From the Rector’s Study
I prefer communicating verbally rather than on paper or social media. COVID-19 has us living differently. I hope my messages provide a spiritual lift in these troubling times. – The Rev. Bryce Sangster
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question I’m sure we were all asked at one time or another when we were young. When I was barely a teenager, I dreamed about becoming a doctor. I studied the classic reference work, Gray’s Anatomy, and buried myself in books about the history of medicine and surgery.
It seems to me there are two parts to this gospel this morning. The first part is answering the question about who Jesus is for ourselves. Jesus begins by asking who the people say I am, and then asks who they think Jesus is. That means we are to listen to what others think and say, and learn about Jesus and God from them, but ultimately it means deciding for ourselves.
Why the big secret? There are two reasons, one in each of the two parts of the Gospel today; Jesus is going away to the region of Tyre so that he can rest and not have the crowds of people following him. He doesn’t want people to know where he is so he can have a day off. Unfortunately the Syrophoenician woman has other ideas, and has some realization about who Jesus is.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is focused on what is inside a person, in the human heart. He does this by confronting the law-abiding Pharisees who were the largest and most influential religious-political party in New Testament times. They were highly educated Jews who saw themselves as a reformist group, consisting mainly of lay people, not priests, who believed that the faith of Israel ought to be something lived in the daily life of every Jew, not merely something observed by the priests in Jerusalem.
Why is Jesus’ message so difficult? Is it that the one who eats this bread will live forever.” This may be impossible to believe? Yet Peter says “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” Or is there something else?
The question for today; do you spend more time talking to God or listening to God? The mystics are fond of suggesting it is in the listening that we learn. That is why reading the bible is a help because it is a way that God can speak to us.
The Psalmist today talks about waiting for the Lord three times. I wait, with my soul and my soul waits and the call for Israel to wait for the Lord. This suggests that this is not a cheap and easy asking and it may take time for an answer. And the request is from a place of darkness and despair. Out of the depths have I called you, O Lord; So we often ask the question, will the darkness and despair ever end? Will God ever answer the prayer? What is taking God so long?
It has been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And we as Anglicans love to eat together, so the banquet is a significant image for me. Jesus talks about food that endures for eternal life. I don’t think he is talking about nonperishable food or loading up on preservatives, because maybe he is talking about another kind of food or feeding.
When we think of the feeding of the five thousand, and how it relates to us today, we may think of the pot luck supper and how very rarely in my experience have we not had food left over. You may have other ways of thinking about this, but Diana Butler Bass, in a sermon about Jesus appearing after the resurrection on the beach and they have fish together, makes me think of this passage in another way.