Sermon preached at Eucharist on the Tenth Sunday after Trinity (5 August 2018) by the Revd Canon Tricia Hillas, Canon Pastor

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Sermon preached at Eucharist on the Tenth Sunday after Trinity (5 August 2018) by the Revd Canon Tricia Hillas, Canon Pastor

The Canon Pastor reflects on the importance of shared meals, particularly the meal given to us by Jesus in the Eucharist. 


‘I am the bread of life’ said Jesus to the crowd.

Eating involves so much more than just appeasing hunger. 

Over a life time, how many meals you will have had! No doubt some will have been especially rich with significance for you.

For me, they include:

Birthdays of childhood – my parents worked long hard hours. Despite having started the day at 4:30am my Mum would work late into the night before a birthday baking a cake. 

Omelette and chips served by Lucy’s Mum – Lucy was my childhood friend. I loved being included in her farmhouse home. Later when I was a teenager and my Dad died, Lucy’s Mum took me into the fields - strawberry picking – an oasis on a day I just didn’t know what to do with myself.

Being welcomed to Palestinian refugee camps – humbled by the offering of food saved for honoured strangers.

Our wedding banquet – surrounded by family, friends and those who loved us.

And more troubled meals– the Christmas when certain family relationships were breaking down and words were hurled like knives.

Our eating can disclose much about our lives, choices and circumstances, both individual and collective. No wonder archaeologists delight in discovering what our ancestors ate.

Eating can invoke thankfulness, receptiveness to new cultures, thoughtful reflection and celebration. It can gift solidarity in times of grief or fear through tangible expressions of love and support. 

Meals can be encounters which open us up to the world – and to God’s presence and activity in the world.

The Biblical story begins with food – the opening chapters of Genesis describe an invitation to eat, with the proviso that this was to be an expression of thankfulness, obedience and dependency on God. 

Scattered through the Hebrew Scriptures are many kinds of meal; from great royal banquets to the miraculous provision of the basics for survival.  

There’s the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah to three strangers where God turns out to be the guest. The giving of the law of the covenant, when Moses and the elders ascended the holy mountain, eating and drinking in the very presence of God. 

The appointed feasts – when the community gathered to eat and worship together. These formed a cycle of remembrance, in which God himself was assumed to participate symbolically. In feasting, the bonds which held the people together and held them close to God, were renewed.

And probably the most significant Old Testament meal of all.

Given to an enslaved people to fortify them for freedom and to be a sign for their future. 

As the dramatic escape was coming together, word came that the Israelites were to gather in households to eat and to mark their doorways, so that as they ate the dreadful calamity which was to befall their captors would pass them over and presage their journey to freedom.

This pivotal event, celebrated to this day, revolved around a meal – whose yearly repetition would underscore its participant’s identity as the liberated people of God.

Jesus, the Jew, took the structure of this ritual Passover meal as the basis for the meal he shared with his friends on the night before he died. Theologian Tom Wright says: “When Jesus wanted fully to explain what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory. He didn’t even give them a set of scriptural texts. He gave them a meal.”            
                                 
Jesus has given us a meal.

A meal to signal the freedom, from death, from evil, he has wrought and an everlasting sign of hope.

Both Passover and the Lord’s Supper are gifts - meals to aid their participants in remembering:

  • Remembering their former situation and what had been done for them.
  • Remembering who and whose they were.

It is easy to forget.

God’s answer to our forgetfulness – a meal.

Where the story of the taking of ring fenced fruit in the garden of Genesis might signal humankind’s desire to go it alone, the Passover meal and Christ’s broken bread and poured out wine are perpetual reminders of the hospitality of God and our dependency on it.

In the West dependency can be a dirty word – we want to be self-sufficient. Our tabloids despise those who cannot or will not contribute in calculable ways.

Those of us with resources can usually avoid depending on others for food, shelter and safety – unless we face a particular crisis. Then we learn the reality of what so many people around our world know, people even in this country, dependent on foodbanks – those for whom the prayer “give us our daily bread” is very real.

Some time or another, all of us will experience the truth of being at the end of our own resources. Those resources maybe physical, or financial they may be about time, energy, hope, health, or inspiration. 

What if acknowledgement of our dependency opened us up to God in ways that nothing else could?

What if we could learn to think and act differently, recognising God’s compassion on both our dependency and that of our neighbour?

What if our societies could see vulnerability as a gift to the community not a burden?  By which we see our treatment of our most vulnerable members to be a plumb line to who we truly are.

Shortly you will be invited to come to receive bread and wine.

As we do so may we grasp that we, together with our neighbour, are held in the hospitality of God. 

As we receive, may we recall, what God has done and will do; who and whose we are  – and may we extend such understanding to our neighbour near and far. 

Then may we who have received, be open-handed in our sharing; we who have been set free, go to set others free.

Jesus, bread of life,
May we who gather as your guests receive you with gladness. 
Fill us with your presence but keep us hungry for justice and righteousness.
Amen