Pastor Wesley White
Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church
323 Fifth Avenue, West Bend, WI
262.334.2059 - faumc.org
Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes
This song is part of the debate between Jesus and the crowd that had experienced being miraculously fed while in foreign territory across the Sea of Galilee. What does it mean to have a satisfied mind rather than being satisfied with simply a satisfied stomach?
The bottom-line for Jesus is that people receive the imperishable gift of satisfaction. The bottom-line for the crowd is that we work for what we get, that it bear some resemblance to what we have known in the past, and that there be appropriate ritual for holy stuff.
Sometimes it is difficult, on first hearing, to catch the significance of these distinctions. Let me say it again. The bottom-line for Jesus is that people receive the imperishable gift of satisfaction. The bottom-line for the crowd is that we work for what we get, that it bear some resemblance to what we have known in the past, and that there be appropriate ritual for holy stuff.
Jesus is interested in our receiving satisfaction for our deepest hunger. The crowd is interested in having a resource that will get their immediate and most surface hungers met.
We are dealing with receiving a gift from Jesus in contrast to our working for our own reward.
There are a couple of places where we run into our very human responses and mistake our getting what we want rather than receiving a mysterious and miraculous gift Jesus has for us.
Today we could run into this with our setting here. The bread and the cup we will be sharing in a few moments are not on the wonderful, immovable, stone altar as far away as we can put it. Rather the bread and the cup are on a very plain serving cart from the kitchen that can be wheeled here and there and could even show up in your kitchen for communion at home.
Speaking of which, we have many home-bound folks who do receive communion once in awhile from Pastor Verlin and Pastor Sam and thus keeping it a very special and restricted gift. I can't help but wonder what would happen to us as a community of faith if we found a way for you to take some of the bread and cup with you to share with those not able to come here. What would you think about being a carrier of the gift of Jesus, our living bread, to your brothers and sisters?
But back to the hang-ups we have in our trying to work everything out and have it measure up to some special requirements.
Because of the wrangling we have been doing about music in worship, we could get bent out of shape because of using a musical setting for the community responses to our communion ritual. I'd be interested in your response to this use of music in communion that goes back farther than our ordinary claim for the traditional, which usually means, "what I have experienced and found meaningful."
Today we are using an almost bagel bread instead of our usual white bread. In the past I have had to deal with complaints before about changes in bread or if we serve communion through dipping the bread in the cup. There have been those who have threatened that they wouldn't come if we ever served communion again in the way they didn't want.
While I can understand that some will have more difficulty with a chewier bread than one that melts in your mouth, I can't help but remember the many witnesses of people who in several different settings have been denied communion and when it finally came the bread was rock hard and the wine sour. They report they never had anything more delicious they were able to receive what Jesus had in mind when he called himself "Living Bread, come from Heaven with the gift of eternal life."
For John, "Eternal life" does not speak of immortality or a future life in heaven, but is a metaphor for living now in the unending presence of GOD.
We can receive the eternality of the unending presence of GOD in the present from a wheeled cart and bagel as well as from an immobile stone altar and white Wonder bread. We are here to receive this gift from Jesus who desires to give a gift of filling our deepest hunger with the Bread of Life.
John's imagery of communion comes here, in relation to the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 from 5 barley loaves and 2 dried fish. For Matthew, Mark and Luke their imagery comes from a last supper in relationship to crucifixion.
For John, Jesus is the definitive entry point to the meaning of life. It is not whether or not we use loaves of barley bread, the location of the sharing, the worthiness of the one who does the blessing or the distribution.
For John, communion does not belong exclusively to commemorating or remembering Jesus' death, but belongs to all of Jesus' life. As we follow along with John we can find innumerable ways to expand the presence of Jesus in our life and in the life of the world.
John challenges us to experience communion as a meal of Jesus' presence, not primarily if at all a meal of remembrance. Communion is feeding on and being fed by Jesus.
When the Bread and the Cup come to you. May you hear Jesus say, "I am the Bread of Life. I come that you may have life in all its fullness." This gift from Jesus belongs to you, not to the church. It is for Jesus to give this gift. All of Jesus' life is given to you, the believer who receives this Bread, this Cup, and lives as though it makes all the difference in your life and in the world.
GOD of the eternal now, we want to see you in Jesus and know you to be as real as Jesus knows you to be. Expand our senses to experience you everywhere. May this day be a day of new beginnings for us as individuals and as a worshiping community. Amen.