Sunday, August 26, 2018

Father Riley's homily from August 26, 2018, Christ Episcopal Church

Breaking News:  
...The Vestry of Christ Episcopal Church, Saint Joseph, held our vestry retreat with The Rev. Canon John Bedingfield Saturday, August 25th in our Parish House.  Canon John helped the vestry in planning our future.

...The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays:  September 2, 16, and 30th.   We will have Morning Prayer on Sundays: September 9 and 23.

...There will be a vestry meeting following our service and congregational fellowship on Sunday, Sept 16.  We will be finalizing plans for our Stewardship Campaign which will begin in late September.

14 PENTECOST, PROPER XVI - B - 18         JOHN 6. 59-69

It was Thomas Jefferson who produced his own version of the New Testament by cutting out the parts he did not like or could not agree with, including the miracles Jesus performed, any suggestion that Jesus is God, no Virgin Birth, and no Resurrection. There are many today who do the same thing by disregarding the verses they cannot abide by or re-interpreting them to fit their own agenda.

Today’s passage comes at the conclusion of the lengthy “bread of life” discourse, which makes up the entire 6th chapter of St. John’s gospel.

It all began, you may recall, with the feeding of the 5000 and the people’ misunderstanding of what Jesus had done in multiplying the loaves and fishes. The climax came last week, when Jesus shocked his listeners with the pronouncement that his flesh was food indeed and his blood drink indeed.

Here we get the crowd’s reaction. Jesus’ words about “eating flesh and drinking blood” are naturally offensive to the Jews. The Old Testament is filled with prohibitions of such. This was a new and radical teaching and a difficult one for those Jews who heard him in the synagogue at Capernaum.

It was difficult in the sense that it was demanding not just to get one’s mind around it but to get one’s heart and soul into it. They had misunderstood the deeper meaning behind the feeding and now they misunderstand the spiritual meaning behind his words about eating and drinking.

The words I have spoken to you,” Jesus tells them, “are spirit and life.” They are stuck on the physical aspects of his words about eating and drinking and miss the deeper spiritual meaning behind his words. Therefore, St, John tells us that many of those who had followed Jesus up to this point, now made the decision to go no further because of his teaching.

Everything that Jesus has taught up to this point is demanding in every sense, but these words cause division. They might have been prepared to follow a prophet like Moses, or a would be Messiah as long as such figures kept within the bounds of the agendas and aspirations they had in mind.

However, Jesus did not fit into either. Thus, they made the choice to cut their ties to him. Many still ask whether Jesus really meant what he said about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. His words still cause divisions today within the Body of Christ because they are interpreted in different ways.

“Do this in Remembrance of Me” is seen by some as a memorial statement and the action that accompanies it is merely sentimental. For us and others within the apostolic tradition it is much more. In the Eucharist we re-in-act the events in the upper room and repeat Christ’ words, “This is my Body,” and likewise, “This is my Blood…” For us it is a sacrament.

There are those in our Western culture who think of religion as a purely spiritual thing. It doesn’t matter we are told, if these things happened or not, whether they were said or not; what matters is the spiritual truth behind them. That may sound fine, and it does up to a point, but it was not what John was meaning and it was not what Jesus meant.

The whole discourse, and indeed the whole gospel of John are about the Word becoming flesh; not the Word becoming an idea, a feeling, or an experience, as Tom Wright likes to say. The actual story of Jesus is what matters - what he said, what he did, and what he meant - and not just the parts we can easily accept but all of it with its demands and challenges.

Here Jesus is warning against a purely physical interpretation of his words about eating and drinking without the spiritual meaning behind them. He is urging his listeners to go beyond a one-dimensional understanding of what he is doing and saying and for this; they will need the spirit to help them. Without that, they will remain in unbelief. It is because of their unbelief, John says, that they turned back.

There is a difference between a follower and a disciple. A disciple is a student who sits at his master’s feet and learns from him. A disciple is not free to pick and choose from all that is being taught, that is, to refuse to accept the “hard sayings,” the ones that are difficult to get one’s mind round and one’s heart and soul into, and only accept the one’s that are not.

Nor is he free to re-interpret them to fit his or her own agenda. Or to cut and paste and create his or her own Bible as Jefferson did.

That is where faith comes in. Faith is a gift of God not an accomplishment of men. Faith enables us to believe and accept even when we do not fully understand. For now, we see in a mirror dimly. Faith is the key to discerning God’s truth. Faith is our shield against this present darkness.

Jesus said his words are spirit and life. The Spirit is a gift that leads us into all truth and helps us “to stand firm” as Paul exhorts the young Christians at Corinth even in the face of adversity, doubt, fear, and or our frail human understanding.

“So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ The crisis of belief is now upon the disciples. It is a test of their faith with even stronger ones to come. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go?
You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

But for now, Peter speaks for the twelve, including the one who will eventually turn his back on the Lord. For the moment they all choose to stick with Jesus. They represent the faith, the belief that Jesus has been looking for. That is, the recognition that in him, his words and his deeds, God was at last bringing into being the great moment that would set the whole world free from sin and death.

Christ’ words and deeds continue to demand a decision as a test of faith. Likewise, his teachings and his actions continue to cause divisions even among those who call them selves his followers. However, of all the words and deeds of Jesus, it was his willingness to suffer death on the Cross-so that the world might have life- that truly demands a decision.

For the cross is a sign of God’s Love to a broken and sinful world that sin and death are not all that there is. Rather for those who choose to believe in Him who died and rose again, there is salvation and the gift of new and eternal life.

Joshua demanded a decision from the tribes of Israel, “choose this day whom you will serve…” The world we live in challenges us with the same decision as a test of our faith. Will we choose to stick with Jesus? AMEN+

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Father Riley's homily from August 19, 2018, Christ Church, Bastrop

Breaking News:  
...The Vestry of Christ Episcopal Church, Saint Joseph, will be meeting with The Rev. Canon John Bedingfield Saturday, August 25th in our Parish House.  As Canon to the Ordinary, Canon John is in charge of transitions, congregational development, and more.  We look forward to Canon John helping us plan our future.

...The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sunday, August 26th.

...Sam Corson will be attending "Reimaging Faith Formation for the 21st Century" workshop at Saint James, Alexandria, Sept 15th.

...Diocesan Convention will be held in Pineville, Nov 3rd.  Sam & Faye will be attending for CEC.

...Ordination of seminarian Garrett Boyte (and others) to the transitional diaconate will be held at Saint James, Alexandria, Nov. 24th at 10am.

13 PENTECOST, PROPER XV - B - 18           JOHN 6. 51-58

Jesus said, “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.”

I cannot tell how many times as a young lad I was sent to the neighborhood grocery, a little mom and pop operation, only a few blocks away, to buy bread. Mother would be in the process of preparing supper and discover there was no bread for the table. So I was sent with a quarter in hand with the words “bring back my change.” Remember when bread was that cheap?

Today’s gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ “bread of life” discourse from the 6th chapter of St. John. For the past four weeks our gospel has been focused on bread, the bread of heaven, the bread of life, the bread come down from heaven that gives eternal life and today Jesus shocks his listeners with the added words “and the bread I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

It all began you may recall four weeks ago with the miracle of Jesus’ feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. This amazing feat got people’ attention, and soon they were seeking Jesus out to make him their king. They misunderstood who he was, and what he had done in feeding them by multiplying the loaves and fishes.

They had their own agenda which was to make him king so he could satisfy their every physical and earthly need. However, Jesus withdrew from them and crossed back over the sea to Capernaum. When the crowds who had been fed by him discovered that he was gone, they too crossed over and sought him out. They were hoping to see more miracles and perhaps be fed again.

They were focused on lesser physical things, physical blessings, verses deeper spiritual ones that Jesus was teaching through his healings and miracles. Are we any different? How often do we find ourselves in this sacred space week after week and before the Real Presence in the Reserved Sacrament and are focused on what Jesus can do for us?

Aren’t our thoughts often on lesser things, physical blessings? If we are honest with ourselves, we have to confess that there are those times when we really don’t hear what the lessons are saying. Moreover, I am sure there those times when your thoughts are elsewhere when the homily is being preached. We may lose our thoughts during the readings and or the homily but when it comes to the Eucharist our focus should be on Him.

Today’s passage is the climax to the whole of John’s 6th chapter. Jesus declares that in order for Him to be truly united with his believing followers, it is necessary for them to “eat his flesh and drink his blood.” The ancestors of those Israelites in his presence had eaten the bread they were given, but they still died.

This bread, this bread-of-life which is Jesus himself, is given to be broken in death so that those who eat of it may not die, but have eternal life in the present and the future and be raised up at the last day. There is a hidden message in what Jesus is saying: he will willingly sacrifice his life for the life of the world. This will become clear to the disciples later when in the upper room Jesus will institute the sacrament of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

That is not what his audience hears. Is it any wonder that his words about “flesh and blood” caused a stir? It still does today. However, what we might call “sacramental” thinking is absolutely essential to John’s gospel. In his prologue he wrote that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Jesus makes it clear that His flesh is food indeed.

In last week’s passage Jesus made eternal life dependent upon faith in him as the one who the father has sent. In today’s passage, it is made to depend on one’s participation in the Blessed Sacrament. However, they are not two separate doctrines as attested to by the words the priest proclaims as he places the consecrated bread in your hands and touches the cup of salvation to your lips:

“The Body of Christ the bread of heaven. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on Him in your hearts by Faith with Thanksgiving. “

That is the reason we kneel. We are in the Real Presence of Christ. In the Eucharist heaven and earth meet. We humble ourselves before God’s altar and extend our hands through the veil that separates heaven and earth to receive the bread of heaven and to drink from the chalice of God’s love.

We may have come with our thoughts focused elsewhere. Our hope that God in Christ would be able to do something for us, grant us a physical blessing, take care of an earthly need. We may have been deaf to today’s readings; you may even be somewhere else with your thoughts even as I speak.

But when it comes to celebrating the Holy Eucharist our thoughts, our focus should be on Him who sacrificed His life that we might live. There is a reason the altar is the central focal point of the churches architecture.

The sacrament of Christ’ own Body and Blood is God’s gift to us who believe that He is indeed the One who the Father has sent. It is by Faith we receive Him and feed on Him in our hearts so that we might be one with Him and He with us. The Blessed Sacrament is our spiritual nourishment for the time being.

What we do here in the Eucharist is but a foretaste of the heavenly banquet we hope to one day participate in which will be presided over by Christ himself. Thus, we do not take our participation lightly but reverently and with Thanksgiving for the bread of life which did not come cheap. The cost was His sacrificial death on the cross.

To participate in the Blessed Sacrament by Faith enables us as His followers to realize the meaning of His life of service and His death and sacrifice with all its atoning values, and accept service and sacrifice as the notes of our own life in Christ. The elements of the Holy Eucharist symbolize and convey the Divine Life, which makes service and sacrifice possible.

There is no deeper spiritual meaning we can hope to receive this day or any other, than to take and eat the bread of life God has given us in Thanksgiving and in remembrance of Him who died and rose again that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

Jesus said, “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.” AMEN+

Monday, August 13, 2018

Father Riley's sermon from August 12, 2018

12 PENTECOST, PROPER XIV - B - 18      JOHN 6. 35, 41-51

Our gospel for today continues with the theme “bread of life,” to which Jesus adds the promise of eternal life. However, Jesus’ opposition, the Jews, St. John’s designation for those who opposed him, complain, as did their ancestors in the wilderness.

This time their complaint is aimed directly at Jesus because he said, “I am the bread of life that came down from heaven. They know him, or at least they think that they do. We know your parents, they say. How can you say you came down from heaven? Here they openly oppose the idea of his divine descent.

In the five verses that are skipped over in today’s passage Jesus first chides them for their having seen him and yet they do not believe in him. Secondly, he makes the claim that those who do believe in him will have eternal life.

“No one can come to me,” Jesus said, “unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.” The Jews oppose him because their minds are closed. They have made the decision not to believe in him.

Too often, we forget what scripture and Jesus teaches us about the new life He brings now and the promise of eternal life that is ours in Him who do believe in Him. Not everyone is going to heaven. This remains a shocking reality to many even today as it did to those, including his own disciples, who asked him about it then.

It is not that God does not want everybody to be eternally in His presence. The reason not all will be is that God has created us with free will that is the ability to choose.  Not everyone chooses to follow Jesus. Remember the little camp song, “I have decided to follow Jesus?”

That reminds me of a story Bishop Tom Wright likes to tell about C.S. Lewis. It seems that Lewis was interviewed at one time by an American Christian journalist who was writing about well-known characters who had converted to Christianity during adult life. The theme was “decision.”

He wanted Lewis to tell him how he “had made his decision.” Unfortunately, for his project, Lewis refused to put it into those terms. He hadn’t “made a decision” he said. God had closed in on him and he could not escape. Tough at times he had badly wanted to.

The closest he would get to using the language the reporter was interested in was to say, “I was decided upon.” In his autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis describes it in a more evocative phrase: “His compulsion is our liberation.”

Last week those who had eaten their fill of loaves and fishes asked Jesus what they had to do to be doing the work of God. He answered: believe in him who God has sent. God invites and His invitation is always a balanced one with an open and free appeal: anyone at all who is thirsty is invited to come to the water that is an offer; anyone at all who comes to Jesus will not be rejected.

Throughout John’s gospel, he presents Jesus as Life and Resurrection. Moreover, Jesus identifies himself as such in today’s passage in the verses that are skipped over as well as the concluding verse. Jesus makes the promise that those who believe in him He will raise up at the last day. His promise is eternal life.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever…” Eternal life is the quality of life Jesus is promising. It is a sharing of the inner life of Christ. It is an offer made to anyone who believes in Him.

Eternal life tells you what sort of life it is, as well as the fact that it goes on after death. It is the life of the age to come, the new life that God has always planned to give to the world. Eternal life begins in the present when someone believes, and continues in the future beyond death.

It will eventually take the form of the resurrection life Jesus is alluding to in today’s passage but which is ignored by those who oppose him. Rather they are stuck on the idea that he has said that he comes from God. How often we get stuck on one idea about God and become deaf and blind to all that God truly is and does.

For example, one hears a lot today from various preachers and religious leaders that God is Love. And He is. One only has to look at the cross to see this is true. However, there is a path, a journey if you will; one must take in order to come to know the love of God, and to understand what the will of God is for each of us.

Repentance is the beginning of the journey to God. We have to make the decision to “turn” away from the life we were living before we were drawn by God. We have to choose to follow the new life God is offering and inviting us to in and through His Son, Jesus.

We have to learn to trust in God, and not ourselves. We have to learn to live by grace in order to continue to make the daily decision to follow him. We can’t get stuck on one idea about God, that God is love, for example, and think that if we love God we can do what we want and all will be well in the end. The gospel does not read that way.

The legalists in today’s passage decide not to follow Jesus, only oppose him, ridicule him, and try to discredit him before the people. “We know who you are. We know your father and your mother.” Yet God’s invitation came to them first in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Sadly, it was an invitation they decided not to accept to their own condemnation. Salvation cannot be earned. It is a gift of God for all who are drawn to him; to all who make the decision to follow in His ways; to live according to his will; to respond to his love with love.

Each time we come to God’s altar and kneel to receive the “bread of heaven”, we are receiving a foretaste of the heavenly banquet Christ himself will one day preside over. For now, it is our spiritual food as it was physical food for the Israelites in the wilderness.

However, once they crossed over into the Promised Land, they no longer received it nor needed it. For the land they inherited was one of milk and honey that satisfied their every need. One day we will no longer celebrate Eucharist, for then, we will be in the greater presence of Christ where all of our hopes and dreams; all of our wants and desires will be found in Him who is Resurrection and Life. AMEN+

Monday, August 6, 2018

Father Riley's homily from August 5, 2018

11 PENTECOST, PROPER XIII - B - 18       JOHN 6. 24-35

If there is one story from the Bible that describes the patient love of God and his slowness to anger it is the Exodus story.

From the moment, Moses instructed the people to get ready to leave Egypt and quickly eat the Passover meal, until the moment they were about to cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land, the people God had chosen as his complained, whined, and gripped about their lack of this or that and the situation they ultimately found themselves in.

They even convinced themselves that they had it good in Egypt as slaves of Pharaoh! “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread…” On more than one occasion, they wanted to turn back. Yet in their entire complaining God did not abandon them.

When they were thirsty, he provided water from rocks in the desert. When they were hungry, he littered the ground with quails for them to eat. If that were not enough, he sent manna from heaven, the very bread of God. Even then, they questioned, “What is it?” Moses had to tell them “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

Our gospel lesson for today picks up the theme of bread in the wilderness where the Exodus passage ends. The crowd, which had followed Jesus and had been miraculously fed by him, discovered the next day to their dismay that neither he nor his disciples were anywhere to be found. Therefore, they got into their boats and crossed back over to Capernaum.

These people were anxiously seeking the prophetic rabbi to see additional miracles and hopefully to eat again. What they received instead was the meaning of the story: that God gives the true bread from heaven and that Jesus is that bread.

The people know the wilderness story and they immediately relate it to Jesus. However, like their forefathers in the wilderness, they misunderstood what God did then. They thought it was Moses who had somehow been able to feed them and satisfy their thirst. Now they misunderstand what Jesus is doing.

They continue to seek “signs,” as though what God has done and what God is doing in and through Christ is not enough. “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What works are you performing?”

God rescued Israel from slavery and led them to the Promised Land. Jesus is here to rescue them and us from sin and death and lead all who believe in Him whom God has sent into the fullness of the Kingdom of God to live the new life that kingdom living brings.

However, the more Jesus does, the more the people want from him. Are we any different? Do we continue to seek “signs” from God in order to convince ourselves that He is really who he says he is? Do we take for granted what God has done for us and continues to do for us?

It seems that as people of faith we live in constant tension between the meaning and message of biblical stories for today and the reality of life today. As I said in last week’s homily, we are not here to ask what God is going to do for us next, but to give thanks for what he has already done in our lives and what he is continuing to do through his Son, Jesus.

We are here to open our eyes to the understanding, through Word and Sacrament, to the fact that the new Passover, the new Exodus, is taking place right now, and that Jesus is leading it.  That is what Jesus was trying to teach those who were on that side of the cross. It doesn’t matter just what Jesus can do for you or me. What matters is who he is.

First, John tells us, he is the one whom the father has set his seal. It is a mark that declares not only where he comes from but also that he carries God’s authority. What Jesus is doing in today’s gospel and what Jesus continues to do, God himself does.  Jesus and the Father are One.

Second, God is making a demand on us, and it is this: that we believe in Jesus as the one whom God has sent. He is the bread of life. This will require a change in heart along with the recognition that in Jesus, and everything he is doing, the same God is at work that was at work in the Exodus story.

What was going on all along as Israel wondered in the wilderness, was that God was providing not just the physical bread dropping down from the sky, but the spiritual nourishment which kept alive their faith and hope - faith and hope that kept them moving, albeit sometimes in circles, toward the Promised Land.

That is what God was doing then, and that is what God is doing now. The Exodus story is our story. If we cannot see that, we need to read it again. His grace nourishes our faith and keeps our hope alive as we continue the journey from the font of new life to the throne of God.

Scripture teaches us that our God is a loving and a patient God who provides all of our needs. Because of His love for us, he has sent his Son, Jesus to rescue us from sin and death. By the merits of Christ’ death and resurrection the way to eternal life has been opened to us. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of Life, is Christ’s gift to those who believe in Him as the one whom God has sent.

Until we, as God’s people, recognize who Jesus really is, we may eat our fill of loaves and fishes, but there will remain a deeper hunger inside which will never be satisfied. God feeds us and nourishes us with “the bread of heaven” in the sacrament of Christ’ own Body and Blood. It is our spiritual food that enables us through the eyes of faith to see Him as He really is and to see ourselves at one with Him.

“For the bread of God,” Jesus told them, “is that which came down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus responded, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” AMEN+

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Father Riley's homily from July 29, 2018

10 PENTECOST, PROPER XII - B - 18       JOHN 6. 1-21

In today’s gospel, we move from Mark, our gospel for Year B, to that of John. Before today’s reading from John, Jesus has healed the paralytic at the pool of Siloam just inside the gates of Jerusalem. It was the Sabbath and his actions roused the anger of the Jewish leaders to the point they decided he must die.

In their questioning of him, however, the Pharisees get more than they bargained for. Jesus goes into detail to explain that he and the Father are one and what he is doing is the work of the father, which angers his inquisitors even more. Jesus has made himself equal to God and that will not do. It is after “these things,” John tells us, “he went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.”

As usual, a large crowd follows him because they have seen him heal the sick and they want to see what he is going to do next. Jesus goes up on a mountain and sits down with his disciples. However, the crowd catches up to him. John reminds us that the Passover feast was near. I will come back to that detail in a moment.

Seeing the crowds coming towards him, Jesus tests his disciples with the question “where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip does not know what to do or how to answer. They are out in the middle of nowhere and besides they do not have the funds to buy enough for each person present to have a little, including them.

Neither does Andrew know what to do. What Andrew does is to bring to Jesus’ attention that there is a lad present that has five loaves and a few fish. Then he surrenders the whole idea to the reality that the lad’s lunch will not put a dent into the hunger of a crowd of 5000. However, according to John, Jesus knew what he was going to do from the beginning.

Have the crowd sit down he tells his disciples and bring me the fish and the bread. Then the miracle occurs. He takes the fish and the bread and blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to those seated and he kept on giving until they had all eaten their fill. Then, to the disciple’s surprise, Jesus has them gather up the leftovers, which filled twelve baskets.

John doesn’t record the disciples’ reaction to the feeding only the people whose hunger was met. “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” Let us make him our king. The reaction of the crowd shows that they misunderstood him. They rushed to make him king in order to fulfill their own desires and agendas.

Jesus seeing their intention withdraws with his disciples further up the mountain leaving the excited crowd behind. Darkness came and the crowds dispersed. The disciples decided it was time to head for the boat and make it to the other side of the Sea. Jesus remains on the mountain. The disciples cast off without him. That is when the second test comes.

The disciples struggled to cross the sea for the wind was against them. About mid-way across the sea to Capernaum, they see Jesus walking on the water and coming near the boat. Their reaction is one of fear.  However, he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they willingly received him into the boat and immediately found themselves ashore.

Their terror ends, as does their ordeal once Jesus is in their presence. The presence of Christ restored their faith. Faith untested is no faith at all. It has to be tempered like steel if it is to carry us through the terrors and ordeals of life. The tempering comes through repeated challenges to our faith until our faith in God assures us that He will do something, something we have not thought of, something new.

Like Andrew in today’s story, we don’t always know what to do, but what we can do is to bring to Jesus whatever we have. In some cases that will be our lack of faith, our doubt, even our fear. And like the disciples who were struggling to make headway in the storm, when we realize that Jesus is present, our faith is renewed by our realizing God’s has loved us through it.

God is love and God’s love will sustain us if we only believe. In time of fear, doubt, depression, anxiety, even anger, we must look for Jesus in our midst for the light of his presence penetrates the darkness in our lives and his word “it is I” dispels all fear.

When I was a child, there were no “night-lights.” We have all at one time or another been afraid of the dark. In my case, my mother gave me a Jesus “night-light” if you will. Perhaps some of you had one too.

It didn’t plug into a wall socket. It didn’t have a bulb as they do today. It was a picture of Jesus that was covered with some type of luminous substance. When the room was dark, the face of Jesus appeared.

My mother placed it on the wall at the end of my bed and I can remember many a night I said my prayers looking at Jesus and fell peaceably asleep knowing that He was present. He was present then, and He is present now.

Jesus fed 5000 people when the feast of Passover was near. The Feast of Passover was celebrated then and now as a reminder not only that God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt but also sustained them and protected them by His presence throughout their journey to the Promised Land.

Whether the people realized it or not, and most likely they did not, what Jesus did for them on the mountain was reminiscent of what God had done for Israel during their wondering in the wilderness. God fed Israel with “bread from heaven.” In addition, the actions Jesus takes in today’s feeding are a prelude to his actions in the upper room when he instituted the Eucharist in the presence of his disciples.

He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples with the words “this is my body broken for you…do this in remembrance of me.” The crowds in today’s story followed him up the mountain and were miraculously fed, as were their ancestors in the wilderness. The disciples will soon follow him to the upper room thinking they are going to eat the Passover meal with him; instead, he will feed them sacramentally.

We, as the family of God gather here week after week in this sacred space to learn to follow Jesus. Here we are fed by Word and Sacrament. At the foot of God’s altar is the place to deposit our own desires, our own agendas, our doubts and fears and take to heart our reason for being here.

Which is not to see what God is going to do next in our lives but to give Thanks for what He has already done, and continues to do in and through the merits of His Son, Jesus, who died and rose again that we might have the new life in Him faith brings.

It is His Body and Blood, the “bread of heaven” that we feed on in our hearts by faith with Thanksgiving that creates our oneness with Him and reminds us that He is ever present to those who love him. Therefore, let us keep the feast. AMEN+