Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Year B, RCL
August 18, 2018
North Fork Ministries
Given at Blues Mass at Redeemer
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."
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 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."
Three years ago I flew to New York to meet my new grand daughter, Collette. As grandparents do, I fell in love with her immediately. As much as I delighted in holding her, smelling her, and listening to her grunts and coos, I took particular pleasure in seeing the bond that had already developed between little Collette and her mother Lillian. For Colette, Lillian was clearly the source of all that is good in the world, all that is nourishing, all that is comforting – she is, literally, the fount from which springs mothers milk.
I remember that almost every time Lillian’s eyes fell upon Collette, she expressed the intense, passionate love that she felt for her newborn child by saying , “I could just eat you up.”
I’m not sure if every new mother feels that same desire - to consume her child, to take her back into the womb, where they are safe, protected, and held closer than is possible once she has fully entered into this world. When I returned home, I wondered if the seed of Lillian’s desire to “just eat her up” might have been planted when she was a small child and I would read to her from Maurice Syndak’s, Where the Wild Things Are.
It was one of the books that my children wanted me to read them over and over again. It’s the story of young Max, who had misbehaved and was sent to bed without his supper. It’s short. Let me read it to you.
S 4: The night Max wore his wolf suit
S 1: And made mischief
S 2: Of one kind
S 3: And another.
S 4: His mother called him
S 1: Wild Thing!
S 2: And Max said:
S 3: I’ll eat you up!
S 4: So he was sent to bed
S 1: Without eating anything.
S 2: That very night in Max’s room
S 3: A forest grew, and grew, and grew until the ceiling hung with vines
S 4: And the walls became the world all around
S 1: And an ocean tumbled by
S 2: With a private boat!
S 3: And he sailed off through night and day
S 4: And in and out of weeks
S 1: and almost over a year
S 2: To where the wild things are!
S 3: And when he came to the place where the wild things are…
S 4: They roared their terrible roars!
S 1: And showed their terrible teeth!
S 2: And rolled their terrible eyes!
S 3: And showed their terrible claws!
S 4: Till Max said:
S 1: Be still!
S 2: And tamed them
S 3: With the magic trick
S 4: Of staring into all their yellow eyes
S 1: Without blinking once
S 2: And they were frightened and called him
ALL: The most wild thing of all!
S 3: And made him king of all wild things.
S 4: And now! Let the wild rumpus start!!
S 1: Now, stop!
S 2: And he sent the wild things off to bed
S 3: Without their supper… and Max
S 4: The king of all the wild things, said:
S 1: I’m lonely.
S 2: And he wanted to be where someone loved him best of all
S 3: Then, all around, from far away, across the world
S 4: He smelled good things to eat! So he said:
S 1: I’ll give up being king of where the wild things are.
S 2: But the wild things cried
S 3: Oh, please don’t go!
S 4: We’ll eat you up!
S 1: We love you so!
S 2: And Max said,
S 3: NO!
S 4: The wild things roared their terrible roars.
S 1: And showed their terrible teeth.
S 2: And rolled their terrible eyes
S 3: And show their terrible claws
S 4: But Max stepped into his private boat
S 1: And waved good-bye
S 2: And sailed back
S 3: Almost over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day
S 4: And into the night of his own room
S 1: Where he found his supper waiting for him
ALL: and it was still hot!
Twenty-five years later, I still hear the refrain, “I’ll eat you up, I love you so.” And I still hear my children occasionally say, when a party of some sort begins, “And now, let the wild rumpus start.”
That is the kind of love that God has for us, and the kind of love we are invited to experience through the body and blood of Christ. Jesus said, “my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink”. We are offered sustenance that is sustaining, everlasting - love in its truest form.
In a Meryl Streep film, Ricki and the Flash, Ms. Streep plays an aging rock musician who had hoped to make it big, but is content to play in a small time cover band. Disturbed that the children she had left behind to pursue her dreams don’t seem to love her, she is advised, "It doesn't matter if your kids love you or not. It's not their job to love you. It's your job to love them."
I actually think that truth is at the heart of all our relationships – with our siblings, our friends, our fellow church members, even our spouse. Our job is to love others, whether or not they love us in return. If, and how, they express that love, is up to them.
The one, sole relationship we have in which we can count on consistently finding love, is in our relationship with the Divine. For we Christians, the fullest expression of God’s love for us is found through Jesus. That fact is so central to our faith, that over and over again, we practice receiving that love through the bread and wine that is symbolic of that same love. By accepting God’s offering of bread and wine, we are indicating that we love God in return.
It is Jesus’ intention to devour every bit of us - body and soul. It is his wish to consume us just as we consume him. He desires to be digested, to flow through our veins, to provide nourishment to every cell in our body.
And so it is, when we receive the sacrament, we are responding to the invitation and saying to Jesus, “I’ll eat you up, I love you so.”