August 13, 2018
Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
[Proverbs 9:5]
The assigned lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, August 19, the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
When I was a child in Puerto Rico, I practically lived at my grandparent's house. It was not just where my grandparents lived, but where my aunt and uncle and their four children lived as well. My family lived in the next town, a few miles away, but we spent a lot of time with our extended family. What I remember most about those visits was mealtimes. I can't remember a dinner where there weren't at least eight people at the table, and often, there were a dozen or more. Some of those weren't family members. It seemed that anyone on the street who happened to be hungry at the time was a welcome guest at our table. And there always seemed to be enough, not only to go around, but for seconds as well.
My aunt Rosa A. ViƱals on
her 101st birthday
My aunt just celebrated her 101st birthday on July 31. She now lives in a two bedroom apartment in the Bronx, New York. Until a dozen years ago she still cooked for an army, even though there is only one other person in the household. Everyone who came through the door got fed. And, believe me, the neighbors were aware. My aunt had about as much traffic in and out of her apartment as some five-star restaurants. For those who couldn't make it up to the second floor where she lives, she might have even delivered in the early evening. It gave her a chance to get out and socialize with those who she wanted to visit and the carefully covered plate in her hands always made her a welcome visitor.
I called her on her birthday and we reminisced about that, as we often do. Besides discussions about family, our conversations frequently center around food.
As we continue with this food fetish that seems to be the sixth chapter of the gospel of John, I am reminded of the centrality of mealtimes in many of the homes of our childhood. That image was also vividly reinforced for me by the first reading from Proverbs.
Sadly, times have changed. Relaxed dining doesn't seem to be as prevalent given the schedules that many of us keep. Our homes resemble a bus station or an airport terminal where everyone greets each other on their way to somewhere else, be it work, school activities, sporting events or civic or social meetings. We don't have the time or even want to make the time to sit down and have a conversation over a home cooked meal.
Those of you who still do sit down and share a meal together at home can appreciate its benefits. It's a way to catch up with what has been happening in each other's lives, it is a time to share joys and sorrows, and a time to make plans for the next day. It is a time to strengthen the values of community and relationship.
Jesus, in the discourse of the gospel reading, is speaking to those same principles of relationship and community. But there is a deeper understanding to Jesus' words in this reading.
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven," he says. "Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me."
In the days of Jesus' life here on earth, people were known by their fathers and their ancestors, a custom that is still common among some cultures. It was an honor to be known as someone's son. Fathers were the source of one's identity and life.
Religions, in general, are about understanding and relating to a god or gods. Christianity is different because we understand and relate to God as "the Father." It is a different type and quality of relationship than one might have with a god. And to properly understand God as "the Father," requires the revelation of "the Son."
And from the very time we are baptized such a life is ours. We become children of the same heavenly Father. And that relationship is renewed and reawakened every time we eat of his body and drink of his blood at the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
In each of our congregations every Sunday, or however often we commune, we come to the table, we go, but in recent years that sense of relationship seems to be diminishing in much the same fashion as those fading memories of family dinners.
This week's readings are an invitation to return to the place where we are fed, forgiven, and fortified for the coming week. When we allow ourselves to come to the table, the Lord's Table, simple and uncluttered by the concerns of our daily life, we find an abundance of life that can be experienced in no other way, at no other time, and in no other place.
Welcome to the Table!
This Saturday, August 18, I will be at Camp Mowana for our annual Tri-Synodical Candidacy Retreat. I consider it a blessing to spend this day with our candidates in retreat, and to get to know some of them a little better as they continue in this path toward what will hopefully one day lead them to a position of rostered leadership in our church.
Sunday, August 19, at 11:00 a.m., I will be at the High Meadows Picnic Area in Elyria, for the Third Annual Worship in the Park. Eight congregations, five Lutheran and three Episcopal, will gather together for an ecumenical service that witnesses to the glory of God and our full communion partnership, Called to Common Mission, which is now in its 19th year. 
This week and always, may you be filled with the Spirit, and give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
+Bishop Abraham Allende