Sermon for Proper 15, Year B
August 15, 2021
Proverbs 9:1-6 Psalm 34:9-14 Ephesians 5:15-20 John 6:52-58
In Proverbs we read, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” Then in the gospel Jesus 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.”
The people who hear Jesus are confused by this, disgusted even. They lack the insight of wisdom; their comprehension of what Jesus is saying is too literal. Literal thinking makes it difficult to understand others. It causes us to hear what someone says rather than what they mean. We use language to communicate, but our words often fall short of saying what we actually mean.
Poor communication can often be attributed to this, we say one thing and mean something different AND the people we are speaking to REACT to our words. Good communication requires us to listen to one another and clarify when what they are saying doesn’t make sense or seem right to us. Also, we tend to listen for what we expect to hear and thus hear only that which supports our pre-conceived notions. And, all too often, we are thinking more about what we want to say in response. Thus, we fail to listen to what someone is actually saying to us.
Today’s gospel presents us with two examples of poor listening. First, the people can’t understand what Jesus is saying because they are taking what he is saying too literally. Second, they do not ask him to explain – they turn to each other, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” In last Sunday’s lesson, they said to one another, “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’?” They do not ask Jesus to explain himself – they voice their doubts to each other.
In both instances Jesus hears them and responds but they still don’t get it. They don’t seem to be able to get past thinking of his flesh being bread for us to eat – they can’t separate what he is saying about our spirit and our soul, from our body. They suffer from what many of us suffer from – they are focusing on the physical and neglecting the spiritual.
It is easy to do, especially in a pandemic, when the news includes stories about a hospital in Mississippi creating a 20 bed Covid Field Hospital in its parking garage. The news includes a daily report of how many people have died. Arkansas, too, is in the process of creating more places to care for patients. These reports draw our attention to the physical – and it is important for us to hear the warnings, take precautions and do what we can.
Yet, at the same time we need to focus some of our attention on our spiritual health and wellbeing. We need to hear what Jesus intends for us to hear when he says, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” He is speaking internalizing the good news he brings. The news of God’s unfailing love for us. When we are filled with God’s love, we see the world differently, we understand what it means to truly live. We have life within us.
The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist says what Jesus is saying to us. We are invited to receive Christ in the bread and wine that is offered, that our hearts might be filled with his love. Being filled with his love, we can experience peace within and then go forth to share his peace and love with others. We can only truly experience the life within ourselves that Jesus is offering when we open our hearts to receive his sacrificial love.
Let us pray.
Lord Christ we give you thanks for feeding us with the spiritual food of your body and blood, and we pray that we might go forth to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart. In your most holy name, we pray. Amen.