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8/16/2009 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - Pentecost 11

posted May 21, 2010, 6:39 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:39 PM by Terry Brady ]
“…those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them…” John 6:54-56

The first week of my vacation this summer was spent in Granville, Ohio where I grew up. I visited with my ninety plus Father and Stepmother, and attended my high school reunion. Once there the stories flowed…they were both funny and sad. At the time we had no idea the nature of the home lives of some of our friends. It is only as adults that we can understand one another as whole persons, shaped by our community and families.
Granville was a small town of 2500 when the university was in session. Our class included the children of shop keepers, Denison professors, farmers and business people from Newark and Columbus. The class of ’59 is still talked about, as it was highly unusual. There were sixty of us and the average intelligence was extraordinarily high. Our town was not even remotely wealthy or fancy, and our class was a fluke. The boys in our class were particularly bright, bored and young. They were highly creative in their behavior which did not fit the rigid mold of many of our teachers. As it would happen, a Mr. Jones (not his real name) was the principal at that time. Mr. Jones would fit any definition of paranoid. He was a one man undercover operation designed to foil the antics of our guys. He peeked into lockers and hid around corners as though he were dealing with a drug bust.
One day two of our most arch criminals were in the coaches’ office, at the milk machine. Milk, at that time, was three cents a container and either of them could have afforded it. However, it was much more interesting to use their safecracking tools of a penny, gum and string. As Tommy was laboring (he now has a doctorate in physics) He remarked to Bobby: “Would it be funny if Jonesy were in that closet?” At that point, Bobby opened the closet and quickly slammed it. Tommy turned around, Bobby opened the closet again and, you guessed it, Mr. Jones was in that closet.
They were not bad boys, they were simply hungry. They were hungry for challenge, intellectual stimulation, and relief from boredom. They were hungry with all the hunger of adolescent boys with both raging hormones and rampant insecurities. I think that was true of all of us…no one in their mid teens feels all that good about himself or herself…we were never attractive enough, bright enough, popular enough or interesting enough. It is a time of great hunger and longing.
It is true for us as adults, though one hopes we have a slightly different focus. Once the essentials of life have been met – food, clothing and shelter (physical needs that are primary) – most of us have a longing for something more.
The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John is all about hunger and feeding. We read the story of the feeding of the 5000 and the amazement of those fed. It was reminiscent of the Israelites being fed manna in the wilderness, and, in each case, Jesus is clear that it was God who had done the feeding. In urging his followers to eat the bread and wine, Jesus’ body and blood, Jesus promises them that they will live forever. In that feeding, the spiritual and the physical are indelibly linked together.
Our relationships are not static…we know that even our most intimate ones are always changing. Sometimes they are wonderful, and sometimes not. Our relationship with God can be much like that. We long for intimacy with God, for meaning in our lives, for our spiritual hunger to be fed. That is why we are here in this sanctuary today. Our relationship with God is not static…when we feel close we are sated with intimacy and meaning. There are times, however, when God feels distant…we long for relationship, but feel separated and disconnected. The ancient mystics called this being in the “desert.” It is not a comfortable place and, mostly, we feel unable to change it. We learn over time that we must simply live through that absence and pray our way through it.
Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “…those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life…they abide in me and I in them.” What an incredible promise of intimacy…a promise not heard before or since. In the end, whether we are feeling close to God or in the desert we always have a place to come – the altar of God. Even if we feel estranged, we can rejoice in our closeness with one another as we approach the Eucharist together. In it we are reassured that we are not alone and that our time in the desert will end. As we shall sing during our worship this morning:

“Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to me and never be hungry. Eat this bread, drink this cup, trust in me and you will not thirst.”

Christ’s promise to each of us is that our deepest hunger will be satisfied. We shall be given all that we need for our bodies, for our relationships and, most important, for intimacy with God, the only source of true life. We shall rejoice in that promise as we celebrate the Holy Eucharist this morning. What a great gift we have been given! AMEN
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