A reflection for the 15th August 2021
Eleventh Sunday after Trinity 2021
from the Revd. Stephen French
Offered for Sunday 15th August 2021
or from Bishop Donald (Peterborough)
Sunday Gospel Sermon 8th August - Trinity 10 John 6. 35, 41-51
'Eleventh Sunday after Trinity 2021'
Compiled 14th August 2021
Aren't Children wonderful in their glorious innocence! When Rebecca was three,
her parents took her to church.
She knelt at the communion rail receiving a blessing while Mum and Dad took
the bread and wine, and she was intensely interested by the whole process.
Afterwards, at Sunday lunch with her Grandparents, Rebecca suddenly said,
"I know what you drink in church."
"Coffee?" suggested her Mum, thinking of the social time at the end of the service.
"No!" said Rebecca with a certain relish. "You drink blood!"
Rebecca had listened carefully to the words of consecration in the service,
and, being only three years old, had taken them literally.
She caused some consternation in the family, for it was the first time
any of them had thought of the words of the communion service
in quite that way.
Let us Pray
Lord, your love reaches us from heaven
and your faithfulness fills the earth,
at your table we remember and bask in your goodness
drinking from the rivers of your blessing;
you are the source of our life
and the light of our way:
we praise you, Lord. Amen.
In the third and from my view the best of the four Indians Jones films
'The Last Crusade', Indiana and his enemies are involved in a race
against time to solve riddles and find the Holy Grail, the chalice
which legend has it was the one used by Christ at the Last Supper.
In one of the film's most dramatic scenes the enemies of Indiana do
indeed find the grail, but there is a problem: it lies concealed on a
rock shelf deep inside a mountain, amongst dozens of other chalices.
Indiana's arch-enemy has no doubts. He grasps the most beautiful
and ornate of the chalices, fills it with water and drinks it in triumph,
convinced that he will now live for ever.?
But almost immediately we are treated to a gruesome scene as the
man's face changes: he ages, visibly and rapidly, disintegrates and
falls to dust within the space of a few seconds.
Now Indiana has to make his choice, but he remembers Christ was a
humble carpenter. Ignoring all the beautiful and ornate chalices,
he chooses the poorest and humblest of the cups.
He has chosen correctly; and although the water he collects in it will
not give eternal life, it does have the power to restore his dying father
to full health.
If we really take in the words of today's Gospel reading from John 6: 51 to 58,
they don't make for easy reading.
One commentator, Benjamin Sparks, has been honest enough to admit his
tendency to avoid preaching on this passage, choosing rather the
accompanying epistle or Old Testament reading.
We may recoil, as Jesus' original audience did, on perhaps two counts:
the cannibalistic nature of the metaphor of "eating" the body and
blood of Jesus, and Jesus' exclusive claim only through this sharing
of the body and blood can we have life.
The direct challenge was too strong for many of Jesus' hearers,
and they immediately took his words and turned them into a matter
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" John 6:52.
Jesus refuses to enter into the argument, but straight away presses
home his point with even greater force:
"Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood, you have no life in you" John 6:53.
Jesus himself lives because of the Father who sent him; in the same way,
those who partake of the flesh and blood of Christ will live because
of him John 6:57.
The imagery used here is very different but there is a link with the
teaching in John 15, when Jesus urges his disciples to "abide" in his love,
the way healthy branches abide in the parent vine,
"because apart from me you can do nothing" John15:5.
How then do we respond to this passage?
The imagery is shocking, but parallel teaching such as that about
the branches of the vine may help us to see that the message of this
passage is not only found here; there are others:
in Matthew 19:16 to 22 the rich young ruler, a fervent follower of
his religion all his life, is told by Jesus that he lacks
only one thing: v.21
"go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you
have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me".
And with the words from Luke 9:60, "Let the dead bury their own dead;
but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God",
Jesus challenges a would-be disciple who
wishes first to attend to matters at home.?
The teaching in today's Gospel reading, and in these other examples,
offers a profound challenge to both our sense of priorities,
and to the ways in which we assess what is and is not of value in our lives.
In our illustration from the Indiana Jones film, Indiana's enemy died
because in choosing the most elaborate cup he committed a fatal error
in judging the values of Christ to be the same as his own worldly values.
Indiana made a wise decision, and consequently chose differently.
In John 6: 51 to 58 , Jesus urges the Jews not to make the same mistake:
yearning after the bread God gave their ancestors in the wilderness;
which did not prevent death; rather than trusting the eternal,
life giving gift that is Christ.
A few verses further on from this passage Chapter 6 v 66,
the author states "because of this teaching, many of his disciples
turned back and no longer went about with him".
In what ways, today, might we be challenged in the choices we make?
Jesus tells his hearers that his body
is to be the bread that gives life to the world.
The passage tells us no matter how difficult we find it,
those who do not eat his flesh and drink his blood
will have no life in them.
The imagery may be difficult
but the message is very similar
to that found in Jesus' teaching on the vine
and its branches in John 15 verses 1 to 11.
Jesus' underlying challenge to the choices we make
and the priorities and values we hold,
is found in other places in the Gospels,
might we be challenged in the choices we make?
May the Father,
who fed the children with bread and honey in the wilderness,
strengthen you in your pilgrimage to the Promised Land.
May the Son, who gave his body freely,
keep you in eternal life and
raise you up on the last day.
May the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth,
help you discern the Lord's body and empower you
to proclaim his death until he comes.
And the blessing.......