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WE ARE CALLED TO BE WHAT WE RECEIVE

Updated: Jun 7

wild flowers inside old work boots, we are called to put ourselves in the shoes of others

Sermon, by Pastor Nelson

Body and Blood of Christ Sunday

Corpus Christi Sunday

June 2, 2024


Exodus 24:3-8

Psalm 116

Hebrews 9:11-15

Mark 14:12-26

I begin by saying, sad to say, you will not find this Sunday listed in the Lutheran proper’s. That is the lessons and prayers for Sundays and festivals.

I find it strange, that even though we say, we think the Eucharist is very important, we only directly say anything about it on Maundy Thursday. It was only when I started to look at the Roman Lectionary that I realized there was such a Sunday devoted to the Eucharist. I was surprised to hear that this celebration was started because people of the Roman Catholic community were not participating in communion. They would go to church but leave at the beginning of communion. Rc Bishop Frank Murphy said in 1964, to about-to-be-ordained priests, “your main task during Eucharist is not just to say the right words or make the right gestures; it is to help form the participants into the body of Christ.” We “protestants” often had communion only four times a year, and even then, I remember people who did not participate in communion. I guess, we really are not much different from one another. By not having communion this morning, I thought it would be a good time to see what we are missing. I recently attended “the Festival of Homiletics” at Pittsburgh, PA. by zoom, just like today and I heard, Otis Moss iii, a preacher at Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL. say; “when we do right theology, it will change our anthropology, shift to a new psychology, move us to a new sociology, give us a new ecology, and will change our biology.” Well, I am not sure if that will all happen this morning, but here we go.

Something unique happened at the last supper. Just look at all the ”paint by number” paintings that have evolved. I think at least one member gave me one at each parish I was at. But seriously, I believe something happens whenever we share the Eucharist. Jesus initiated a new covenant. The covenant between God and us means that we are deeply connected not only to God, but to one another. Our connections, and the commitments they imply, extend to all people everywhere. Participating in the Eucharist may be the most challenging thing we are invited to do. Remember Alice Munro said, “one foot in front of the other gets you where you are going, but it is the detours that make the journey worth it.” Friar Scott Surrency wrote a poem called; “Can You Drink This Cup?”

Drink not survey, or analyze,

Ponder or scrutinize –

From a distance.

But drink – imbibe, ingest,

Take into you so that it becomes a piece of your inmost self.”

This poem creates a question from the challenge Augustine gave his people when he preached on the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the fourth century. Now that is a long time ago but remember Luther was an Augustinian monk. When Augustine spoke of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, he said, “they are called Sacraments because in them one thing is seen, while another is grasped, … what is grasped bears spiritual fruit.” Today’s liturgy of the word guides us through the religious developments that led to the Eucharist. We begin with the first lesson from exodus as Moses leads his people in a liturgy of sacrifice. It was theatre at its ‘best’ or its ‘worst’? The people renewed their covenant with God, who they believed, led them out of slavery and gave them commandments to assure them a good life. The people listened and then they were sprinkled with blood (Word and Sacrament).

Now I have no explanation for the act of sprinkling blood other than that they looked at blood as life giving and thus, they believed they were given life with the act of sprinkling blood. Thank goodness we have gotten away from that and even gotten away from the idea we have to use red wine at communion, “because it looks like blood!” This early celebration evolved into the temple liturgies that kept the Israelites conscious of their covenant relationship with God. We get some of the story of a High Priest in our second lesson from Hebrews, showing that Jesus the Christ has become the final High Priest.

Again, we get the mixed metaphors of animal blood and Jesus’ blood and someway that gives us salvation. In fact, Robert Zimmerman wrote, “never could learn to drink that blood and call it wine.” Is that not interesting? [Bob Dylan was really Robert Zimmerman, from Minnesota.]

In my favourite gospel, Marks’ account of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples brings this theology down to earth through a poignant story, we have today. When the disciples talked to Jesus about the Passover, He reminded them that eating this meal together, pledged them to share the same commitment and fate that was waiting for him. Jesus thanked God for the saving actions of the past and then he added himself to the mix, “my body, my blood.” He was telling them/us that this is the symbol of losing their/our lives for one another and in doing that we will be “saved.” The version from Mark of the good news is a theological and Christological jewel, representing the insights, inspirations, and beliefs of the Christian community of the late sixties C.E. This covenant is ratified in two ways; by the actions of Jesus, and our sharing of this Passover-Last supper meal. At every Eucharistic gathering, we are renewed by the continuing blessings of Jesus’, once-and-for-all, Passover, and as well as the eternal covenant.

In Marty Haugen’s hymn “Gather Us In” we say,

“give us to drink the wine of compassion,

Give us to eat the bread that is you,

Nourish us well,

And teach us to fashion lives

That are holy and hearts that are true.”

When Jesus took the cup of the Passover that they were accustomed to sharing, Jesus explained that it was the cup that he had promised to share with them. No matter how we understand the story of Jesus on the cross, when we receive the bread and wine, we are entering into a blank cheque of solidarity with Jesus and his cause. Namely the salvation of the people, one person at a time. They/we pledge to have full Communion with one another. In the account from Mark, we are really learning how the community celebrated the Eucharist, rather than what precisely Jesus did and said at the supper. The community derived this from what the disciples told of their experience with Jesus in the upper room.

Today we are asked again to ponder Jesus’ question: “can you drink this cup? Do you want this Communion with me?” We can too easily say, yes? Remember the disciples were looking for glory. But Augustine through Fr. Surrency said; “drink not to survey or analyze, ponder or scrutinize – but drink – imbibe, ingest, take into you so that it becomes a piece of your inmost self.” We must say “Amen” to what we are in God and our response must be a personal signature, affirming our faith, being a member of this community and then and only then can we truly say, “Amen.” When we again take our place in a communion procession, we must realize that beyond our hymns of praise we will grasp what God offers to us and we will offer that love to others. We must not wrestle with, “how the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.” Remember the way the world works is not the way we should work in the world. We must hear what God says to us;

“Receive what you are and become what you receive, be flesh and blood given for the life of the world.”

  • Body and Blood of Christ, incarnate word of God, come to live among us…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, broken and poured out for the salvation of humankind…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, broken and shared with sinners who hunger for forgiveness…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, risen in glory as the pledge of our eternal inheritance…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, broken and suffering from hunger and malnutrition…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, children broken and died alone…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, wounded, maimed and slaughtered by war…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, whose helpless members are abused and neglected…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, whose civil rights are denied by unjust governments…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, denied freedom to immigrate in search of a better life…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, suffering from the burden of illness and the added burden of ignorant and judgemental attitudes of others…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, from whose pleading eyes and outstretched hands I avert my eyes and close my wallet and my heart….Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, belittled by ethnic jokes and racial slurs…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, addicted to drugs of all sorts…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, punished but not rehabilitated within the prison system…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, denied child support by negligent parents and/or the system as a whole…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, suffering the loss of memory, mind and personality because of disease…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, whose mental and physical challenges are misunderstood or ignored…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, affronted by media and others peddling false values, brutal violence and perverted sexuality…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, who because of a corrupt social system, have inadequate medical care, pensions, food, welfare, housing and the list goes on…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, people who are lonely and isolated, and whose pains and tears, whose needs and fears are my responsibility…Amen!

[And one that should have been first but it took the Ontario

legislature last Wednesday to remind me,]

  • Body and Blood of Christ, Government, along with help from catholic and protestant churches, ripped first nation children from their homes and punished the children when they spoke their own languages…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, beloved children…Amen!

  • Body and Blood of Christ, who is saviour and Lord, mother and father, sister and brother, friend, and neighbour, to me and to you… Amen! Amen! Amen!

Quite simply the community in Mark celebrated the Eucharist at the conclusion of their common meal. Their sharing appeared to be structured around seven actions and three words spoken by Jesus.

Those 7 actions were: Jesus took, blessed, broke and gave bread, then he took, gave thanks, and gave the cup.

The 3 words were given: over the bread, over the cup, and the reign of God.

This continues to be the structure of the Christian community’s Eucharistic sharing even to this day. At each Eucharist we enter once again into the evolving experience of our history. Each sharing of the bread and the cup traces its roots to the exodus covenant. But because we have broken that covenant again and again, we need to re-establish that covenant with God through the Eucharist. I do not know how all of this happens, so I will quote two Lutherans smarter than me.

Dr. Harvey Kwiyani said, “to realize the fullness of the holy spirit, we must come together in spaces and communities that allow people to bring their authentic gifts and to celebrate expressions of faith that reach across our differences.”

Dr. Gail Ramshaw said, “we as faithful God’s people will at our end go with Christ to God. This is how I taught my daughters about death: when we die, we go to God. And where is God? Well, besides everywhere, God is in the assembly at the Eucharist each week.”

Yes, I believe with death defeated and sin held at bay, all who participate in this new and everlasting covenant can anticipate, at every sharing of the Eucharist that there is a promise of good things yet to come…As we celebrate this feast, a reprise of Holy Thursday, we are invited to join with the disciples, once again, in hearing Jesus’ invitation to receive the bread of communion and to drink of the new covenant with God. Quite simply, as Augustine would tell us; we are called to be what we receive - the body of Christ. When we dare say “Amen!” we proclaim “yes, we will receive what we are and be what we eat.”

Amen! Amen! Amen!

Thank you to, Patricia Datchuck Sanchez, for the idea and many of the

words of the body and blood litany.

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