Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

DID GOD PROVIDE ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE?



Jesus was led into the wilderness immediately after his baptism to be tested. The Holy Spirit guided him there. The testing came in response to Jesus’ baptism during which he was declared to be the most beloved Son of God.

Jesus’ time in the wilderness tested the very meaning and identity of not only Jesus, but also God. The first temptation touches on our Gospel reading for this coming Sunday.

The tempter comes to Jesus and suggests that Jesus’ physical hunger is an opportunity to show that he is truly the Son of God: The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’" (Matthew 4:3)

Implied in this challenge is the belief that there is not enough bread or food in the world to feed hungry people and that if God were truly all powerful, he would simply turn stones into bread.

Is it really true that there is not enough food on the planet to feed all of the people of the world?

Is it God who is to blame for not producing more food so that the starving will be fed?

Is that what you believe? Is that what the church believes?

Is that what the world believes?

Watch how Jesus responds to the tempter’s challenge: Jesus answered, “It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading Jesus says: “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 forever."

Jesus is the "Word made flesh," as stated in the beginning of the Gospel. Jesus’ response to the tempter is a response to the belief in scarcity. Behind the accusation that God has not provided enough to feed everyone who is hungry or who is sick and in need of health care or homeless and in need of shelter or any of the other things in life that we all value is a refusal to acknowledge that God is a good and loving creator whose creation was made sufficient for the needs of all of his children.

To eat the flesh of Jesus is to eat the truth of God’s sufficiency; God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s presence among us. This is not about literally eating Jesus’ flesh, but rather feasting upon the Word of God, the life of God which Jesus brought into the world.

The Eucharist is not just a meal for individuals. Jesus is the Word of God and is the very food and drink for the life of the world. If we become what we eat then we will live abundantly, responsibly, lovingly, mercifully, and as God’s presence in the world. We will live in hope rather than fear.

Each week the bread of God’s blessing and presence is held up for us to see the wholeness and goodness of creation and it is blessed and then broken so that it can be handed out to all who come to the Table.

We do this as faithful stewards of God’s abundance. The Eucharist reminds us that God has given us enough of his gifts of food, shelter, healing, and life so that no one should be deprived of any of God’s abundance. To the tempter who comes to us with the lie of God’s insufficiency and cruelty, we must reply: “We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

"The body of Christ. The bread of heaven."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

IT IS WHAT YOU'RE EATING

"When bread was placed on Table bare with wine poured red in chalice rare, the promised presence of God was whispered again." RWC+

























There used to be an ad for an eating disorder clinic that said: “It’s not what you’re eating that is the problem, it’s what’s eating you.” I understand what is trying to be said in this advertisement. Often times we eat as a way of relieving the pain and suffering in life. The food is a temporary and finally a deadly source of comfort in the face of all of the suffering and pain of life.

I would like to offer an additional take on this idea. Read the words below from the canticle Pascha Nostrum (Christ Our Passover.

Alleluia.
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

We often refer to situations in life that are based upon the consumption of food or other less edible or appealing things.

“I really ate it.”
“Eat my dirt.”
“Life is sweet or bitter.”
“Life is like a good or bad meal.”
“You are what you eat.”

This last one is terribly important to our understanding of the place of bread and wine in the worship of the church. Ancient Israel was commanded to eat unleavened bread to remember their captivity. Leavened bread can taste fantastic compared to unleavened bread. Perhaps the point of eating unleavened bread was to remind Israel that their life in Egypt may have appeared to taste good to them compared to the “freedom” of the wilderness.

Slavery in Egypt was not perfect or without suffering, but it was dependable. Three square meals a day and hard work are not a bad diet for most of us. The point is that Israel’s slavery was causing them to forget the God whom they had been coming to learn about and whom they had claimed prior to their enslavement in Egypt.
Every week we hear these words spoken as the bread is broken: “Christ as our Passover is sacrificed for us.”

And we reply:”Therefore let us keep the feast.”

But there is more to this two sentence vesicle. In I Corinthians 5:8, Paul is trying to communicate with the church about behavior within the church which is poisoning the life of the community. He calls this behavior the “old leaven of evil and malice.” Leaven or yeast comes from previously created bread dough. Paul is saying that a little bit of this old stuff can change the bread of the community.

We have all experienced how a little bit of negative gossip, fault-finding, and the blame game can pollute an entire community. If you recall, Israel ended up in Egypt to avoid famine and were saved by the very brother (Joseph) whose own brothers had sold him into slavery. After a generation or so had passed, Israel had to deal with a pharaoh “who did not know Joseph.”

So, the originating actions of jealousy and betrayal of Joseph is the old leaven of “malice and evil.” God redeems Israel in the midst of this continuing leaven in response to their cries for rescue from Egypt. Pharaoh was, to be sure, a slave to the same leaven that had infected Israel prior to their entry into Egypt. But unlike Pharaoh, Israel was chosen to set the world free from this way of malice and evil.

Paul draws on Israel’s use of unleavened bread as a sign of a new start that did not begin with malice and evil, but rather was created with sincerity and truth that does not depend upon malice and evil to survive and thrive. Just so, Jesus uses bread as a symbol of his body and it is unleavened. It is what Jesus offers to us to live on—the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

What this means for us is deep and takes a life time to begin to comprehend. What we have been eating is the leavened bread of malice and evil served up by a world whose survival is believed to depend upon deceit, violence, and exclusion; a world where poverty is accepted as “just the way it is,” and where values other than love and compassion and mercy seem to be what we eat each day.

Such a diet turns us into what we eat; what we consume finally and completely consumes us. Jesus calls us to God’s Table for the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth where all of God’s children are loved and none are left behind to starve for lack of charity and the will to act upon that charity. If we want to be like Jesus who desires to be like his Father in Heaven, we will find our nurture in Jesus’ body and his blood. His love, God’s love, is not some abstract feeling or belief, but is as real and substantial as the bread placed into our hands every time we come to God’s Feast. We are what we eat.

Alleluia.
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;
therefore let us keep the feast, Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So also consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

(BCP, Page 82)Canticle: Christ our Passover - the Pashca nostrum

Saturday, August 08, 2009

NO LEFTOVERS

NOTE: This reflection is a continuation of my reading of the Gospel begun in the reflection below this one. If you have clicked through to this location please drop down to read the remainder of the previous reflection and then return to this reflection. Thank you.

Before original sin there was original blessing. Sin seems to be our attempt to create the peace and unity of the original blessing without God or those others who disturb our peace and who we believe are the cause of all of our problems.. The bread of the Great Thanksgiving reveals who we were, what happened, and how the original blessing will finally replace sin as our way of being human.



When the bread is lifted up and shown to those who gather at the Table we see how God sees us: whole, complete, and without anyone being excluded. We see this whole bread as we hear the words:

“On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.’” (BCP,Page 363 )

In these words that institute the Holy Communion, Paul draws the image of what the story of the Garden of Eden seeks to describe, “the handing over” of God and the original blessing to suffering and death. Jesus anticipates this handing over when he breaks the bread of blessing. The broken bread represents our broken world which is fractured by all human attempts to imitate peace and unity without God.

Religion seeks to bind us together by defining the “us.” If “us” does not include every broken piece of the bread that Jesus calls his body given for us, there will always be leftovers (recall the feeding of the 5,000 with 12 baskets left over and the feeding of the 4,000 with 7 baskets left over). Leftover bread is the sign that we have not yet arrived at the place we started, the original blessing.

Jesus feeds us with the bread of original blessing broken by us. The bread is taken into us physically and that bread is what we become. Evangelism is about sharing the blessing of God in the midst of a world that rejects this blessing even while it seeks to create a faux version of it. It is false peace and unity because it demands that someone be excluded in order for it to be.

Jesus says: “I am the bread of life.” By giving himself up to create our false peace and unity, Jesus finally included even those who reject him, even Christians, in the bread of blessing. The final feast of creation will end and begin when everyone has eaten this bread and made sure that no one is denied. At the end of this feast there will be no leftovers because everyone, without exception, will eat and be satisfied.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Pineapple Upsidedown Cake and the Bread of Life

It has been almost a year since my Mother died and I still miss her. I offer this reflection on the Gospel in thanksgiving for her life and how she in so many ways taught me to accept God's love and to share it with others. She was the one who brought me to St. Cross and offered me to God in baptism and to see in the bread and wine of Holy Eucharist the love and life she offered to us as our Mother. Thank you Mom.



The Pineapple Upside Down cake sat on our kitchen table. Even before I came into our home, the fragrance of my favorite cake wafted over me. The date was October 14, 1958,my birthday and my Mom had prepared this rich and delicious cake for a small family gathering to celebrate my birthday for the first time in California. I was 8.

What if my Mom had simply gone to the bakery or the supermarket and bought a similar cake for me? Would I have some a strong and loving memory of that part of my birthday celebration? I don’t think so. Since that day, I have tried to find a cake as good as that one, but to no avail.

An old commercial used to sing the praises of Pillsbury: “Nothing says lovin like something from the oven and Pillsbury makes it best.” Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is about food, bread to be specific. We are in a five week set of Gospels about bread. These readings began with a small boy offering 5 loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5,000 people.

I have eaten a lot of bread in my life, some really average and some bursting with incredible texture and flavor, but like the Pineapple Upside Down cake, there is no substitute for the bread that Jesus offers us each Sunday. Like my Mom’s cake whose taste has no equal, the bread that Jesus has offered to us is like no other.

The difference is the relationship between the giver and the one who is receiving. My Mom baked her love and her life into the cake she gave me and I was clear from my relationship with her that her gift was not just a cake, but her life which she offered to me and my brother in our births and continued in our years of growing up.

Just so, Jesus’ gift of his life and love given for us is present in the bread which we break and share each time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. We should be clear about this feast offered by Jesus. We are Jesus’ beloved guests and children of God and it is Jesus’ Father who calls us to this Table. Jesus said to the people: "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

When we are loved and we accept that love for ourselves and for all others whom God calls to the Table, we will never experience a craving that is impossible to satisfy. But if we refuse to allow those whom God calls to the Table, our craving will never be satisfied and our thirst will be unquenchable.

Nothing says loving like bread from heaven and Jesus says it best.

And now for some thoughts on our reading from Ephesians.

What got my attention is the very opening of that reading for Sunday which states we are members of one another. All ethics flow from this central belief that we are united by being the body of Christ rather than what we are not. Those who are NOT us seem to lie outside of the usual human ethic of who you have to treat ethically, but Christian ethics seems to be contrary to that ethic and simply state the unity of all humanity in Christ (who is my neighbor...Am I my brother's keeper?) in answer to our human system of unity based upon insiders and outsiders. The putting away of bitterness and wrath and anger...seems to also suggest that we are the source of what we have previously attributed to God. We are now bid to act or imitate God, as beloved children, who learn how to behave by watching our parents. The things we put away are like children's games or toys that are cruel and based upon fear. We are called to "live in love," not our own, but God's love for all of his children. Still a tall order, but infinitely better than the alternative. I might suggest that the yeast of the Pharisee begins in bitterness and then leads to human wrath pretending to be justified by God, while the "unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" offers a very different source of nurture and formation.