SUNDAY SCHEDULE
9:30AM Sunday School
11AM & 7PM Worship

2203 San Antonio St.
Austin, TX 78705

What’s for Dinner?

Krystal Leedy

August 16, 2015
John 6:51-58

 

 

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “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. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Krystal LeedyMy to-do list is long. Some of you can look down at your bulletin right now and note that your to-do list is also long. My to-do list just keeps getting longer, as I am still recovering from vacation. Many people warned me not to take vacation because the work after you come back from vacation has been stacking up while you have tried to relax in the sunshine. My to-do list is long because students come back to school a week from Wednesday, and Rally Day approaches. My to-do list is long because I live in an era where to-do lists are never ending. My to-do list is long because my life is changing in a matter of months. And my to-do list is long because the work of the church doesn’t stop. Stewardship season will still happen. Advent will still occur. Funerals still need to be performed. And Bruce still needs to be welcomed. Our to-do list is long.

This summer, I spent a few weeks at Mo-Ranch, teaching young people about the love of Jesus Christ and watching the wheels turn as they listened and analyzed their faith in creative ways. Our speaker for Youth Celebration, the high school conference, was Mark Yacconelli, a researcher of youth culture and theologian. He is a fascinating speaker, and this was one of those moments where Mo-Ranch just really pulled out all the stops to get Mark Yacconelli to Mo. Mark is a storyteller, like a Garrison Keillor or Fred Craddock. Mark tells stories about slices of life and then you draw your own conclusions from it. It’s classic inductive preaching. The way in which he tells story draws people in, and I became enamored with his stories. He told a story about someone who was struggling with being happy, someone who was truly down on his luck, and how in an African tribe, when people were feeling depressed, the local shaman would ask four questions: “When did you last dance? When did you last sing? When did you last tell stories? When did you last sit alone in stillness?” We were fixated on his beautiful word craft, and we too joined him in his questions. On about Wednesday of this week-long conference, though, I started to notice a trend. Each of his stories ended with a happy ending. Each of his stories was tied up with a neat little bow. Each of his stories did not mirror the sometimes harsh reality that we face or the laundry list of things that must be done each day, and I began to really question his message. One evening, we were gathered as small group leaders in Manor House, and as we sat there on couches, Mark said that he had something he wanted to ask all of the church workers in the group. He looked at all of us and said, “Why are pastors so tired all the time? Why do they do things that they don’t want to do? You should be doing the things that bring you joy in life, not the stuff that sucks out your soul?” I laughed. Literally laughed out loud. I felt like Sarah in the Bible when she has just learned she is going to give birth at age ninety. Everyone looked at me. I looked at Mark and told him that wasn’t reality. If I choose not to get my expense report done, no matter how much it sucks my soul to gather receipts, then I have no financial accountability to UPC. If I choose not to answer emails because we get so much junk mail, then things get dropped and pastoral care moments go unnoticed. If I choose not to do my to do list, then it will never get done. It does not matter how much it sucks the life out of me, the laundry list still must get done. Needless to say, I was not the most popular person in the room. Mark did get me thinking, though.

And Jesus got the Jewish leaders thinking with his talk about living bread. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The religious leaders turned up their noses and essentially said, “Ew, Jesus, that’s gross. I’m not a cannibal. How can this man give us flesh to eat? What does that do for me, exactly?” And rightfully so. It is gross. Jesus discusses his body as food for people. And instead of correcting the Jewish leaders, Jesus pushes the point further. You have to eat my flesh and drink my blood, he says. And to this bizarre story, we still say, “Ew, Jesus, that’s gross.” Yet each Sunday that we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim with boldness that this be for us the communion of the body and blood of Christ. There is a wide spectrum of theology on the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Communion. See? We can’t even agree on a name. In our wide spectrum of theology, there is an American political figure who claimed in an interview that Communion was a little cracker and some juice. And then there are those who believe that in the elevation of the bread, the bread becomes the actual body and blood of Christ. And I spend my time thinking that we are somewhere in between. We are good Presbyterians, after all, the moderates of the bunch. Sure, I can rattle off that John Calvin believes that all the saints are gathered in the moment when “Lift up your hearts” is said. I can say that we believe that Christ is here with us in this meal. I can say that this is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. I can tell you about the parts of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving and the reason we choose the songs we do for the Sanctus and the Memorial Acclamation and the Great Amen. But, I wonder so often about why we talk about this as a celebratory meal, a Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and we struggle to find life here. Many churches, unlike our own, do not even celebrate this meal on a regular basis, and I imagine it is because it is not life-giving for them. It is a chore. It is long. It is not easily reduced to basic elements. It is confusing. It is mysterious. And plus, as a seminarian, they encourage pastors to hold your arms up for a really long time. And when it stops becoming life-giving, it starts looking pointless, inefficient, and excruciatingly dull. And it becomes another thing on a list of stuff that must get done in a worship service. And I react with the same disgust that the religious leaders of the 1st century reacted with, “How can this man give us flesh to eat? What does that do for me, exactly?”

Mark Yacconelli and I reconciled. I have a feeling it’s because he is not fond of having loose ends at the end of a story. I thanked him, though, for making me think. My to-do list is long, but it is not without meaning. There are important things on there. Things that are not always fun but are meaningful. I don’t know that my expense report will ever be truly life-giving for me, but I did see some transactions on there from the summer. A transaction at Mo-Ranch, where I put the balance of the Junior High Jubilee Conference on my card—giving our UPC junior high students the opportunity to enjoy Mo-Ranch. I thought about getting to share the story of God with these young theologians who wanted to know more about what it means to be a Christian. Or the transaction from Shady Grove where I met one of my college students, Gracie, over the summer for a late lunch as she was headed back to McAllen. After spending a month at Faith Ministries in Reynosa, she wanted to go back and help the border effort because she was so touched by her experience on the Spring Break Mission Trip. Or, the transaction at Mother’s Café where I sat with my seminary intern, Jessie, and she talked about studying Greek and Montreat, and I realized what an amazing pastor she was going to be. Yeah, my expense report is boring, but if I actually take the time and think about what it means, what stands right behind those transactions, there’s something living there—and it’s made of flesh and blood. There are stories there. And it’s meaningful. And it’s beautiful. And these tables at Mo-Ranch and Shady Grove and Mother’s Café and this Table gives me life.

Yesterday, I was up here at church watching as people washed windows and polished the pews. I watched as folks cleaned the stained carpet and removed the wax. I watched as we placed chairs around tables and cleaned up bulletin boards. It was a long to-do list, a never ending to-do list. And we worked on it together, and we ate donuts and kolaches. There was some fun, but more importantly there was meaning. We shared a meal and made meaning out of this place. We said it was too important to leave undone. Church is not always entertaining, but it should always be meaningful. Just in the same way that life is not always full of joy, but it should be chock full of meaning.

And all we did was participate. And the joy broke through. All of this was already happening before I even got there. The saints are already present. The song is already being sung. The Table is set. The feast is prepared. Christ is here. Wait, now I’m getting ahead of myself. But Christ is here. Even in this moment, Christ is among us, and making mundane things like bread life-giving. And we are called to live into the life that Christ freely gives.

Jesus is the living bread. The living bread. And the bread is broken at this Table. The place where mundane ordinary things become meaningful. And as we join Christ in making meaning out of things that seem pointless and dull. In this service, we learn how to live: we dance, we sing, we tell stories, we sit in silence. We sit alone in silence as the words of the confessional prayer wash over us. We sing that God is holy and set apart from us. And we tell the story of how Christ lived on this earth, doing away with the boundaries that separate us, welcoming us in though we didn’t deserve it, raising us to new life. We sing that Christ came to earth and lived and died and ascended and he’s coming back. We sing our Amen. We sing that we want this to be so, that we believe that it is truth. That we believe that God is working, still making meaning out of mundane things like to-do lists and expense reports. No, God is not working, not sitting over a desk with a red pen in hand, God is dancing, and we participate in that creative dance of movement from one thing to the next to the next to the next.

It is not always entertaining. It is not always fun. But it is life-giving. And joy will break through.

In the name of the one who was broken so that we might live into new life, Amen.