Reflection: August 26

Published on Aug 26th, 2018 by Rev. Carol Prochaska (Ret) | 0

Sermon Title: Finding Our Way within God’s Word
Scriptures: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18; John 6:56-69

As a newly divorced single parent, I trained to become a qualified swim instructor.  My familiar way of life as a stay-at-home mom was no longer an option. On my first day of teaching, I was nervous. When I confessed my fears to my supervisor, she said:  “You’ll be fine! Just smile and pretend you know what you’re doing.” Her words of advice got me through that first day.  

Pretending to know what we’re doing is one way of coping – at least temporarily.

Sometimes pretending to cope provides us with an easy and acceptable response: “How are you doing?”  “Fine thanks.”  Sometimes we are fine! And sometimes we’re not fine. We are struggling to find our way. And “the way” keeps changing. What was tried and true in our 30’s no longer fits in our 60’s. What worked in our 70’s isn’t helpful in our 90’s. We’ve changed. The world has changed. When I was growing up no one talked about “climate change.” In my early adulthood, I don’t remember hearing the word “terrorism.” The world has changed and is changing. Presently we are literally finding our way through the dense smoke. It may be that from now on August, in our province, will be fires and smoke.   

The word “pilgrim” is a rather quaint word. It refers to one who travels in unfamiliar territory. Even though this is what we’re so often doing, we don’t ask, “How’s it going, pilgrim?” Neither do we say: “Oh you know I’m wandering in the unfamiliar land of recovering from knee surgery.”  

“How are you doing?” “Oh, I’m finding my way in new territory with my granddaughter and her partner. Her partner’s name is Darcy. Darcy is Trans.  Do I refer to Darcy as he or she?” We don’t use the word pilgrim but we know how our lives consist of finding our way in one unfamiliar territory after another.

So it’s not surprising that we find in scripture these or similar words: “My God you are my rock and my deliverance.” Or as in these familiar words (Psalm 23)”The Lord is my shepherd…  “ Even though I walk through the darkest valley, who is with us!?  

 This morning we found our way through the gospel reading and Jesus’ unsettling words.

We began our reading this way: “Jesus says: Everyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in them.”  We can understand why many of Jesus’ disciples remarked, “We can’t put up with this kind of talk? Who can take it seriously?” Another translation says it this way: “When many of Jesus’ disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Jesus asks, “Is this a stumbling block?” Yes.  As our scripture says: “From this time on, many of the disciples broke away and wouldn’t remain in the company of Jesus.”

But before we walk away from Jesus, notice how Jesus seems to understand the difficulty.   

When Jesus asks if this is a stumbling block, he is using the Greek word “skandalon.” Skandalon, like our word “scandal,” refers to something that offends. Jesus is saying “I understand that I am offending you.” So, “stumbling block” is a metaphor for something that causes us to figuratively stumble.

It may be that a key word in this morning’s gospel reading is “teaching”: “Jesus spoke these words while teaching in the synagogue.”In theory, then, these are people who had gathered to worship and to learn more about God. In theory, these are people who would have been open to Jesus’ words. Like us: followers/learners/disciples/pilgrims! As so often happens in scripture here is another moment when Jesus reveals God’s love and God’s patience. Jesus is not critical of their taking offence. Even though there is significant grumbling Jesus continues to teach and give followers more opportunities to stay with him to experience the God he is revealing.   

In our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Joshua says to the people: “Make a decision today whom you will worship.” Will they choose Yahweh or other gods?

As they remember the God who has been with them and delivered them, the people respond: “Far be it for us to abandon Yahweh.” It’s a choice. It’s always a choice and one we revisit throughout our lives. In answer to Jesus’ question about leaving, Simon Peter says:  “Lord where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”   

Words of eternal life may be a familiar phrase but there’s a meaning here that is not evident in translation. Here and in other scripture “words” indicate more than just some words but more as God’s “utterances” often described as God’s “pouring forth.” So “words” and “words of eternal life” have to do with God revealing Godself. Jesus’ words of eternal life point us to God’s eternal love, God’s eternal presence and life that is eternal. Jesus is God’s Word in flesh and blood. As followers, we take in Jesus’ words. We choose to consume Jesus’ words. Peter asked, “Lord where would we go?” Indeed where do we go? Where do we go for words to comfort us, teach us, encourage us, and transform us?

God’s word is like a flashlight in the dark. The darkness is present but in trusting God’s Word we find our way one step at a time. God’s Word doesn’t take away our loss and our sorrow but God’s word can keep us from going under. God’s word can remind us that we are not alone and that others have travelled a similar road. God’s word can feed us to make us stronger and braver.

 When I was growing up my dad had an expression that always irritated me and always frustrated me.  His words…? His annoying words of wisdom… “Wait until you put your feet under your own table.” I never did find words to respond to him that would have been either acceptable or satisfying to me. The best I could do was pout and walk away. “Wait until you put your feet under your own table,” was my dad’s way of saying there were things I couldn’t understand and so I needed to trust him to know what was best for me at that particular time. Ah! But! I secretly knew things! For instance, I knew that when I left home and when I had a table of my own I would eat pie for breakfast, and lunch—ice cream and brownies, and for supper—oh maybe donuts with a chocolate bar for dessert.  If my dad had lived long enough for me to reach adulthood, I would have said to him: “You know that expression you used to say to me about putting my feet under my own table?…  NowI get it!”

It has been said, “the Bible is happening now.” If this is true – and I think it is, then the words in the Bible and the word as revealed in Jesus contain the potential to speak to us wherever and whenever. Let us not give up on God’s Word that has stood the test of time. When Jesus offends let us see this stumbling block as an opportunity to learn. When we remember how, back then, we didn’t know and we didn’t even know that we didn’t know – let us be gentle ourselves and with also with others.   

Like you, I have put my feet under many, many tables. And, I can remember that at least twice I had pie for breakfast! Out of all the tables I have put my feet under, the best one ever— the best food and drink ever — has been, and is, God’s Word—not always easy—but always life-giving.


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