July 25, 2021
2 Kings 4.42-44; John 6.1-21
+ Occasionally, I preach about things I really enjoy preaching about, and sometimes about things I don’t really enjoy preaching about.
Well, today, I get to preach about something I really LOVE to preach about.
I love to preach about the that one event that holds us together here at St. Stephen’s, that sustains us and that, in many ways, defines us.
I am, of course, speaking of the Holy Eucharist—Holy Communion.
I LOVE to preach about and explore and talk about the Mystery that is the Eucharist.
I love pondering the beauty of why what we do with bread and wine here at this altar is so important to us, to vital to us.
I love thinking about all the ways God works through this meal we share here.
But, I also really like the “symbolism” of the Eucharist, and I use that word “symbol” very carefully.
If we were going to look at the Eucharist from the perspective of those first Jewish followers of Jesus, we would see that this bread we share at this meal is essentially the Lamb that was offered on the altar, and this cup is the blood that was shed from that lamb.
Jesus, as we all know, has become the Lamb that was offered and slain on that altar as a sacrifice.
(Certainly that is how Jesus saw his role)
So, what we do today and on every Sunday and Wednesday is a continuation of what was offered in the Temple in Jesus’ own day.
We tend to forget this important fact in our Christian life.
We forget that this is a meal we share with one another.
We often come to Communion without really thinking about it.
We often think of Communion as a quaint little ritual we do, sort of like a Church-version of a tea party.
But when we put the Eucharist in the larger perspective of our history as the people of God, we realize that every time we partake of the bread and wine of the Eucharist, we are joining in at that sacrificial worship that has gone for thousands of years.
This is the sacrifice of wine and wheat we hear about in the book of Joel.
Now, I know some of you immediately find ourselves bristling when you hear the word “sacrifice” here.
Sacrifice and the Mass seem a bit too…Catholic..for some.
But it is a sacrifice.
What we do here is sacrificial.
And just to make sure you don’t think this is one of Fr. Jamie’s weird, quirky takes on what we do here, I would like to draw your attention once again to the Book of Common Prayer, in the back, in the Catechism.
On page 859
The second question under “The Holy Eucharist” is,
Why is the Eucharist called a sacrifice?
Because the Eucharist, the Church's sacrifice of praise
So, the Eucharist is this incredible thing really.
It is a meal.
It is a “symbol” of the sacrifice of Jesus.
It is a way to remember Jesus and all he has done.
All this just goes to show us this wonderful way in which God works through something very basic in our lives to make something deep and meaningful.
Namely, I am talking about food.
Nothing draws us closer to each other than food.
Food is an important way to bond with each other.
And food a great reminder of how God truly does provide for us.
Our scriptures for today give us some interesting perspectives on food as well.
In today’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, we find Elisha feeding the people.
We hear this wonderful passage, “He set it before them, they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.”
It’s a deceptively simple passage from scripture.
But there’s a lot of depth to it too if you really ponder it.
In our Gospel reading, we find almost the same event.
Jesus—in a sense the new Elisha—is feeding miraculously the multitude.
And by feeding, by doing a miracle, they recognize him for who he is.
For them, he is “the Prophet who has come into their midst.”
For us, these stories resonate in what we do here at the altar.
What we partake of here at this altar is essentially the same event.
Here we are fed by God as well.
Here there is a miracle.
Here, we find God’s chosen one, the “Prophet come to us” Jesus—the new Elisha—feeding us.
We come forward and we eat.
And there is some left over.
The miracle, however, isn’t that there is some left over.
The miracle for us is the meal itself.
In this meal we share, we are sustained.
We our strengthened.
We are upheld.
We are fed in ways regular food does not feed us.
There is something so beautiful in the way God works through the Eucharist.
This beautifully basic act—of eating and drinking—is so vital to us as humans.
But being sustained spiritually in such a way is beyond beautiful or basic.
It is miraculous.
And as with any miracle, we find ourselves oftentimes either humbled or blind to its impact in our lives.
This simple act is not just a simple act.
It is an act of coming forward, of eating and drinking, and then of turning around and going out into the world to feed others.
To feed others on what we now embody within ourselves—this living sacrifice to God.
And how do we do that?
We do that by serving others by example.
By being that living Bread to others.
The Eucharist not simply a private devotion.
Yes, it is a wonderfully intimate experience.
But it is so more than that.
The Eucharist is what we do together.
And the Eucharist is something that doesn’t simply end when we get back to our pews or leave the Church building.
The Eucharist is what we carry with us throughout our day-to-day lives as Christians.
The Eucharist empowers us to be agents of the Incarnation of God’s Son.
We are empowered by this Eucharist to be the Body of Christ to others.
Through the Eucharist, we become God’s anointed ones in this world.
And that is where this whole act of the Eucharist comes together.
It’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.
When we see it from that perspective, we realize that this really is a miracle in our lives—just as miraculous as what Elisha did and certainly as miraculous as what Jesus did in our Gospel reading for today.
So, let us be aware of this beauty that comes so miraculously to us each time we gather together here at this altar.
The Eucharist is an incredible gift given to us by our God.
Let us embody God’s anointed One, the Christ, whom we encounter here in this Bread and Wine.
Let us, by being fed so miraculously, be the actual Body of Christ to others.
Let us feed those who need to be fed.
Let us sustain those who need to be sustained.
And let us be mindful of the fact that this food of which we partake has the capabilities to feed more people and to change more lives than we can even begin to imagine.
Let us pray.
Holy God, you sustain us. You give us manna from heaven each time we come before your altar—food that sustains our souls, food that makes us what we eat—the Body of your Christ in this world. Help us to go out from here to feed others with this manna, this Bread of heaven you have given us, so that the world may be truly fed. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our true Bread. Amen.