Sermon, September 1, 2019: Bread

I read an article in the Times on Friday by Thomas Egan, It was named “Why People Hate Religion.” Its point was that lots of people talk about good and evil, but holy people simply do for others in Christ’s name. It ended by saying that “faith is not all that complicated. Religion is.

Almost as if to prove his point, I came across a message saying that “views concerning Communionrun the gamut from those who believe that Christ is symbolically present in the blessed bread and cup to those who believe that we are sharing a simple meal that Jesus invited us to in memory of him.What does than mean and how on Earth would we prove it?

Faith is not that complicated. Religion surely is. But let’s set aside theological constructs for a moment and focus on what we all know first hand bread. We know the smell of it baking, the crunch of it chewing, the comfort of it nourishing.

Another thing we know – but this is one we seldom think about we know that the wheat has long been celebrated as a symbol of the mystery of living and dying and rising to new life. As long ago as the worship of the Egyptian god Osiriswhich was around 6000 to 3150 BCEwheat kernels were placed in graves to symbolize the hope of well-being of the departedLet’s think a little this morning about why, deep within us, we still link these ancient symbols of bread and of Christ together. Faith is not complicated.

The background that nurtures is is the Old Testament story of God sending manna – bread – from heaven. The New Testament will go on to name the town where tradition tells us that Jesus was born. It of course is Bethlehem: bethwhich means “house of”, and lechemwhich means bread. Beth -lechem– the house of bread. So the narrative of the Bible is set up from the beginning to associate Jesus with the life giving characteristics of bread. But the symbol evolves when John claims it for Jesus’ own and bread evolves into a sign of the quintessential gift from God.

The key biblical passages that pass on the church’s conscious understanding of bread and cup are the words Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. The essence of it, no matter what words we use in any particular moment, because – as he says – their meaning is deeper than words. “I received from the Lord,” Paul told the Corinthians, “what I pass on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in memory of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in memory of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord.”

Four things: take, thank, break and share. It’s about doing, and in the doing, conscious action and non-conscious longing are joined together. Memories and hopes are joined together. .Why do we “do this”? We do it to remember Jesus. And the heart of this remembering has to do with what it is that we remember about Jesus.

Religion will tell you that it was common for a time in the church’s history of Holy Communion to understand the sacrament only in terms of the crucifixion. But central to remembering the crucifixion is the awareness that the cross would be long forgotten if it weren’t visible always and only in the light of Easter morning. This is crucial: if Jesus is Christ, then his crucifixion and resurrection can never be separated.

It’s not complicated, Jesus said. Trust the story. Break the bread. Do this. Sense the well-being. Do it so we might recognize the One whose presence creates a space where all can come together and join in a moment when sharing the gifts of the earth becomes the way toward sharing the love of the eternal God.   Amen.

Posted by Rev. Barbara Ewton

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