Bread of Life, Flesh of Christ

A Homily for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: St. John 6: 35, 41-51


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who gives us the Bread of Heaven, his flesh. Amen.

I have to admit it: I’m disappointed. The facts of history are not nearly as interesting as the legends.

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Zwingli

During the early days of the Reformation, Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss theologian, were at odds with each other over the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Those of you who studied the Catechism as part of your Confirmation will well remember what Luther wrote: the Sacrament is “the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ….” Zwingli, by comparison, said that the bread and wine merely represent the Body and Precious Blood of our Lord, that Holy Communion is nothing more than a memorial.

To unite the disparate factions in the face of imperial pressure, Prince Phillip of Hesse brought the two feuding theologians together to the city of Marburg for a conference to hash out their differences. Continue reading “Bread of Life, Flesh of Christ”

The Bread of Life

A Homily for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15; St. John 6:34-35


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Bread of Life. Amen.

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Loaves and Fish, Church of the Multiplication

When last we saw Jesus, he was taking a leisurely stroll across the waves after feeding the five thousand. According to Saint John’s account, Jesus had taken the disciples to a remote location, but the crowds followed them, as they are wont to do. With a sly look, Jesus asked the disciples where they could find food to feed five thousand people; Philip pragmatically pointed out that six month’s wages wouldn’t be enough to feed so many people, and Saint Andrew found a kid with five loaves and some fish – before quickly reminding our Lord that such a small meal was nothing compared to the size of the crowd. Of course that didn’t stop Jesus: he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it out to eat. And not only did it feed the entire multitude but they had twelve massive baskets of large chunks left over. As Jesus retreated further away from the now-sated crowds and his disciples sailed back across the lake (with Jesus miraculously following on foot), the multitudes were left with a burning question. They gave chase, and this is where we pick up today: the people have once again pressed in around our Lord and the disciples, and the people want to know what all this means! Continue reading “The Bread of Life”

A Pilgrim’s Progress: Towards Liturgy

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Anglo-Catholic blog Covenant has posted a non-denominational pastor’s reflection on using the Book of Common Prayer and his engagement with liturgical worship in general.

I deeply relate with author Austin Gohn’s encounter with the catholic liturgy. While my experience was different from Gohn’s, I distinctly remember in high school when I encountered the Lutheran Book of Worship, the fruit of the same movement that produced the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. I remember my confusion at when to stand, when to sit, and when to kneel (more familiar to me than Gohn, but not entirely comfortable). I remember my dis-ease at seeing Lutherans drinking from a common cup; I was, at that time, firmly in the intinction camp. I remember the patience required as I tried to juggle the “green book,” With One Voice, the bulletin (complete with insert), and the Bible. (As I wrote in my own reflection on the Liturgy of the Hours, learning the liturgy takes practice. It calls out for a community to guide newcomers through the turning of many pages.) Continue reading “A Pilgrim’s Progress: Towards Liturgy”

“What are they among so many people?”

A Homily for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: St. John 6:1-21


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who abundantly provides for our every need. Amen.

Last week, the lectionary did something a little weird: it skipped over the main event. Remember, if you will, the disciples came back from their big trip and the crowds swarmed around them; so many people flooded the area that the disciples “had no leisure even to eat.” To get away from the people, Jesus and the disciples sailed to a secluded place, and the crowds followed them. Even though the throngs put a damper on the whole “quiet spiritual retreat,” Saint Mark said Jesus had mercy on the crowd because “they were like sheep without a shepherd,” and then…nothing happened. The text skipped forward something like twenty verses and the disciples were back in a boat! It left us with a big unanswered question: what happened?!?! What did it look like for Jesus to shepherd the flock, to “have compassion on” the crowd?

Today, Saint John chimes in sort of like Paul Harvey: “And now…the rest of the story.” Continue reading ““What are they among so many people?””

The Sign of the Cross

Question: Why do we make the sign of the cross?

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Christ the King Cathedral, Reykjavik, Iceland

The sign of the cross serves as something of a liturgical barometer. Want to know where a parish falls on the scale between “low” and “high” liturgy? Look for how many people make the sign of the cross and how often. On the one side, there are congregations that shy away from the sign of the cross for fear that it’s “too Catholic.” On the other side, there are parishes in which people seem to cross themselves at every turn.

In either case, though, one has to wonder: do the people actually know what it means? If Baptists understood the full implication of the sign of the cross, would they adopt the practice? Have liturgical Christians let the sign of the cross become a mere reflex?

What is this weird hand gesture? How old is this tradition? And what does it all mean?

Short Answer: Tracing the sign of the cross is an ancient physical reminder of our connection to Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, the Holy Trinity, and God’s blessing.

Continue reading “The Sign of the Cross”

Sheep with a Shepherd

A Homily for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Mark 6:30-34


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Christ the Good Shepherd, Dura-Europos

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

When we last saw the twelve apostles, they had been sent out two by two on their second mission trip. After a rough trip to Jesus’ hometown, he sent them out to do exactly what he had not been able to do among his own kin. And immediately after they went out, we heard about John the Baptist’s violent end at Herod’s hand. The apostles’ mission was perilous and by no means a guaranteed success. They were sent out with no food, no money, no change of clothes: only each other and a (difficult) message. Failure was a very real option.

Today, we join them on their return. By all accounts and despite all odds, things went well. Verse 13, which we read two weeks ago, tells us that the Twelve “cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” And verse 30, at the outset of today’s Gospel, depicts their reunion with the Lord: they “gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.”

Imagine their excitement; the twelve just worked wonders! They’ve glimpsed the Kingdom of God erupting into this world! They’ve received a foretaste of the Feast to come! Continue reading “Sheep with a Shepherd”