Monday, August 27, 2012

Even More Bread!

I suppose that by this point some of you might be a bit stuffed with bread.
For the fourth Sunday in a row our Gospel is about bread.
And for the fourth Sunday in a row I am going to be preaching about bread.
So some of you might be thinking, “OK enough with the bread already.”
We get it.
But today Jesus amps up the rhetoric about bread.
Today Jesus tells us that this bread is his body.
And then he adds not just his body but also his blood.
And we are supposed to eat his body and blood.
What most people thought when they heard Jesus say this was, “Ew…gross”.
In fact next week we will hear that most people stop following Jesus at this point because the thought of eating and drinking him is just too disgusting.
So there must be more to say about eating this bread that Jesus gives us.
We have already heard how this bread gives us love, faith, and peace.
This morning I want to say that what this bread gives us is acceptance.
This bread is what calls us all to the table of God.

I am aware this morning that this word acceptance comes with lots of baggage.
I am aware this morning that you are going to have two reactions to this word.
One is to think, “Of course God accepts all people.”
The other is to think, “Come on pastor, enough with the liberal politics. Who want us to say everything and everybody is OK.”
I understand, and I am aware, that the politics of this notion is in play and on our minds whenever we talk about inclusion and acceptance.
I am wondering if for today you can take yourselves out of that mindset.
Remove yourself from the current politics and fighting over who is right and who is wrong.
Instead, I want to suggest to you that regardless of how you think about this word or this issue that it is a Biblical notion.
Accepting ourselves and others is what the Bible is all about.

In the beginning human beings are created to be at one with God.
They are created to love and serve God with all their hearts and minds.
God does not separate out the people and say these people will be mine and these will not.
God created the world for all human kind, and every creature of every kind.
But through human sin we began to separate ourselves and to judge ourselves over and against others.
Instead of our relationship with God being how we found value and meaning, we began to find it in our own accomplishments over against others.
The Ten Commandments were given to Moses so the people would return to that relationship.
All the commandments are built on the first one, “Love the lord with all your heart, mind, and soul.”
And the others are all about our relationships with each other and how we will love each other.
By not talking badly about one another, stealing from one another, killing one another, coveting one another, remaining faithful to our families, and honoring each other we show love to each other.
But the problem is that people even used the Ten Commandments as a way to measure themselves against others instead of way to serve others.
And so God sent the prophets to remind the people of their hypocrisy.
Finally, God sent his son to offer himself for the world.
To remind the world that we are not divided.
That good religious folks are not as good as they might appear, and that sinners are not as bad as we think.
Jesus wanted to bring the whole world together into one family.
His death on the cross is for all people.
Good and bad people.
And hopefully because of that death we can stop blaming each other and measuring ourselves against each other and be one.

The Biblical witness is not about just getting through to a couple of people but about including an ever widening circle amongst God’s people.
And I want to say that this is always the point of the Biblical witness.
Because what it invites people to is conversion.
Away from the selfish life they once knew to a way of giving ourselves away.
It invites us away from a life that has to be measured against others and instead lived for them.

Take our Gospel for this morning.
It might seem like this is just a text about bread.
But I want to suggest that it is a text of invitation.
Jesus this morning invites us to the feast of God.
Invites us to know his love and grace.
We often don’t know how Jesus said things.
What is the tone of voice that he used?
So when we hear a passage like this we hear it as a warning.
Eat me or else.
How about if we heard it as an invitation into a greater life?
Hey here I am for you.
I want to know you better and I want you to know me.
I will abide in you and you in me.

Does that not satisfy a deep need from all of us?
Don’t we all want to be known better?
To be accepted?
Don’t we all want to know God better?
Jesus is offering us that invitation.

And here is the key not just you.
Jesus offers is it to everyone.
That is right everyone.
Think in your mind of someone who drives you crazy, someone who makes your skin crawl, and someone who you just can’t stand for whatever reason.
That person is invited too!

This weekend I had my 20th high school reunion.
It made me think a lot about those days.
And the thing is that there were times when I was in high school that I didn’t feel like I belonged.
I started a Facebook page for people that I went to Junior high together.
And some of the stories that came out where how people felt left out or bullied in those days.
It was sad to hear those stories, and to think of how cruel we sometimes can be.
Talking to some of the youth this summer I was reminded that this was a universal problem.
I think we all have this in our lives.
Times when we just feel out of place, or out of step with everything else around us.
And it doesn’t end once we leave high school.
I have talked to old people who began to feel left out because they just don’t get the younger people.
And they feel left out of the conversation.
For example, Hollywood makes every movie for people from the age of 18-35.
What happens when you can no longer relate you feel out of place.

When we were in New Orleans at the Youth gathering after the speeches and concerts in the Superdome were over at night we could pick what activity we wanted to do.
One of the choices was going to a dance.
Two nights in a row we went to a dance.
And at the end of both nights someone’s feelings got hurt.
Either they didn’t get asked to dance, or didn’t like the music, or felt left out and abandoned by others.
I thought it was an interesting contrast to what we experienced for most of our time in New Orleans.
In our worship, in the Superdome were we gathered to dance, sing, and listen to God everyone was welcome, everyone had a good time, and everyone was part of the party.

When we gather at the table of the Lord we are offered his body and blood.
There is no prerequisite to receive.
Jesus simply lays out a banquet table and invites us to come and eat and drink.
Jesus invites us to share the essence of who and what he is, and in doing gets to know who and what we are.
Because the ultimate question of acceptance is not really about whether we accept others.
It is about whether we accept ourselves.
Can we see ourselves the way God does?
Can we love ourselves the way God does?
Do we feel accepted?
Or do we feel like we are at a high school dance, sitting in the corner all alone.
Christianity is not about a warning, but about the invitation come sit down eat and drink and know that you are where you are supposed to be.

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