Yesterday we were warmly welcomed by the Hyde Park Methodists, for a joint service of Baptism and Holy Communion. We had a great time, singing Wesley hymns, getting the Methodists hooked on Rachel’s wonderful Bread of Life, and sharing the Cup of Blessing shot-glass-style 🙂
Over coffee and pub lunch afterwards, several folks reminisced about our two churches regularly worshipping and serving the parish together. We all thought more of that would be a good thing. And so- striking while the iron is hot- they’re returning the visit this coming Sunday at All Hallows! Hurray and halleluyah.
Here is Ben’s brief brilliant sermon:
In light of today’s reading I want to think about what it means to be a Christian.
What it means for us to be here, together, witnessing a baptism and participating in communion.
From the outset, such thinking seems to be a complex and daunting task.
Am I going to have to unpack what the author of John means by eternal life?
Does the meaning of Christian faith in this passage rest upon Jesus’ promise to raise people on the last day and our belief in that?
As important and interesting as these themes may be, I think there is a simpler, more immediate truth for us to find.
The voice that speaks to me from this narrative is not in fact that of Jesus. It is the words of the disputing audience members which have a particular effect:
‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’
This question relates to the meaning of Christianity because it relates to the meaning of Jesus.
How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
The giving of his flesh to eat is self-sacrifice, selflessness, self-giving-love. How can he do this? Because that is what he represents and is and therefore what God represents and is.
The famous German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that ‘the transcendent is not infinite and unattainable tasks, but the neighbour who is within reach in any given situation.’
To repeat: ‘the transcendent is not infinite and unattainable tasks, but the neighbour who is within reach in any given situation.’
Regardless of creed, colour, background or belief, God is to be experienced in the neighbour who is within reach. Being there only for others, giving one your flesh, is what it means to be a Christian.
The world is kept alive by such meaning and for us it is affirmed in the rituals of baptism and communion.
The openness, equalizing effect and unity of these practices, here in this Church today, dissolve our differences and allow our neighbour to be heard.