Anglican Church of Canada
Twelfth Sunday after
Let Love be Your Guide
Our gospel reading this morning is vintage John the evangelist. Like much poetry, it communicates meaning – meaning that has many levels.
Again, Jesus is talking about bread, but he is using the word in more than one sense. We who can look back on this gospel as a whole, who know the events that would follow these public conversations, who have walked the way of our Lord's passion and witnessed the meal in the upper room – we know the levels of meaning in Jesus' words, " I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." We also know the terrible cost to the Lord of this, our spiritual food.
But those in the crowd who first heard him could not understand all this. Could we have been any more insightful if we had been among the puzzled crowd who stood listening to him that day? I think our Lord is suggesting that whether we understand and respond or not, depends on the mysterious working of God in our human souls. Some in the crowd are complaining that they know him as the son of Joseph and Mary, how can he say he has come down from heaven? Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me". Some are drawn to Jesus as Lord, some are not, and we have no neat way of explaining the mystery of why some were and some were not.
What we do know is that those who decide to make Jesus lord in their lives, are in a mysterious sense, "raised up". Like everything else in this passage, the term has more than one meaning. Many Christians will vouch for the fact that to choose Jesus as the Lord of our life raises our whole understanding of life, our vision of life's meaning, our sense of joy about being alive. In a word, to know him as lord raises us to being truly alive and gives us an opening, here in this life, into the mysterious reality that our Lord calls "eternal life".
Jesus offers the gift of his love and his grace, but we must choose to accept it. Again, he calls this gift "bread", a bread of which we can "eat and not die". The grace our Lord offers is given within time, but is ours for eternity. The last sentence of today's passage can shock us. For this gift to become possible, our Lord himself must die. He says, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh". How much more loving than this could our Lord be?
We've probably all had this experience. Supper is on the table, grace has been said, and we begin to eat ... rrrring! And we know who it is – a telemarketer. This time, they tell you that you have won a wonderful trip for two to lovely blah, blah, blah ... but there's a catch you must listen to a salespitch about buying a time share.
In Paul's letter to the Ephesians today, we have some rules for living in the ideal Christian community. Paul is well aware of the gulf between reality and what he would prefer to see in Christian congregations. He has scars to prove it. But part of his greatness is that nothing destroys his hope for the community of the church. To regard the church merely as a collection of individuals is a modern temptation that arises from the intense individualism of our day and age. To Paul, as to Christians down through the centuries, the church is vastly greater and more mysterious. It is nothing less than the body of Christ.
A Christian community should be strong and mature enough to "speak the truth to our neighbours" in a way that is constructive and aimed at the health of the congregation. And it must hear the truth, even if this truth challenges and corrects us.
Often Christian congregational life can send a message that anger must be hidden, or even denied. Legitimate anger does not disappear; it merely goes underground, and sometimes builds up much more anger than if it had been expressed and dealt with wisely. Paul advises, "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil".
Words "give grace to those who hear", but by the same token, unworthy or evil or negative words do the opposite. We need to ask whether words build up or tear down the fabric of the community.
Paul now contrasts destructive attitudes – "bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander" – with constructive attitudes – "kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness". While anger can certainly be valid at times, its constant presence, particularly in a diffused and unfocused way, drains both the person who holds the anger and those who receive its effects. It is for us to forgive and accept each other because every one of us has been forgiven and accepted by one who paid a huge price to make it possible. Paul ends this passage by saying that "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us". Let love be your guide in all that you say and do.
Canon Jim Powell, Honorary Assistant
12 th Sunday after Pentecost
Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirity to be the life and light of your Church. Open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love, joy, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and for ever. Amen.
The king gave orders to Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.’ And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom.
So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.
Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. And ten young men, Joab’s armour-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.
Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, ‘Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.’ The king said to the Cushite, ‘Is it well with the young man Absalom?’ The Cushite answered, ‘May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.’
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labour and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.The Holy Gospel
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’