Genesis 32:22-31 † Psalm 17:1-7, 15 † Romans 9:1-5 † Matthew 14:13-21
We have not yet run out of bread when serving communion here at St Andrew, at least not in the time I have been here. Once or twice, I’ve seen the server looking nervously down the line to note how many more were to come and how that measured with the chunk of bread held in their hands. I have been in that spot myself and known that feeling of continuing to serve and trusting we’ll make it. I have come really close once or twice. There is one occasion that is imprinted on my memory and that gets to the grace of this table. It was a busy Sunday. I was getting to the end of the bread I was holding. I think it may have been a week where we expected to need more bread than normal and I was hoping that Chuck had brought two loaves instead of one. He’ll do that when he thinks we might need more. I was pretty sure he had, but just a little worried.
You see I hadn’t set eyes on any extra loaf for myself. I like to see and know for sure that the things I will need will be there. Maybe you know that need. So my anxiety grew and I wondered what I’d do and I kept going hoping, not short changing anyone, knowing that above all, the thing that brings us to this table is the claim everyone gets a piece of bread. I was getting to the last couple of pieces of my bread. There was just no way to split it between what I remember as being a dozen or so people still in my line. Mostly the choir I think, smiling, moving towards me one at a time. Then I felt this presence to my left and I turned. I kind of knew in my bones that it would show up. I am pretty sure that’s why I just kept going. I turned my head hopeful, and there was Julie Kae. Smiling, you know that way she does, with her hands outstretched, gently holding what I needed, you know the way she does. Looking at me saying, of course I noticed, of course I’ve got you. Another beautiful loaf, broken ready to go.
I wonder what would happen though if we really ran out. I remember one Easter Sunrise Service by the lake. Lots of people across different communities take lots of different roles in preparation for that service and the bread got over looked. So we looked around and we grabbed the Hot Cross Buns that were sitting on a bench waiting for fellowship time. If they hadn’t been there perhaps the graham crackers intended for the smores that would be cooked around the fire the boy scouts make to keep us warm would have been conscripted. It was a community wide ecumenical service. I didn’t know everyone at that service and I wondered how others might receive the use of Hot Cross Buns. But everyone came and took a piece of that sticky sometimes frosting coated, raisin dotted, spicy bread. Lots of smiles. Thankfulness. It was communion. We shared and everyone got what they need. I would be willing to bet that if we forgot the bread here or we really ran out. Something similar would happen. We would find what we needed and everyone would get their share of this blessed meal.
The miracle as I see it in these types of situations, and it is the miracle we come for every Sunday, is that this time together, the prayers we say, the songs we sing, the words we hear, the hope of the people gathered, elevate above all else the memory of the one to whom we and all others belong. And in this we remember the lived-out implication of this claim, our call, and that is to give ourselves to ways that will ensure everyone gets to come, everyone gets fed, everyone gets what they need to know that they are beloved and accepted. The prayers, the songs, the words, the gathered hope, remind us to move beyond those fearful lies that tell us that we have to protect what’s ours. Not let anyone else in for fear that we’ll lose what we think we need. The prayers, the songs, the words, the gathered hope bring back a memory, planted deep within us that the blessings we share, the food, the resources of the earth, the gifts of our lives, belong to God. And we are prompted to remember that this God sees all creation as good and within the sacred circle of care and so we remember that sharing and loving and inclusion is simply and honestly the way to the life that endures and has meaning - the way to life eternal.
The prayer Jesus says before he breaks the bread on that hillside in Galilee, brings back to the people the memory of who they are, to whom they belong, and what this God intends for their life together. It is today, as we say a similar prayer again at this table, a symbol and a trigger for the church to remember these things too. We give you thanks God of the universe, God who loves all, that you gave us this bread, these resources that we did not create, that all might be fed. When this memory takes priority, takes hold above all else, then we will do what needs to be done to make sure all have what they need. On that hillside in Galilee the miracle of this remembering happened and those people did whatever they had to do to make sure everyone was fed. It was not acceptable that they go off to fend for themselves in the neighboring towns. They would, remember who God was, who they were and they share and rest in the gifts they had amongst them and all would have enough.
At this table we say those same words and the miracle of remembering happens. The love of this one who believed in the crowd in Galilee, believes again in us. This one who put his body on the line in the wholehearted belief that all are loved and should have what they need to be well, even those who lead with violence or do not yet know that they benefit from violent systems of living, calls us to do the same.
Jacob and Jesus’s story make it very clear though that living in this way is not easy. Working out how to take a stand, how to share and love, how to listen for and then do what is needed, how to hold on to what is good and meaningful, what is eternal, will involve wrestling and pain and loss. Many of you may be wrestling now or have endured great loss as you make your way through life trying to hold onto what is good.
Richard Rohr talks about such wrestling and loss as enduring small deaths. Small deaths through which we come to know a life that endures. Small deaths, deep loss, where we shed the things that we thought we needed and come to understand who we are as a people good enough just as we are. Small deaths but also resurrection – because this life that we hope, the good that we wrestle for, it will stay with us throughout wrestling, and it brings us to other side of these small deaths transformed and with a deeper sense of who we are and what we need to be well. I know I have experienced loss and I have wrestled about what is right and good, still do, but I am not robbed of the life that wants me to be well, wants me to have what I need. Sometimes I am reminded of that life in a song or a prayer or a part of creation, but most often I think, I am reminded in the kind and hopeful actions of others: bread shared, love extended, and a connection made to remind me that goodness and kindness is still with me for me.
This is the love present to us at this table. It is the love that was lived in the life of Jesus and that is here with us now transformed, present, and calling us to the miracle of remembering. Remembering who we as people made for inclusion and love. A people for whom the bread never runs out. Remember today as you come to the table that you and all people are loved beyond measure. Loved and called to offer to such love to all others.
St. Andrew Sermons