The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s132g15  Sunday 20   16/8/2015  Trinity Church Darfield

‘the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’  John 6:51

Having just prepared and preached a sermon on precisely this text last Sunday for the St Luke’s in the City congregation, I was tempted to simply use the same sermon this morning at Darfield.   Observant people will realise that the text ended last week’s gospel reading and begins today’s.

But then it happened that I found this quote of Cesar Chavez: ‘If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him... the people who give you their food give you their heart.’
(1)   Cesar Chavez ‘worked in the fields until (he was 25), when he became an organizer for .. a Latino civil rights group’.  (2)

Last week I commented that: ‘Sitting down and eating with another is about the most intimate way of having a relationship with another without actual physical intimacy.’  (3)

It is amazing what one can find through ‘Google’.  I happened upon this confession of one Elizabeth Bard: ‘I slept with my French husband halfway through our first date. I say halfway, because we had finished lunch but not yet ordered coffee.’     Perhaps the sweets had sedative in them :-)  (4)   She continues; ‘.. he was halfway to home base as soon as I cut into that marvellous steak.’   And the proverb says: ‘the way to a MAN’s heart is through his stomach.’

This is what Jesus did, he sat down and accepted the hospitality of others, the tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners.   In turn they gave him their hearts!

The church, on the other hand, ‘offers’ the bread of God to others - well only to those who are straight, baptised, confirmed, communicant, contributing Anglicans of ‘my’ and ‘our’ particular variety.   Our ‘holy communion’ is popularly perceived as defined actually by who is excluded.

The contrast is startling.   Jesus accepting the hospitality of one and all - and the church excluding all and sundry from their eucharist - affirming and thanking God that we are ‘not like other people’ who are sleeping in, mowing their lawns or washing their cars.  (5)  How is this paradigm of christianity related in the least to love and unconditional acceptance?

After a lifetime of attending worship and leading congregations, I have realised that everyone else is expected to come to ‘my’ and ‘our’ church but really only to admire and perpetuate what the current congregation do.  Heaven-forbid even the minister to suggest any change, even to the ‘Customary’ (6)  How does this demonstrate that we welcome and accept the possible contributions others may wish to make - as Jesus did?   I vividly recall a church ‘across the ditch’ which was only half finished - many years previously they clearly ran out of money.   The western wall - at the other end from the sanctuary and altar - was corrugated iron sheets - waiting for new parishioners to come and cough up what was needed to complete someone else’s vision for the building.   And they wondered why no one was interested!

Do we actually believe that everyone who isn’t a straight, baptised, confirmed, communicant, contributing Anglican of my particular variety is going to hell?   Do we actually believe that God rewards those who faithfully replicate our own beliefs?   Do we actually believe that God favours those who support and perpetuate our own ministry?

Increasingly I am rejoicing to see how so many, many people in the world are finding their own spirituality and creativity.   It might be music, surfing, political activism, conservation, capital ventures - the list is endless - and each and every one of us glimpse our own.   It may be that we have a green thumb, love horses, meditate while cooking, teach, star-gaze ..

So how do we as church accept the offerings such people might bring?   Musicians and florists have a ready ministry, yet often it is only singing from a particular song-book and replicating a usual arrangement, that are acceptable.   So much of what passes for church is about delineating and limiting the creativity of others .. and we wonder why the church is dying!   And what about the poor, the lame, the blind, children, the tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners, those without an obvious contribution to make?

I wonder how the world might be transformed, and how the church might be transformed, if we turned that most distinctive activity we practice as Anglicans and Christians, the Holy Communion we celebrate, inside out - offering it to one and all in the world!   We might be even more than ‘half way to home base’!

Or to take another example: Who enjoys cooking for themselves all the time?   We really enjoy cooking when we are going to share the meal with someone else.   So on a corporate level, the church will really begin enjoying her eucharists when she shares them with others, with people of other faiths and none.

This is how the church becomes a force for reconciliation and peace, rather than just another force for division having to be overcome.

This is what we do to follow Jesus, this is incarnation, and this the church corporate needs to take the lead on, otherwise our efforts as individuals will always be stymied and ineffectual because of that universal perception that the Holy Communion is only for the fully initiated.

‘the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’

4.  ‘Sex on a plate: in Paris, food and seduction are one and the same.’
5.  Luke 18:11