Sermon on 17 August 2003

Jesus said: “I am 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” He said that, and immediately a row broke out about what he meant. In a very strange kind of way, that might be comforting.
Folk have had trouble understanding those words ever since. Much has been written and preached through the centuries.TransubstatiationConsubstatiationIs the bread transmuted?Is the wine transfigured?
Do the bread and the wine change when they are offered?
Or when they are received?Is the real presence in the bread and the wine or are the people changed in the Real Presence of the living Lord?
I wonder whether these questions keep you awake at night. My guess is that they don't. To try to answer them today in the pulpit would be to preach a rather dry technical message – offering the recipe, not the meal.
When Christ says “I am the living bread” he is not offering us a recipe from a cookbook. You get little nourishment from the bread machine handbook – the nourishment comes from the loaf itself.I am the living bread he says, and does not really go o­n to explain how. He tells us not to try understand but to participate. To come. To eat. To drink. To join in. Never alone at the Lord's table. Never left with nothing to eat.We are not supposed to understand these words of the Lord. They are meant to be lived.As it happens, I grew up in a tiny part of Christendom which is cut of, by accident of history from the sacramental life of the church. In other words, I grew up worshipping o­n a Sunday, but was never baptised and never received communion. (Indeed, I did not receive either until I was almost 20). However, in the branch of Christianity that I lived in, we did sing a hymn, quite often which included these words, which you might like to ponder when you are receiving communion here today and later in the week.We sang: “My life shall be Christ's broken bread, my love his outpoured wine”. Rather beautiful, I think.
Although my own pilgrimage of faith was very much a search for the water of baptism which drowns the past and for the bread and wine which nourish us o­n our journey, I rather like to recall that sometimes for it is a very beautiful way of interpreting what this is all about.My life shall be Christ's broken bread, my love his outpoured wine.Talking of beautiful things, it would be remiss of me to preach this morning without saying anything about Soloman – the description of his governance seems so humble, sensible and right. It is a rather lovely description of godly monarchy – which no doubt might infuriate republicans or some kinds of Nationalists in Scotland, but I still think is a rather good reminder that wisdom counts for far more than power.We all have power over others of some kind or another. We all make decisions that affect the lives of others. Somewhere in our hearts, do we not all want to ask the Lord for the kind of wisdom which Solomon wanted.The Lord is generous – and provides us with more nourishment than we can eat. Basket-loads of bread leftover are a tell-tale sign of the Lord at work. And Solomon was given wisdom beyond his hopes or his dreamsFrom time to time, in our own wisdom, we admit people to communion in our church here at St Saviour's and in other Episcopal churches all over Scotland. It is part of the way in which we offer what is called Eucharistic hospitality – access to the living bread. Over the last thirty years or so, there has been a move to bring people into communion at an earlier age than had been common for a while. And this has, by and large been accepted in most of our congregation now. And there is a conversation which goes o­n up and down the land between clergy and parents of children which goes like this:
      Priest: When do you think we should admit wee Agnes to communion?
      Parent: Oh no, oh no! Not yet! Not yet! She could not understand it yet. Oh no!
And the priest usually smiles (for that is what priests do when they are grumpy or angry or irritated) and goes away feeling sorry for wee Agnes, for he has heard her at the altar rail demanding the bread that everyone else is having.When a parent says that to a priest, although they will smile and go away, I know what they are thinking. All over Scotland, the priests are wanting to ask the parents. “And what about you – do you understand? Tell me – tell me how you understand this meal.”
For none of us understand enough. And all of us can understand how it feels to be left out when something good is o­n offer.
And there is nothing o­n offer that is better in life than the nourishment that God has for us his people.Whether we understand it in that way, or whether we understand it in technical words or precise language, the thing that we have to do is come and eat.The good news this morning is that God would deny none of us. There is always living, fresh bread. More than we can eat. More than we can understand. More wisdom than we know how to ask for. More nourishment than we could ever consume.


  1. Anonymous says

    Re: Sermon on 17 August 2003
    Good Sermaon Kelvin and I'm sorry I missed it. As you know it is a subject I think about a lot and now you have given me more “food for thought”.  Thank you.


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