Sunday, August 19, 2018

Pent 13-B, 2018: Eucharistic living

Lectionary: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

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En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

We haven’t spent much time on the Old Testament story of King David in our lectionary the last few weeks, but with the Eucharistic focus in the gospel of John, we can only cover so much. I like the story of David, though, so let’s take a minute to review the broad strokes.

David, the Shepherd King, was the golden boy of his time, restoring Israel to a stable period of peace and prosperity – until he fell in love with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, his good friend and military leader. David arranged to have Uriah killed in battle so that he could marry the widowed Bathsheba.

This was a pretty big mistake, and when confronted with it by Nathan (the story we heard two weeks ago), David owned up to it saying: “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Unlike many of today’s people in power, David did not divert, or gaslight. He owned his sin and lived out the consequences his own poor choices had set in motion; including the death of his son, Absalom, who had been conspiring to overthrow his father, David, as we heard last week.

This week, we hear of David’s death and the transfer of kingly power to David’s other son, Solomon. For his first regnant choice, Solomon seeks wisdom from God who grants him that and much more.

The story of King David raises up two important points for us to consider:

1) Even the great King David sinned, that is, he stepped out of the will of God and into a path of his own making; and 2) the difference between David and Solomon, in this point of the larger story anyway, is the direction of their attention. King David’s focus had shifted from using his power to serve God and God’s people to using his power to serve his own desires.

The first point is eternally important because our Christian journey doesn’t ever lead us beyond our human propensity to sin. At some point we will all lose our focus and make mistakes. To his credit, David modeled how faithful believers respond when confronted with our sin: by owning it, trusting in the mercy of God to reconcile us back into harmony with God and others.

The second point has been reflected in our readings from the letter to the Ephesians these last few weeks. Last week we heard, “let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin.” In other words, don’t let anger justify a choice to break communion.

Today we heard, “Be careful then how you live…” This also translates as: be aware, be intentional about how you live, the choices you make.

Which brings us to our gospel from John. Over and over these last three weeks we hear Jesus teaching the same lesson (which indicates that we’d be well served to pay attention to it): I am the bread of life…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven… not like the manna Moses gave. No, it is my own flesh I give and my flesh gives life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Today Jesus adds to this teaching one of the most comforting truths of our faith: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. “By partaking of the bread and wine of communion we live eternally (that is, without beginning and without end) in Jesus who is the Christ. We also live eternally with everyone else who also abides in him.

In the holy food of communion, we become one with the ultimate community: the body of Christ which includes all who ever were, are, or will be members of that body.

Jesus is God, the 2nd person in the community of the Divine Trinity. As we proclaim in our Creed, Jesus is the one through whom all things are made. All things, all people, all time, all activities, all of creation, all resources– everything comes from and belongs to God. And since we have been reconciled to God through Jesus, we are the current locations of the coexistence of the human and the divine. Jesus abides in us and we abide in him.

Recognizing this and living accordingly is how we live an Eucharistic life – a life of thanks and grace; a life that reflects our gratitude for all God has given us and demonstrates our commitment to using those gifts not for our own desires, but to serve God and God’ people.

Using the gifts God has given us for the purpose God has given them is what stewardship is. In church circles we tend to talk about stewardship as a fall fund drive to feed the budget, and it is that, but not only that. Stewardship is being aware of the many gifts God has given us, and managing them responsibly and faithfully, so that they can be employed in our sacred work: reconciling the world to God.

The focus of stewardship is on God and God’s people, not on us. In so many churches, the fear of institutional survival hijacks the ministry of stewardship and narrows the focus to finances; but focusing on survival is a path of our own making and if we’re worried about that then we have shifted our attention in the wrong direction.

As I say so often, I believe that every church is an intentional action of the Holy Spirit. God chooses for us to live and we respond by living a Eucharistic life: a life of thanks and grace, a life that reflects our gratitude for all God has given us and demonstrates our commitment to using those gifts to serve God and all God’s people.

A while back I preached about the five things our Presiding Bishop said Episcopalians need to get busy doing to make the world look more like God’s dream and less like our nightmare. To review quickly, those five things were:

1.forming disciples;
2.evangelism as invitation and welcome to the church
3.witnessing – which he described as getting out into the public sphere and being a voice for those who have no voice;
4.relationship, particularly ecumenical efforts; and finally,
5.creating institutional structures that enable us to serve (Source: The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry on Vimeo)

That is what we’ve been working on together this first half-year of our interim time.

1.forming disciples: a children-youth task force has formed to discern and plan our course for Christian formation of our younger members for the coming year.
2.evangelism: two vestry members have already met a couple of times with people at WCU and with our sisters and brothers in Episcopal campus ministry; and I have met with the Lutheran, and Baptist campus ministers in order to discern how we might be called to jointly serve the students, faculty, and staff at WCU.
3.witnessing: individual members of St. David’s are already doing so much of this, but we are also looking currently at how to organize a stronger church ministry to Vecinos and Hispanics in our area. Just recently a member of St. David’s brought up a desire to discern the possibility of becoming a sanctuary church, something any Episcopal Church can consider now that resolution C009 passed at our recent general convention. Prayer and listening on this has only just begun. Your thoughts are is welcome.
4.relationship: In addition to serving ecumenically in campus ministry, I have recently begun discussions with Cullowhee Baptist about the possibility of joining our children and youth formation efforts - here and there - to benefit all of us.
5.creating institutional structures that enable us to serve: your vestry and treasurer have been hard at work creating or updating policies and procedures, centralizing information in a functional church office, coming into compliance with Safeguarding God’s Children and People trainings (if you wonder about the importance of that, look up what happened with 300 Catholic priests in PA this week), and pondering the personnel needs of this institution in order to support the sacred work God is calling us to in this chapter of our ongoing story.

They have also spent time in retreat focusing on servant leadership and stewardship as a year-long ministry, not just a fall campaign to feed the annual budget.

One fruit of your vestry’s work is the Vestry Stewardship Covenant you’ve been seeing as an insert in your bulletins the last few weeks. Their three statements: “We believe… We commit… We invite…” frame our focus for the coming year.

As part of the ultimate community, the body of Christ, we are called to be aware and intentional about living Eucharistic lives - thankful, grace-filled live; lives reflective of our gratitude for all God has given us, and committed to faithful stewardship of all those gifts in order to accomplish our sacred work.

Like King David, we’ll sin along the way. We’ll make mistakes, break communion, even manipulate to get our way. But our comfort lies in knowing the truth that God is always with us, abiding in us as we abide in God. So, no matter how far astray the path of our own making may lead us, we know we’ll always find our way back into the will of God.

We are an intentional choice by God. And that’s our good news. Amen.

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