Monday, September 6, 2010

Sermon Scraps: I am the Bread of Life

Well, we’re now on a new journey through John’s gospel together. I’m so glad we’ve finished with that nasty sin business, and we’re onto brighter topics. I will confess to you all that I have my difficulties with John’s gospel. I’ve never understood those fundamentalist who would give the Gospel of John to a new Christian, and say, just read this. It’s what you need to know. I don’t always get John, but I do understand that there is usually more happening than just the surface level of the text. It’s a definitely a polyvalent text.

So about Sunday’s service . . .

I think, for the most part, everything went as I had planned. I loved that so many people asked about the baptismal fonts. Why were they there? Hmm. I suppose that it’s partially my fault that I have never done that with them before – that is place a font in the isle. To answer why they were there, let me say this. In many churches, as you enter the sanctuary, there is a baptismal font. I had someone say to me yesterday, “yes, but it’s all just a symbol, pastor.” That’s true, to some extent, but what we do in worship is more than merely symbolism, right? If it’s only a symbol, then why bother? Because it’s more than a symbol. A service of Word and Table are, like John’s gospel, polyvalent. There is more happening than just what we see on the surface. We practicing our worship; we’re reliving the story of salvation; we’re even communing with all the saints of the church.

Baptism is our entry into the Church, so why would we not try to remember our baptism every time we entered into our church building, into worship with the Body of Christ? Also, in our history as the Church, baptism has come before participating in Holy Communion. Br Mark Stamm reminded our Word and Worship class that our UM rubrics indicate that the Eucharist is open to all baptized Christians. I’ve been trying to find that rubric this morning, but to no avail. If I search my memory, I believe I read something similar in THIS HOLY MYSTERY, with the addendum, that the pastor should not refuse service to those who wish to receive, but they should counsel about the importance of baptism. Moreover, our BOOK OF WORSHIP says, “We have no tradition of refusing any who present themselves desiring to receive,” (BOW, 29).

This discussion reminds me of a movie I saw a few years ago, AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS (Good bye little children). It’s a depressing semi-autobiographical movie about a French boarding school run by priests during the German occupation of France. The school hides several Jewish boys from the Germans in with the Catholic boys. There is one scene when the parents are visiting the children, during mass when one of the Jewish boys comes up to receive the Host. The priest does not serve him. The scene bothered me for many reasons, at the same time, the priest (re-presenting Christ) later gave his life for hiding this boy. I’m still puzzled that the priest would not serve him the Host, but would give his very life for him. Is that not (sort of) the same thing? In the Great Thanksgiving, we retell and, in fact, relive the narrative of salvation – in fancy terms, we call this anamnesis. What did this priest do but relive and re-present Christ to this boy?

So, why did I place the baptismal font in the isle? Because we approach the table of our Lord through our baptism. Why didn’t I make a big deal of them? Because I don’t know that everyone in my congregation has participated in the sacrament of baptism, and I refuse to set a stumbling block before those who would come to the Lord.

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