Sermon for High Mass Trinity 11 Sunday 19 August 2012
Though we might not feel worthy of it, though we might not fully comprehend it, now and again, more often than not, perhaps we should ask, “Why does God love me?” not to engage in the “am I worth it” or even “I am worth it” conversation, but to engage in understanding why God goes to such extremes to communicate to his creation, both that he is love, and that we are objects for that love.
Perhaps asking “why does God love me?” might in our Christian discipleship, inform us of how we love; and like our Lord, we might take every possible opportunity to demonstrate that love and to express it widely.
We cannot be reminded enough that even though we might not feel we warrant God’s love, God is never the less, deeply in love with his creation, first with Israel, then with all. This is the message at the heart of the Good News; this is the message which has been the catalyst for the incarnation, which propels divine revelation, which leads to crucifixion but which finally at the end of all things will lead to the restoration of all things in God; because God loves us, not accidentally, but purposefully through his promises towards us. And because of that love towards us, we are given an understanding and glimpse into God, that in the experience of this life we might have an assurance of a future life in God, but also in the experience of this life we might knowingly be given the chance to love fully and live lively with hope and purpose, not simply giving in to a selfish lifestyle, but reflecting an awesome respect for creation and love for all things and all people.
Our gospel today looks very much like the gospel we have heard over the past couple of weeks. Jesus tells us, again He is “the bread of life”, the living bread which comes from heaven. His repetition is clear, that he is not like the manna given by Moses which satisfied a temporary hunger of a nation in the wilderness, but he wants us to believe and perceive that he is the bread which satisfies and gives life.
He wants us and his audience to take a step of faith, to respond to the eternal over the temporary and to respond to the love revealed in him which is from his Father. But the point of this passage and why we have had three week of the “bread of heaven” is that by and large, the crowds haven’t been convinced by his message. So that love which compels him to enter into our experience of life, is the same which causes him to want to try over and over and find different ways, using different language to express the same, in an attempt to communicate the truth to us, in order that we might believe. Though it seems from the Gospel, no matter how many times Jesus told his listeners, they really do not get the message, but he is prepared to exhaust every possibility until we get it, and as we see this determination revealed most cruelly in the Crucifixion, where he exhausts even his body in trying to communicate God’s love for all of creation.
And so this time, when Jesus tells them that the bread that He will give is his flesh, they think he’s talking nonsense. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus hears them, and frustrated by them, answers even more strongly.
He has just told them that they must eat his flesh, using the Greek word phagein which means “to eat”. But in verse 53 of our Gospel this morning, “So Jesus said to them, ‘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 reiterates and emphasises what he has already said, but this time he uses another word: trogein, which translated suggests less civilised eating and more munching or crunching on flesh. It is a verb often used in association with animals, but one which our Lord uses to address his flock. Most translations, as with ours, just leave it as ‘eat,’ but Jesus is using a different word because he wants to make a point, he doesn’t want them to think about the ordinariness of eating, he wants to capture their attention again, not simply repeating the same old words, but he is repeating the same old message. He now says, perhaps only in a hope to engage the crowd: you’ve not just got to eat my flesh, but to munch on it, chew on it – be awake to what you are doing, think about what you are taking within you, it is food to eat, truth to consider and life to enjoy.
We are invited to believe that Jesus’ body is really and truly present in the bread that we are about to receive, even if in a way which surpasses our understanding. But by eating His real flesh and drinking his blood, as He says in our Gospel, we dwell in Him and He dwells in us. As followers of Christ we need to pursue that dwelling and indwelling through this sacrament, prayer and through our common life together. Through these things, we find life, through these things, we find eternal hope and salvation.
The paradox is that by consuming Christ in this sacrament, we are simultaneously consumed by Him, and our humanity is assumed into His divinity. This is an exchange freely given and through which we find ourselves truly loved. He does all of this out of love for us, he keeps on giving of himself that we might have life and have it abundantly. So perhaps asking “why does God love me” reveals less about you and me, and more about God, and leads us to a greater communion with God. So as you draw near, and come to receive this sacrament, however enthusiastic you are to receive God, taste and see, we don’t need to munch, he has our attention, receive the bread and wine, the body and blood of our Saviour, meditate on the intricate indwelling of God with his creation, with your very self. Consume and be consumed, and allow the divinity of Christ to feed every part of your body and soul for ever.