A reflection for the 22nd August 2021
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2021
from the Revd. Stephen French
Offered for Sunday 22nd August 2021
or from Bishop Donald (Peterborough)
Sunday Gospel Sermon 15th August - Trinity 11 John 6. 51-58
'Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2021'
Compiled 21st August 2021
Have you ever become involved in an activity that started out fresh and exciting,
but then took a more difficult turn?
You may have joined a drama group, started to learn the piano or
decided to climb a mountain. As you go on, these activities may become
more demanding. Your dream was to perform on stage, not stay in at night
learning lines; you longed to make the piano sing with your fingers,
not plod up and down musical scales; you wanted to see a spectacular view,
not find yourself standing at the base of a steep ridge.
Seeing through something worthwhile can be harder than we expected.
We can feel dismayed by tasks we did not think we were signing up for.
This can face us with a decision, do we turn back downhill, pull out
of the play, close the piano lid; or do we press on to the end?
At such watershed moments, the choice is ours.
John 6: 56 to 69 ends our detour from Mark's Gospel.
Chapter 6 which we began reading five weeks ago opened with signs and
wonders, in which Jesus fed five thousand people and walked on water,
and now it ends on a dark note, a challenging 'Watershed Moment!'
Let us Pray
Lord Jesus, you have called us
to the life of discipleship:
make us better disciples.
You have taught us something of your truth:
Teach us still more.
Give us at all times openness of mind
and humility of heart,
that we may learn your will and
follow you more closely.
As you have called us to be your disciples,
so make us ready to learn all
that you wish to teach us.
Open our eyes to your truth,
open our ears to your call
and in the tasks of life
strengthen us to seek your will
and serve your kingdom.
There are many ways to be offensive, and many ways to be offended.
A television personality is caught, on camera, making suggestive
comments about his female co-presenter. Amid a public outcry he is
sacked from his job for his "sexist and offensive" behaviour.
A garish yellow and black label stuck to a car's windshield alerts
passersby the vehicle's owner has committed a "parking offence".
A wealthy businessman is invited to deliver a University address.
His talk is disrupted by a group of students:
"How dare you lecture us on peace and prosperity when your money
was made by selling weapons?
We are offended by your presence."
After the high-profile trial of a gang of youths who killed another
in a racist assault, the mother of the murdered boy tells reporters
she forgives the attackers.
Many people are perplexed.
"How can she let these thugs off the hook like that?
It's offensive to common sense."
The Gospel accounts speak to the basic fact; often overlooked;
most people who came into contact with Jesus did not love him,
believe in him or follow him.
In some way or another, most people were offended by him.
Yet what was so offensive about Jesus?
He didn't preach violence. He didn't ignore the lame, the sick or
the lonely. He didn't ingratiate himself with the rich and powerful.
He didn't belittle women. He didn't make crude jokes or shout
In John's Gospel we meet a Jesus who offends people not because he
thrusts them away from himself, but because he draws them near.
"Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father,
so whoever eats me will live because of me."
Note that here it's not the mysterious words of blood and flesh that
trouble the disciples so much as the declaration
'the truest and fullest life is found in this person'
who is standing before them. Jesus makes the high claim 'In him is life'.
This is not the Jesus of countless oil paintings and glorious gold-leaf
mosaics, of systematic theology or elaborate choral music; that comes later.
Instead, in John's Gospel we meet a man who is a real person.
A living, breathing man who says of himself that
"the one who eats this bread will live for ever".
A person who looks his disciples in the eye and says,
"The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life".?
"Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went
about with him."
Please note, it was not so-called "unbelievers" who were offended,
but people who had already chosen to be associated with Jesus.
Today many of us too have chosen to associate with Jesus by meeting
together in his Church. Yet it is precisely here that the possibility
of offence raises itself. The hard saying Jesus poses to his disciples
he poses to us:
"Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood 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."
Does this offend you?
If not; watch out! For those who are not offended at Jesus often
become an offence to others.
The first generations of Christ's followers who chose not to be offended
by his claim to be the source of life in all its fullness found themselves
seriously out of step with their society.
The early Church was notorious for the way that men and women from
different backgrounds, religions and social classes abided together
in the name of Jesus.
Their meetings were considered so subversive and odd a common slander
against the Christians was that they were cannibals;
a rumour based, of course, on this very passage.
But those who found life by taking on Jesus' life soon found other ways
To society's disgust these Christ-abiders took their faith so seriously
that they claimed there was only one way to be saved.
They took in unwanted children. They fed the undeserving poor.
They stayed behind to tend the sick while everyone else fled the plague.
They had hope.
They practiced forgiveness. They offended common sense.
As we too abide in Christ and he in us, it is good to look at our lives
through our Church and ask of our society; "Does this offend you?"
There are many different types of offence and can bring us to a
watershed moment! However, offence serves different purposes and
causing it is not always a bad thing.
Most people who met Jesus were offended by him.
This was not because he was antagonistic but because he made
high claims about who he was and the life he promised.
As in today's Gospel reading, sometimes the people who end up being
offended by Jesus are already in some way associated with him.?
Those in the community who chose not to be offended by Jesus and his
offer of life may well find themselves acting as a
"possibility of offence" to wider society.
you feed us with the living bread from heaven;
renew our faith, increase our hope,
and strengthen our love.
Teach us to hunger
for Christ who is the true
and living bread,
and to live by every word
that comes from your mouth,
and the blessing.....