Remembering to Forget

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passing Through

Exodus 24: 3-8; Hebrews 9: 11-15; Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26

Passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle…

These are the words we hear from the writer of Hebrews today, coupled with countless images in the first reading and gospel today about the preparations for some kind of memorial or celebration of sorts that are taking place in their lives. Of course, for the disciples, whether they know it or not, it’s a time of preparation for the loss that they are about to experience in the death of Jesus. We all know when we have important events in our lives the great deal of preparation that comes with such events, such as weddings and births and so many other milestones that we mark. Jesus even uses his impending death as an opportunity to prepare his disciples for something greater. We also know the preparation comes with a great deal of stress at times, people upset and angry at times, heck, we know it can be a painful time for people, and yet, when that baby is born or we watch the smiles and the love of a newly married couple, it seems all but forgotten.

And yet, there is that image from the writer of Hebrews, of the passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle and the two passages in Jesus’ life, first from that tabernacle we call Mary’s womb to the great tabernacle of the tomb that opens the doors, wide, for the eternal, even before the very eyes of his disciples. There are these great passages that we mark in our lives as well, yet, very much one and the same in some ways, of the passing through. But we gather here today mindful of this feast and mindful of our own preparations in life for an experience of the eternal, not simply at the end of our time but at this very moment, revealed and opened to us through and in this Eucharist that we celebrate.

Yet, by the time we get here much has probably gone on, sending texts, busy with the kids, working, or whatever the case may be, myself included, that we must ask ourselves what kind of preparation have we made to allow ourselves to enter into and pass through this more perfect tabernacle, mindful of our own call to be a temple of the Spirit? If you read Mark’s gospel from beginning to end, when you finally get to this point of the preparation for the Last Supper, there is a dramatic slowing down that takes place and more meaning to the preparation than for anything else in the gospel. Go into the city, a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water, go to the upper room that is already furnished and ready for us, you can almost begin to see ourselves with the disciples preparing for what they thought was a meal and a memorial but as always, Jesus has something more in mind and will once again invite them to a new place and an new understanding of himself that they won’t readily accept or understand. All they can do is take it all in and allow it to transform them.

But there’s also great detail in this passage from Exodus. We hear about erecting an altar, the twelve pillars, sacrifice, the splashing of blood, the reading of the covenant aloud, again, we can begin to step back into a different reality that there is something that I am witnessing before my eyes and yet, somehow know that there is something deeper going on that is not seen, invisible in a sense, that is in someway speaking to me in a place that is so deep and yet beyond that it is beyond comprehension, another invitation to pass through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, birth and death taking place before me and yet within at the same time. The images are dramatic and life-like, transforming in a way that can’t be described, done by the grace of God.

This feast we celebrate today in the Body and Blood of Christ is about all of it. It’s about the preparation that we make and that we allow God to take within us. It’s about the sacrifice and even the splashing of blood. Yet, as much as it sometimes seems beyond us, and it is, we come mindful of just how close this God really is, all at the same time. Maybe, and most importantly, it is about the seen and the unseen. It’s easy to be fooled when we see bread and wine just as much as it is to easily be fooled by people that turn out exceeding expectations. Our eyes can deceive us as much as they can invite us into the passing through of the greater and more perfect tabernacle and a deeper experience of life and death in this Eucharist. We see one thing, but in due time and with ongoing preparation, the eyes of our hearts and souls take over and finally we begin to see the true essence, not only in this Eucharist but in our very lives.

I Come to do Your Will

Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6; 1Corinthians 1: 1-3; John 1: 29-34

Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”  What a great little prayer from the psalmist to take with us this week.  It really does capture the essence of these readings this weekend as we transition into Ordinary Time.  Before we hear the call of the disciples next week and the healing ministries of Jesus that follow, we carry through on the theme of last weekend of the identity of Jesus and first accepting who we are before we can do the work that God calls us to in the world.  Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.

We know that’s not an easy task.  All of us who have accepted a call or vocation in life, regardless of the one we choose, know it is often something we have to grow into.  We may make a public commitment, but it takes time before we can be what it is God is calling us to in life.  It takes time before we can accept the fact that it’s not about me or you, but rather about God working in and through me and you.  It comes with many ups and downs before we can accept that identity of ourselves, and we need not look any further than the iconic figures we hear of in today’s readings.

Isaiah, as well as most of the other prophets, take plenty of time wrestling with God before they accept their identity and call.  Isaiah follows today by telling God how he has failed at being a prophet.  He questions his worthiness and whether he can ever really live up to what God is asking of him.  God’s reply, though, reminds Isaiah who he really is.  God tells him that when he accepts that it’s not about him but rather God working in and through him, he will accomplish what seems to be impossible tasks!  He will take on the restoration of Israel, be a light to the nations, and bring about conversion to the world.  Of course, this will be fulfilled in God becoming flesh in Jesus Christ.  It’s not about Isaiah and it’s not about me, rather God working in and through.

Paul, despite all his critics, understood this better than anyone.  We will hear from his letter to the Corinthians these weeks and we hear today how he has been chosen as an apostle.  Of course we know he wasn’t one of the original Twelve, but through God acting in and through him, he is led to a conversion and call in life that anoints him apostle to the Gentiles.  He will be sent out by God to preach the good news and so often does it through his writings to these many different communities, including to Corinth who often needed that message that it wasn’t about them.  They often have an inflated ego about themselves and so the message from Paul, right from the beginning of the Letter, is just that; let me remind you who you really are.  Your identity is in Christ and when your identity is in Christ it isn’t about you but rather of a God who works in and through you.  Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.

We hear again from John the Baptist this weekend, but much more confident than what we heard in last week’s gospel from Matthew.  He once again gives witness to the identity of Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  Not sins, those things we often do, but rather the one who takes away sin…the big one, when we succumb to the lie that it is about us and that we are somehow bigger than God.  When that Spirit comes upon Jesus and upon us, we take on a new identity, no longer I but You.  That message will soon follow from John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease.”  Like John, we often get in our own way of taking on that new identity in Christ.  We put ourselves ahead and we get burnt out by life, doubt, and dwell on our own unworthiness.  When we accept that identity and grow into it, our lives are changed forever, as they were for Isaiah and Paul.

As we enter into these weeks of Ordinary Time and now into this Eucharist, we make the psalmists prayer our own, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”  Grant us the grace, Lord, to grow into who we really are and to see that it isn’t about me or anyone else, but rather about God working in and through us.  As we grow into it, we begin to do great things to bring about the conversion of the world.  Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.

Do You Believe in Miracles?

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I Corinthians 11: 23-26; Luke 9: 11-17

Do you believe in miracles?  The question has become attributed to the 1980 Olympics when the US was battling Russia in hockey, but it’s a question that can also be asked of us on this feast of Body and Blood of Christ.  Do we believe in this miracle?  Thomas Aquinas would say that there is an even greater miracle that we are challenged to believe, and that’s, can we believe God do do the same to us?  God can transform us and perform the same miracle to each of us, something often very difficult for us to believe.  Yet, this is the miracle we celebrate here; the miracle Paul address with the people of Corinth and the miracle Luke, and all the Gospel writers for that matter, speaks of in today’s account.

There are many miracles going on in the gospel reading.  There are those that have been cured, the five loaves and two fish, the fact that all were fed and left satisfied, leftovers, and all of it taking place in a deserted place, certainly without all that was necessary to feed over five thousand!  But if we keep reading the gospel accounts, we know that the disciples at many times will doubt and become skeptical of the whole miracle.  Even in this account the thought of a miracle happening doesn’t even cross their minds!  Do they believe in miracles? Nah, not necessarily, not at this point.  They question until they begin to recognize the miracle taking place in their lives as well, their becoming of the body of Christ.

Paul has a different issue with the people of Corinth.  There is scandal brewing amongst the people because of a division between the rich and the poor.  The rich were eating the choice food before the poor would arrive and Paul finds it necessary to confront their behavior and the abuse of the Eucharistic meal.  He goes onto tell them that you’re missing the point and not being changed by this Eucharist if your behavior isn’t showing it.  If you find yourself excluding, for whatever reason, then you’ve lost the sense of the miracle happening before your very eyes.  You aren’t allowing the Eucharist to transform you.  You aren’t allowing yourself to become the miracle that is celebrated.

As we celebrate this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are left with that same question, “Do we believe in miracles?”  And better yet, do we believe that we can be transformed in the same way and into the Body of Christ.  It takes a great deal of faith to believe that bread and wine can be transformed, and maybe even a deeper faith to accept that this Eucharist can transform us in the same way.  As we approach this Table and say Amen, we say that we truly believe; not only in the real presence of the Eucharist but that the real presence is within us as well.  It isn’t something that we leave here in this church, but something that should change us; someone that we take with us and transforms us into what we receive the Body of Christ.  It is a miracle that happens before our very eyes.  It is a miracle that we pray with deep faith transforms us into the Body of Christ and taken everywhere we go.  Do we believe in miracles?  Do we believe that we are a part of this miracle and have the faith to believe that we become what we now celebrate?