Deut 8: 2-3, 14-16; I Cor 10: 16-17; John 6: 51-58
There’s a rather obscure movie out right now, or at least I think so, called Dean. The basic crux of the story is about a young man and his father who just keep clashing with one another because of this nagging grief that they share for the loss of their mother and wife. They both have very different ways of dealing with what life has given them and neither understands the other. Long and short of it, without even knowing it, separate themselves from one another to deal with their loss before they can once again come to a deeper understanding of their own relationship with one another and remember the love they have and share. Quite honestly, it would be true of all of us here. These deepest parts of ourselves, love, loss, grief, hunger, desire, all of them run so deep within us and often need to be found in our own way before we begin to see the oneness we have with the other and a shared love.
These two weeks now we’ve heard different versions of the story of the exodus of people Israel. Today’s account comes to us from Deuteronomy. The very first word out of Moses’ mouth today is simply to remember. For the people today it was about this deepest hunger in their lives that they continue to seek out and to fill. Much of their time, as it is with us, is forgetting who we really are in life and in our deepest self and love. Israel was no different. And, of course, over time, you begin to believe that you’re something other than you are. You no longer remember. For them it has been about their experience in the desert and the experience of slavery in Egypt. They’ve thought God had abandoned them and somehow rejected them over time, punishing them for some reason. But Moses simply reminds them today to remember. It’s almost as if, as Moses points out, that they had to have this experience of the desert and to come into awareness of this deeper hunger in their lives before they can begin to remember once again. So much, not only in their lives, must be forgotten and let go of before they can begin to question and remember and once again come together as community, more deeply rooted in their truest begin, in love.
Some who followed Jesus in those early days had similar experiences. Shortly following today’s reading many will begin to disperse and fall away from Jesus. They hear what he says, often taking it literally, and realize they just can’t do it. Even in their own experience of separation from doesn’t necessarily lead them to the deeper places of their own lives. They want to believe, as we often do, what we see and exactly what we hear in words. But that’s not the Jesus we encounter in today’s Gospel or who we encounter in this Eucharist week in and week out. In his own way, John through Jesus and Christ through him is trying to move them to a place of remember their deeper identity as well. As if, what speaks to us in this Eucharist can only somehow communicate with the deepest parts of ourselves. It’s hard because we want to stay on the surface and go with what we feel, but this remembering takes us deeper than all of that.
Paul consistently tries to lead communities to that deeper place of understanding in their own lives. They find other ways to separate themselves but in ways that often lead to divisions within their communities. Even today, the larger context is to warn them about having more than one God. That too is easy for us in our own process of forgetting not what we need to let go of, but forgetting that deeper love that we are. We begin to satisfy those deepest longings and hungers within ourselves with something other than God, creating gods for ourselves, often fooling ourselves into believing that it will somehow satisfy, forgetting what is most important to us.
Over time all of this that we celebrate begins to be forgotten on the deeper levels. We become more about worshipping, distancing ourselves not only from the drama of our lives but the drama that unfolds before us here. We, over time, find ways to separate ourselves while this God, as it was for Israel, continues to offer manna, food that will satisfy, even in our desert experiences. Yeah, in some ways I stand before you in a privileged position. I stand at this altar celebrating the highs and lows of life, even my own. I know the stories that flow through this table and Eucharist. I have seen it unfold, trying to lead others in their deepest grief, their unsatisfied longings, and all the rest, to a place of remembering. No matter what we may be experiencing in our own life, this Eucharist we celebrate and share it stands as a reminder of who we are and the life we are called to, a life of not simply worshipping this God, but allowing ourselves to be transformed by this God. As we move to this Eucharistic celebration, remember. Remember not only what you are but who you are in your deepest self, love. In the midst of our own forgetting in life, the Eucharist calls us back to continue to be transformed into this love for an often divided and separated world.