#OneforAll is the reflection for August 23, 2015. After four weeks of laying a foundation, the question is begged, “For what are we connected to God in the Eucharist?” Are we connected? Find out in “OneforAll”, the podcast for this week. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #RoseWindow #JohnHenryNewman #BeingDad #Community #Church #BlackLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/23/2015 The 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read John 6:56-69.
The Rose Window, about which I have linked to a video at MySpiritualAdvisor.com, has been part of the architecture of the Christian church since the medieval period. If you are not familiar, the Rose Window is a circular window cut out of the stone, usually above the entrance to the large cathedral like gothic structures and on either side of the cross member like outlay of the Church, called the ‘transepts.’ I love Rose Windows; I love stained glass. The window itself is a circle with a small window in the middle. Around the middle window, which is usually a circle or clover leafed, there are pedal-like windows that extend to the outside larger circle, all the while they are getting larger toward their outside end. These outer windows look like pedals of a flower, a rose, from which the window gets its name.
Usually, in the middle window is some representation or symbol of Christ because He is the center of our faith, our life, our hope. The Rose window itself has been used as a metaphor. John Henry Cardinal Newman, when he was making the case for why theology should be taught at the public university, said that the center window has a view over all the other pedal windows. The smaller pedal windows represent the different disciplines of study. They want to exert control over all the others. So, science now, wants to have the place in the middle center window, but its focus is on the observation and measuring of things. Science has a glaring weakness that modern culture has not yet caught up to: science cannot measure things we know exist but are not measurable, nor necessarily repeatable through human manipulation.
At other times, sociology will want to control, but it is only a study of the patterns of human behavior and can only serve as a tool to tell us what is happening now, not what should happen, or could happen for our benefit. We have to come to our own determination of what things we can do to counter sociological trends. Like, what should we do about the lack of the presence of men in the African American community? Is this a result of the over incarceration of African American men with unduly strict sentencing laws, or a court system that favors the wealthy? Have we systemically segregated the black community with our economic structure thus leaving a chain reaction that removes African American men from their homes in urban communities? These are all connections we have to make extrapolating from sociology.
Newman said that theology is a study of the objective and ultimate meaning of life. It impacts and informs all areas of study as to meaning. Therefore, it should have the center of the Rose Window called the university because it impacts science, sociology, etc., because it provides meaning. Theology critiques all areas of study by providing an objective view. It asks, is this really important? Should we do this knowing what we know about what it means to have a God and what it means to be human in relationship with that God?
To my children’s chagrin, I used to use the Rose Window as an example in my home. I used to tell them that they were pedals in the window. They could see their own wants and needs, but I was the center window. I was looking out for everyone’s needs and balancing everyone’s interests. Sometimes, others in the family had greater needs than they and they needed to sacrifice. Sometimes, they would just have to trust my judgment. Sometimes, I could not reveal the private business of one sibling to the other to justify my actions. What they would have to know, is that I loved them and wanted what was best for everyone, without denying what was best for them individually.
In today’s reading for this sermon/reflection, we have the same situation. I have been talking for the last four weeks about this passage from John 6 and how we needed to be open to God what God could do. We needed to be open to the idea that God is not captive to the same physics we are. We needed to acknowledge that Jesus is the Bread of Life come down from Heaven. Last week, I said that how God makes himself available to us is by defying physics and presenting Jesus’ body and blood to us in the Eucharist as the ordinary way that we commune with Jesus and one another. This week, we are finding that those who follow Jesus and the Jews who are large and in charge cannot accept this teaching.
The very language, “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood” is hard for those who follow the dietary restrictions of Judaism. It is known that the blood has life in it, as it states in Leviticus. The reason why Kosher food had to have the blood drained from the meat is because only God could consume someone’s life. We could not even consume the life of the sacrificial cow, lamb, bird: life is God’s turf, not ours, even in what we eat. This is even before we get to the idea of cannibalism, something Christians were accused of for at least three centuries. The idea is gross unless, as I pointed out last week, we know that God comes to us in a form that we can accept. He comes to us in the Bread and Wine, Body, Blood, soul and divinity, of Communion.
So, to the observing Jew, Jesus’ words are hard to follow. He must be rejected because what he is saying requires us to think of God as being more than what we want. This is a point I made earlier in this series, but it is important for today’s reading: we must be open to the idea that God is God and we are not. We must be open to the idea that God can do things on the spiritual level that impacts and works through the physical reality. We must be open to the idea that this world is not the only world that exists, but that there is a world outside of the cosmos, an eternity which exists and to which we are going. From that eternity, God reaches into human history in Jesus Christ, the Word, and touches us, changes us, readies us, for the world to come.
The problem for the second group who are following Jesus, the group this passage calls “some disciples”, is that they were looking for a Messiah who was like David, Solomon, and Josiah. They were looking for an earthly king who would take care of their earthly wants. I can only say that as we are looking for a new President these days, can you really imagine any of those men and women being the person who is sent by God to save the world. Could you imagine Donald Trump as our spiritual leader? We would have to have a shock of ridiculously over the top hair as our symbol. Or, Hilary Clinton? Then we would have to replace our crosses with pant suits. Because Jesus was going to call them to something more than just a new nation, the “some disciples” group left.
So, that leaves us and how we relate to the Rose Window concept of our relationship with God. What is it that we want to impose on others that would make the Kingdom of God and our local church just what we wanted? What ideas about the Eucharist would we need to set aside so that we could be who God wants us to be as a community? Or, is that it? Is it that we don’t really want to be a community, but we want our faith to benefit us individually, regardless of who is sitting as far away from us as they can get in the pews around us?
At a recent conference put on by the Center for Parish Development I had the pleasure of attending, they put forth the idea that God calls the community. Israel, the first church we see in Acts, the spread of the Gospel before Rome got involved, all of it shows that God wants to call a people, a community that centers around the Eucharist in worship every Sunday and leads a very different life during the week. Yes, salvation is individual, but it is to bring the individual into a different kind of community, markedly different, than others.
It is not like the workplace that has everyone competing for higher salaries, more prestige, and more power. It is not like the political world that is all about imposing our own will upon the other. It is a community that is loving to one another. It is a community that is generous to the needs of the other. It is a community that knows the sins and foibles of everyone involved and forgives, heals, and helps. It is a community that is not founded in power and imposing anything. It is a community grounded in love. It is a community that is grounded in sharing the common loaf and the common cup because we are one.
To whom shall we go for this life? Do we go to the “job creators”? Do we go to the government? Do we go to the people who agree with us always? Or, do we go to the people who have answered this question, “Lord, to whom can we go?”
It is Jesus to whom we go. We need to go to him every week, if not daily, in the Eucharist. It is through him that we receive life and life in his name. How do we know? We know because he says so. We don’t need any philosophical explanation, any appeal to human reason, or any other measure of truth than Jesus’ words.
“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day….[they] abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.”
I trust that Jesus, fully God and fully human, is at the center of our Rose Window. [As we go to our community of faith this weekend, are we living out this connection to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit?] [As a community of faith, are we living out this connection to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit?] Are we, ourselves, loving to those we don’t know in the seats around us? Are we joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled around those in the community of faith, those who worship with us? Or, do we even know them? Do we even dare to live like we are called to live? Amen.
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