Tag Archives: life

The Value of One

A sermon preached at the Church of the Incarnation, San Francisco, on September 11, 2016, by Christopher L. Webber.

On a crystal clear September morning fifteen years ago today, two airplanes full of people like you and me plunged into the Trade Towers in lower Manhattan where nearly 20,000 people were at work. Another plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth plane plunged into a field in Pennsylvania. When the day was over some 3,000 people were dead.

So 9-11 has become a date to remember and this year it falls on a Sunday when the Gospel reading talks about the value of a single life. Jesus asks, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? … Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

God places such value on one.

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I Am the Bread of Life

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Gospel Reading

Let me begin with an admission: I like bread. I really like bread! Maybe that’s why today’s Gospel reading appeals to me so much. For the subject matter of Jesus’ teaching today is bread. The Gospel lesson begins with one of the most amazing statements in the Bible: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” The statement is full of hope and promise, but on a literal level it is clearly untrue. Jesus is not literally made of bread, and Jesus’ followers may very well suffer physical hunger and thirst.

Bread

So, if Jesus is not speaking literally, how is he speaking? In a metaphor…in a metaphor that needs some unpacking. What Jesus is claiming is that he is the true source of spiritual nourishment, and that those who are fed by him will be spiritually filled. And folks, we humans, by our very nature, hunger and thirst for such spiritual nourishment, whether we realize it or not. When we are spiritually empty, we look to fill that emptiness with all kinds of things: money, property, food, drugs, alcohol, sex…the list goes on and on. But if we would fill the spiritual emptiness, we need only look to Jesus Christ. Through his teaching, we can be filled. Through his mediation with the Father on our behalf, we can be filled. Through the sacrament of his Body and Blood, we can be filled.

Now, Jesus’ original audience may not have fully understood what he was trying to say, but they knew that he was speaking in some kind of metaphor. So rather that criticize his statement that he is the bread of life, they focus on an earlier statement that he is the bread that came down from heaven. Here they feel they are on firm ground, for they know where Jesus came from. (Or at least they think they do!) They know his father and his mother, and his brothers and his sisters. But they don’t know what we know: Jesus is the Divine Word made flesh; he is God incarnate. So even though he was born of a woman and raised by an earthly father and had brothers and sisters, he is indeed from Heaven.

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Hating Our Life in This World

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel reading, like those of the last two weeks, is from the Gospel according to John. Now, John is undoubtedly the most mystical of the four Gospels. But it also is the most mystifying! It paints a picture of stark, black-and-white contrasts: good vs. evil, light vs. darkness, love vs. hate, eternal life vs. life in this world. And students of the Bible have long noted that the language of John’s Gospel is unusual. Some scholars have concluded that this Gospel is written in a kind of code, where everyday words take on new and deeper meanings. This insight helps with today’s difficult Gospel reading. At least, I hope so! Because of the many difficulties in today’s reading, I am going to focus my remarks on the first seven verses, which tell of Jesus’ reaction to a visit by some Greeks.

The story starts off with some Greek-speaking foreigners approaching Philip in order to get an appointment to see Jesus. Perhaps they chose Philip because he had a Greek name. After going through the customary social chain of command, Jesus finally gets the message that some Greek-speaking foreigners are waiting to see him. His response is unexpected. He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Now, since we haven’t been reading the Gospel of John in course, you may not be aware that, up to this point in the Gospel, Jesus has repeatedly told his disciples that his hour had not yet come. So, why does Jesus now say that the hour of his glorification has come? And what does he mean by “glorification”?

Well, previously, Jesus’ ministry had been centered on the Jews (with one side-trip to their religious cousins, the Samaritans). But now, for the first time, people from a foreign land have begun to seek Jesus out. Jesus perceives that this is a divine sign that his earthly ministry is about to be completed and that, after his glorification, salvation will be extended beyond the borders of Judea, to people like these foreign pilgrims. Only after he is “lifted up” from the earth will he be able to draw all people to himself.

Now, in John’s Gospel, when Jesus speaks of his “glorification” or of his being “lifted up,” he is using that coded language that I was speaking of earlier. Both of these terms are code for “crucifixion.” For according John, it is through the very humiliation of Jesus’ crucifixion, where he is quite literally “lifted up” on the cross, that Jesus is to receive glory from God for his obedience. And this paradox of glorification through humiliation goes to the very heart of John’s Gospel.

Theologians have long pondered why Jesus had to die on the cross in order for the world to be saved. The Gospel of John gives a “sort of answer” to this question. The answer is that Jesus must die on the cross, so that salvation may be extended beyond the borders of Judea to all the nations of the world. This is made clear a couple of chapters later in John’s Gospel, where Jesus explains that the Spirit cannot come unless he departs. And it is through the Spirit that Jesus will bring salvation to the rest of the world. Crudely put, it is like a relay race, where Jesus hands over the baton to the Holy Spirit, who will finish the race. Now, I will grant you that this answer leads straight to another question, namely, Why couldn’t the Holy Spirit come into the world without Jesus’ dying on the cross? Well, I don’t know! And John’s Gospel certainly doesn’t tell us.

220px-Wheat_harvestNow, back to the story! After declaring that his hour has now come, Jesus offers his disciples a proverb, along with an explanation. He says (and this is my literal translation): “Amen, Amen, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it abides alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. The one who loves his life loses it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Now, this is undoubtedly a difficult saying. On the face of it, it seems to call us to hate our lives and to seek our own deaths. But here again, we need to decode John’s language to get Jesus’ real message.

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