer’s life than last Tuesday’s breakfast can be plucked from one’s body.”

Here’s more from Bishop Satterlee that I think really hits the nail on the head:
“God’s wisdom is not so much KNOWLEDGE to be “explained and understood” as it is RELATIONSHIP to be “trusted and embraced”.  For eternal life does not come through “understanding correctly” or “believing the right things”. Eternal life is being in close communion with Jesus. We take Christ’s body and blood into our mouths, into our stomachs, into our bodies, so that Christ remains in us and we remain in Christ. Christ moves us closer to himself, SO close, that WE are as intimate with JESUS as the Father is with the Son.”

Pretty powerful stuff.

Here’s one more quote that’s an interesting way to think about today’s Gospel.  This is from Rev. Dawn Mayes, a Presbyterian pastor in Florida.  She says:
“Many foods we eat are strange to us, but they are a delicacy to someone in another place; these foods are what set those people apart, a mark that identifies them. The same is true in our lives as disciples. What identifies US as disciples may seem bizarre to the rest of the world. Repeatedly in the gospels, Jesus tells us to live differently and to do things that seem upside down in the eyes of the world. When Jesus calls us to be his disciples, he claims our entire lives. When we follow Jesus, our lives should be radically different.”  end quote.

That pretty much sums it up right there.

For all of us, our imaginations aren’t big enough to comprehend what God is willing to do for us.  God’s love for us is so much larger than what we’re willing to accept or able to comprehend.  And as a result, each Sunday, we take for granted what we do when we stretch out our hands and then lift “this body and blood” to our tongues… and wait… or pray… as it slowly dissolves and becomes part of our bodies.  When we do this simple act, as we will do in a few minutes, remember that we are making God’s very Word a part of our very selves, and in doing so participating in, and becoming a part of, the relationship that exists between God and Jesus.

In Jesus' name.  AMEN.

Last Published: August 19, 2015 2:11 PM