Sunday, August 26th
Sermon for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost August 24th, 2018
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
Well it’s nice to be back here with you all. Thank you for your prayers and patience as Shannon and I were in Halifax to be with our family after the death of my Grandmother.
And thank you to our lay-readers who boldly stepped up to make sure the services were covered, and for preaching my sermon last week. I am told that I often write as I speak, which is probably my journalism background, but that it makes it extra hard for someone who’s not me to read it – so good work and thank you.
But this also brings us to the end of over a month of hearing from St. John’s Gospel, a series of readings primarily about food, and nourishment, and eating, and Our Lord – or more specifically, over a month of thinking about the Holy Eucharist, that meal that we gather here to share today.
Over the weekend when we were down in Halifax we spent a lot of time toing-and-froing between Cole Harbour and Halifax seeing family and organizing the funeral.
On one of the days Shannon was in traffic waiting to turn onto the Bridge from the Dartmouth side, parked next to one of those concrete sidewalk-medians that divide larger roads.
On this sidewalk was a common sight in Halifax – a man, somewhat dishevelled, holding a cardboard sign with a few phrases on it, and walking up and down the row of red-lighted traffic waiting to see if anyone would offer him spare change.
Maybe you’ve been in these situations or maybe you haven’t, but most people, I think, tend to stare straight ahead, roll up the window, or (God forbid in this day and age) glance down at their cell phone. Anything to avoid the uncomfortableness of encountering someone like that.
Shannon had no change to give but was so moved by the writing on his sign that she rolled down the window just to say hello and thank him for the message.
His sign read: hungry, homeless, and hopeful.
Now we’re probably all sitting here today thinking, “That’s nice” but not thinking that such a sign has anything to do with us.
But I think that all the readings over the past month have been about exactly this: that even though we don’t like to think of ourselves in this way, we are the ones who are hungry, and homeless, but hopeful.
Hungry in the sense that we spend our whole lives seeking for something. Seeking nourishment. That gut-level hunger or desire within each of us that we either find a way to nourish, or fill ourselves with every other thing in an attempt to bury it.
We are hungry for something and we try everything, and maybe it fills us up for a while, just like the manna did for the Israelites, but in time we are hungry again and back on the hunt moving on to the next thing that will fail to satisfy us.
The thrust of our readings today and over the last month have been all about helping us to realize that the nourishment we need most, the nourishment we spend our lives feebly chasing after is not found in anything of this world – but in the inexhaustible and all-embracing love of God. When we surrender ourselves to His love and allow it to fill us, only then can we be truly nourished. Only then can we be truly full.
But we are also homeless.
Homeless because of that ugly feeling of discomfort we have within us, never quite feeling like we are where we are supposed to be. That we’ve either arrived to the party too early, or too late; that we keep looking for a home but never quite find it.
Our being homeless makes us think about how things could have been different, or better, or perfect. Sure that our home – the best home we could imagine, that place of warmth, and comfort, and safety – can be found in the here and now.
Quietly, Jesus addresses this in today’s Gospel reading when he says that those who, “eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me.”
A word that often means to tolerate, but really means to dwell with, to live with, or to be with in a close way.
Jesus is teaching them, and us that if we try to abide in anything of this world, and I mean truly abide: put all our hope and our trust and our future in something, we will inevitably be let down.
And so he offers himself as that home.
Himself as that place that we can abide in. The place where we can most truly feel we belong, where we have safety, where things make sense, where we feel peace.
But to abide in him we must first let him abide in us, “So whoever eats me will live because of me.”
And as I wrote in my sermon last week, the way that God has given us to allow this to happen is through that holy and effectual sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, what we are here to celebrate today, where we can have this exchange with him: allowing Christ into us, so that he may allow us to dwell in Him.
This is why it can be said that we are hungry, and homeless but hopeful.
We gather here and at the rail today hopeful that the grace given to us through this sacrament will offer us the nourishment and fulness that we have been so desperately seeking all of our lives.
That week by week this sacrament, bread and wine, body and blood, will be a source of hope and encouragement to us as we strive to find the nourishment and belonging that we so need and want, in and through Him, our Lord and Saviour.