One Baptism: Proper 14

One Baptism: Proper 14

Proper 14: August 8, 2021
The Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

Year B: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51

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We’re currently in our lectionary for these last weeks in the middle of what is called the bread of life discourse of John’s Gospel, where we diverge from our readings from Mark’s gospel, and we spend time discussing the literal and metaphorical issues of hunger.

Think about our words we hear in Chapter six where John appears to set the institution of the Last Supper and sets it in the midst of Jesus’ ministry and day to day life. The chapter begins with the feeding of “about five thousand in all”[1] with a few loaves of bread and some fish.

John gives us the pictures of Jesus before a hungry crowd, a crowd that has taken to boats to cross the sea to find the One who is going about the countryside doing marvelous and miraculous things. They have heard about water becoming wine at a wedding reception in Cana.[2] Some heard from the Samaritan woman herself about living water, and how she became the first person in John to recognize Jesus as the One who is to come. The One who takes, blesses, breaks, and gives away bread. The very same way we  take, bless, break, and give away bread at our Eucharist this morning.

But here is Jesus saying these astonishing things like, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”[3] He also says, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”[4] And he says again, “I am the bread of life… the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”[5]

I am the bread. Feed on me. And his hometown, they’re scandalized, forgetting all about the twelve baskets of leftovers after feeding the five thousand. “We know his mother and his father!” they say. “How dare he say these things!”[6]

He tells them to stop complaining. It’s no accident that the “I am” statements in John’s gospel appear 45 times. He is telling them to stop complaining in part because he’s telling them he cannot help saying these things for he is the manna. He gives his life, his body, for the life if the world.

In the Gospel, Jesus has fed the hungry crowds, and they follow him everywhere, mostly I suspect in hopes of another meal. But when he starts talking about the food that endures for eternal life, about bread from heaven, they’re baffled. They don’t understand that the bread he is talking about isn’t made from flour, water, and yeast. They can’t make the jump to metaphor. They literally want the physical food of which Jesus speaks, but can’t wrap their head around Jesus as the bread of life.

Today, we baptize two children into the bread of life. Their family has deep roots in Beckford Parish and have been partakers of the bread of life for generations, through incredibly hard times and they continue to be part of the community.

While most of us here today may never know true physical hunger (though some certainly might), what about spiritual hunger? When we pray “give us this day our daily bread”, we are asking God to take care of our daily needs, but we are also asking for bread from heaven, we are asking God to satisfy a different kind of hunger, the hunger for meaning, for love, for community. The meaning, the love, the community we find in baptism.

Remember that in John we are called beloved and to accept our belovedness is to abide in his love. Once we accept this, when we look upon the host at communion, we no longer see just bread or the body of Christ. What we are to become is the Body of Christ, and this is to shape our lives every moment of every day. It is what Jesus did, and we are to do, every moment of every day.[7]

This is what it means to abide in his love: to accept our belovedness and live life as he lived. Eucharist means “thanksgiving” – lives of thanks and giving – giving his love to others. That is what we are to do.

This morning we invite Evelyn Kershaw and Charlotte June into the household of God through baptism. We will invite their parents and grandparents to confess the faith of Christ, to proclaim Christ’s resurrection, and to share with us in Christ’s eternal life. We ask ourselves what kind of world will these children inherit?

The kind of world must be the world that Jesus has offered to us, a new way to live. To live as if we have everything that we need because we do. To live as if every human being matters, because they do. To live as if love is the strongest force in the universe, because it is. To live and to work for reconciliation, for truth, healing, and generosity. To live in gratitude for the abundance that we receive and that this abundance continues, is actually prevalent, in our baptism, because in baptism everything we have comes from God who is the source of life and love.

One body, one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism – it’s how we started our service. We are one as we heard in Ephesians. The church’s mission is to bring people together, to help us grow as a body into the full image of God, the full stature of Christ. We do not exist independently of each other. We are all different, with unique gifts and callings, we don’t always agree with each other, but together we form the body of Christ and are called to “grow up in every way into Christ” as Evelyn and Charlotte are called.

What have we learned from our baptism? Where has it taken us in our faith development? How has each stage of our faith journey informed our quest for a life that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God? And how will we impart that to the newly baptized.

It’s right at the very end of Ephesians. “Be imitators of God, and live in love as Christ loved us.”[8]

[1] John 6:10, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)

[2] Cf. John 2:1-11, NRSV

[3] John 6:35, NRSV

[4] John 6:38, NRSV

[5] John 6:51, NRSV

[6] Cf. John 6:42

[7] Aidan Kavanaugh, “Christ Dying and Living Still” in The Sacraments (Alba House, New York: 1981) p. 271-272.

[8] Ephesians 5:2

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