Psalm 34: 15 – 22
Joshua 24: 1-18
Ephesians 6: 10 – 20
John 6: 56 – 69
Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the cosmic powers of this present darkness,
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
For the past month in worship, we have been reading from the gospel according to John. John is very different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke in many ways. One difference is that in John, there is no “Last Supper.” Instead, John gives us his chapter 6, in which Jesus announces that he is “the Bread of Life,” “the Bread sent down from heaven.” As my long-ago Professor of New Testament, Charles Talbert puts it, John sees Holy Communion as the “extension of the Incarnation in which the bread and wine function dramatically as the incarnate blood and body of Jesus.” This Sunday, as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, we will ask ourselves, “Is Jesus really in me ? And am I really in Jesus ?
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In this week when we have received a freewill offering to support Our Church’s Wider Mission, I am pleased to share with you this recent note from our Interim Conference Minister, Rev. Dr. Roddy Dunkerson. (He is one of the Central Atlantic Conference staff whose salaries our offering helps to pay. He is with us until the end of 2018, when our elected search committee and our Conference Board expect to have a new Conference Minister in office to serve us, long-term.)
Once upon a time, I was young and foolish. During the Vietnam War, I dropped out of college and joined the military. Those days in the Navy gave me many unexpected gifts. While stationed in London, I attended a service at Westminster Abbey. I got what I came for, the full high church sense of awe in a wondrous place.
Additionally, there was another bit of very English embellishment. When the preacher got up to preach, he was summoned to the task and escorted to the pulpit and back to his chair by a man in special garb carrying a mace. (It was ornamental and clearly meant for that place and that purpose, but, it was a mace.) The message was clear, “You are preaching by the gracious will of the Queen.”
The preacher was an Anglican Bishop from South Africa. This would have been sometime in the mid-‘70s, I am guessing 1975. The Bishop was Anglican, but, not English. He was South African. And, he laid us low. By the end of the sermon, it was clear that either one was working to end apartheid or one was an enemy of Christ.
The irony of the pomp of the symbol of power escorting this man of fire back to his place was palpable. I can still feel it.
To believe in God is to acknowledge that I am not the center of the universe. To believe in God is to acknowledge that every living creature is part of God’s creation and therefore beloved.
Sadly, we human beings, and this particular human being who goes by the name Roddy, are quite capable of seeing ourselves as the center of the universe.
The setting of a cathedral with royal connections goes against my more democratic sensibilities. The notion that the Queen of England is the head of the Church of England is a history I know, but, not a reality to my American perception of the world. The separation of the church and state are basic to my notions of reality.
That day, long ago, reminded me that I am not the center of the universe. My notions of what is right and proper are limited by my experience. But, that day demanded of me that I understand that God did not exist to serve me and the coming of Jesus into the world was political.
There are so many ways that we who have known privilege can come to see it as our due.
I give thanks to God that someone helped me understand that my privilege is to be able to help the cause of justice.
We need to be a healing balm for each other. But, we also need to speak and live justice.
The cross was the symbol of Roman power. Jesus moves us beyond the victory of Roman power.
Many of us love the ending of Micah 6:8. For me, from that worship service long ago the words “but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” are tied to a mace and a message in which the mace loses its power to the way a person allows God to use him to challenge easy comfort. Roddy