Rev. Elizabeth Gleich is the Associate Pastor of Children and Youth Ministries at First Congregational Church of Glastonbury.
Scripture: John 6:56-69 (NRSV)
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 for ever.’ He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ 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.’
This scripture reading from the final verses of John’s 6th chapter, comes at the end of the famous “bread of life” discourse. It is clear that after all of it, in which Jesus multiplies the loaves and fishes, walks on water, and repeatedly teaches that he is the “living bread, sent from heaven,” the disciples are still thoroughly confused. They ask him, “This teaching is difficult: who can accept?” While it is easy to harp on Jesus’ followers for their lack of understanding (after all, who could have any doubt after seeing Jesus literally walk on water??), their question sounds familiar to my ears. It’s a thought I’ve had more than once in my ministry, and in my life as a Christian. I’ve thought, along with the disciples, “This way of life Jesus calls me to isn’t easy…how can I accept it?” Or, even more difficult, “how can I lead my church in the ways of Christ, when sometimes I can’t even seem to understand or follow?” Even in the early days of the church, those who were closest to Christ himself had trouble comprehending this radical, new way of life they were being called to. For later in the Gospel of John, Jesus will instruct them to follow a new commandment, one that asks them to put down the laws of old and to “love one another as I have loved you.”
At first glance, this commandment seems fairly straightforward: “love each other like Jesus loves us.” Fairly simple, no problem! But, we all know it’s not that easy. The kind of love that God has for us is so great and looming and all-encompassing that it is beyond our comprehension. That, when we try to mirror this kind of love for others, we fall way, way short. Our human finitude is glaring – blinding! - when we take a hard look at our own lives and the current state of our nation. It is then when I feel solidarity with Jesus’ followers when they asked, “this teaching is difficult: who can accept it?” We have elected leaders who have repeatedly assaulted women and who have ordered the imprisonment of vulnerable refugees and immigrants. People of color are dying daily at the hands of law enforcement, and we are destroying protected and precious land to fill the overflowing pockets of billionaire oil executives. How can we follow Jesus to love one another as he loves us, when we are failing so miserably?
We are no different from those early followers of Jesus, except that we have had thousands of years to get it right. Yes, it is clear that we need Christ’s teachings and grace more than ever.
Prayer:Oh God, let us never forget your commandment, and forgive us when we fail to understand and to teach others in your ways. May we be like Peter and proclaim, “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.” Amen.
New Prayer Requests:We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- for those grieving or suffering after a bridge collapsed in Italy, killing over 40 on August 14.
- for the family and friends of Rev. Ken Taylor, retired UCC pastor and former Associate Conference Minister for the CT Conference. Ken died on Aug. 11.
- for those potentially in the path of Hurricane Lane in the Pacific Ocean.
- for the many college students who are leaving for school in the upcoming weeks.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- the summer rains that cool us down from the heat.
- for the joy of seeing friends and family excel with their gifts.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Storrs Korean Church UCC
First Congregational Church of Stratford
Lordship Community Church UCC
First Church of Christ Congregational, UCC
Taftville Congregational Church, UCC
This Week in History:
Aug. 20, 1977 (41 years ago): Voyager II was launched. The long-distance space craft was designed to send information and photographs of the outer planets while carrying a recording of the "Sounds of Earth" on a copper disc. Voyager II and its sister ship Voyager I passed Pluto in 1990 and are now sailing into the outer solar system. They will continue to send information until sometime in 2020 when their nuclear power systems are expended to run out.
August 20, 2018