Journeys to the Edge

RCL Scriptures: Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35-51

Let us pray: Illumine for us your word, O Lord, that the Light you bring, the words I speak, the Spirit you send inform us of your will. Amen.

This past week was kind of warm, wasn’t it? I confess, I escaped to the coast on Thursday with my three children to find cooler weather and we were not disappointed. So I had to reflect, as I often do when gifted with a trip to the coast, on the deeper mysteries of life that somehow make themselves known when the sound of the waves washes over me. Have you ever done felt that way? Perhaps you can recall a time when you were at the beach dipping your toes in the edge of the sea, little wavelets lapping over your feet as they sink into the sand. These moments speak to my soul.

Perhaps you can relate. Other “edge” experiences can do the same thing I’ve noticed. Have you ever been on the edge of sleep when an answer to a tricky dilemma finally comes? Or have you ever been on the edge of a dream and are jolted awake with an image or thought you must write down? Sometimes I’ve been on that edge of sleep but instead of jolting awake, it has drawn me further down into sleep, into one of those incredible dreams of other-reality when a vivid scene of wonder plays itself out and leaves me with the gift of its message.

There are other kinds of edges, of course; for example emotional edges marked by transitions between deep emotional responses and the merely everyday. There are also spiritual edges; like the edge of faith. Now that is a most interesting place to be. As a whole, I would hazard a guess that in our wider culture today, we are all on the edge of a different spiritual reality than what we have known in the past; a spirituality of Namaste, where interfaith dialog and cross-pollination of faithful modes of living will be the norm instead of the exception. For any of us within in one particular stream of faith, often this kind of edge is the edge of greatest fear and greatest potential growth. Specifically for us Christians, this may be where Jesus pushes our limits to the limit. At times of spiritual crossroads, at the edge of something new, what can we take forward into the new reality? What basic characteristic of Christ’s message is our offering to the age that is to come?

“This bread…is my flesh,” Jesus says.

It is true that on the surface, today’s scripture is very perplexing. But like the ocean, when one stands on the edge of the deep mysteries of life beneath the sea, one mirrors a point of transformation standing on the brink of one’s own subconscious.[1] Gospel writers are those who have been transformed. Transformed by an experience of Jesus, or a memory of Jesus, of stories about the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, about the true meaning of Love come down.

One community in particular really latched on to a spiritual meaning of Emmanuel. John’s gospel was born of a community of Messianic Jews, a sect of Judaism similar to that of the community of the Dead Sea Scrolls just a few years earlier,[2] the Johannine community found themselves being put out of their own synagogues on account of their belief that Jesus was indeed, the Messiah that had been foretold. They gathered the stories of Jesus most precious to them, coupled them with traditional ways of interpreting Hebrew Scriptures from of old – and discovered through the lens of the Jesus story many ancient scriptures they knew so well to be illumined with new meanings for their shared life together following the Jesus Way.

What they faced, however, was a struggle to understand their lives as outcasts from their own communities who would not believe. In a way, this caused them to identify closely to the time when Israel struggled with their identity under Moses. Through this struggle they found parallels: thus, the bread of Life that is Jesus and the manna from heaven in the wilderness become parallel means of sustenance. Thus, the wandering in the wilderness before Israel’s nationhood and the retreat to the wilderness as outcasts reflected their shared journey through time. However, Jesus explains manna-eaters died without entering the land of promise. What parallel would that be for the community of John’s Gospel? Perhaps an allusion to the need to not be tied down by tradition. Suppose we heed Jesus in the same way; would putting our past behind us allow us to decipher, discern God’s new action in the world…? With eyes then opened, do we join in or do we sit it out and wait and watch?

I choose to join in; and in so doing I accept the challenges of learning and following the One in whom there is newness, rebirth, renewal. “I am the bread of life,” says Jesus. And, as he invited, so I invite: Come, let us to the table and remember once again how Jesus broke bread and shared it with his followers. How he was the bread broken for all, that all might enter into his fullness. Let the aroma fill you like the Holy Spirit, and let the bread of heaven fill your every need.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Gavin Maxwell, Ring of Bright Water (Lower Dairy, Toller Fratrum, Dorset: Little Toller Books, 2009)

[2] Wayne A. Meeks, “Exegetical Perspective, John 6:35-51” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

Questions for Reflection:

“Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31–32). Have you ever experienced bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, or malice in yourself or from others? How do you overcome and find grace to forgive? 

Household Prayer: Morning

God of the morning watches, my soul waits for you, and I hope in your word. Bread of life, nourish, strengthen, and accompany me throughout this day, that I may labor honestly, share with the needy, and imitate your love. Amen. 

Household Prayer: Evening

God of peace, I have struggled through the battle of life this day.  If you should mark my iniquities, how can I stand?  But there is forgiveness with you.  Let your steadfast love cleanse, comfort, and keep me through this night. Amen.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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