Gospel Reflection and Communion
24th WEEK OF PENTECOST, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2005. MATTHEW 23:5-7.
First Congregational United Church of Christ, Open and Affirming,
Santa Rosa, California. The Rev. Robert F. Cramer, Eucharistic Minister.
“Everything [the scholars] do, they do for show.
So they widen their phylacteries and enlarge their tassels.
They love the best couches at banquets
and prominent seats in the synagogues
and respectful greetings in the marketplace,
and they like to be called ‘Rabbi’ by everyone.”
JESUS, ACCORDING TO MATTHEW 23:5-7, JESUS SEMINAR SCHOLARS VERSION.
“Look out for the scholars who like to parade around in long robes,
and insist on being addressed properly in the marketplaces,
and prefer important seats in the synagogues
and the best couches at banquets.”
JESUS, ACCORDING TO LUKE 12:38b-39, SCHOLARS VERSION.
[Jesus said] “Go like lambs to a wolf-pack:
No staff in your hand, no sandals on your feet,
no knapsack on your back, no chatter on the journey,
and the same clothes for day and night, summer and winter.”
ESSENCE OF MATTHEW 10:7-10, BY JOHN DOMINIC CROSSAN.
This morning, it isn’t Thomas’ twin who is leading us toward communion. He is taking a break from his writing, letting me share with you the Jesus I know, who was, in his every moment between birth, death and resurrection, not a god-man, divine, but a fully human being.
The Christian church from the fourth century onwards has taught that Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. That is more than a bit mysterious. Anyone reading the gospels will find a Christ-figure in human likeness—but that characterization has long been ruled heretical. People today may be just as confused about all this as were the earliest interpreters of the Incarnation.
_The Gospel of the Other Twin_ describes a Jesus who doesn’t know he’s supposed to be worshipped as the Christ—who says it is God the Father who provides the true spirit of humanity which can be seen within Jesus, within everything in Creation, and especially within our own selves when we open our eyes.
_The Other Twin_ describes, as well, the many movements away from Jesus’ own gospel of the goodness of Creation.
There have always been those who appreciate the cosmic myth of a divine Christ—myself among them—and we honor that; but because in today’s polarized world, people seem to believe that’s the _only_ Christian story, some of us are raising new voices telling a gospel even older than the creeds tell. We here are in our seventh year of following that gospel at the table, just as Jesus did. It is the spirit of God, known to us in the spirit that animated Jesus, which we come to deeply sense in the gift of communion.
I invite you now to look at something Jesus almost certainly said about the cultural elite in his time and place.
Some of the scholars of religion, often called scribes, offended Jesus. He tells us that it is the least of all who best embody God’s spirit. “Go like lambs.” We might also remember Jesus saying (again in the poetic way of Crossan), “The somebodies will be nobodies and the nobodies will be somebodies” [from Matthew 19:30].
With all that in mind, let us see how the first Christian leader’s manual, The Didache, written a century after the resurrection, says we are to approach communion.
“On every Lord’s Day—his special day—come together
and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your sins
so that your sacrifice may be pure. Let no one
engaged in a dispute with his neighbor meet with you
until they are reconciled, so that your sacrifice may not be profaned.”
About 70 years after the resurrection, a hymnbook appeared for use along with the Psalms. Here is one of its poetic hymns.
“As the wings of the dove over their nestlings,
and the mouths of the nestlings toward their mothers’ mouths,
so also are the wings of the Spirit over my heart.
My heart is happy and leaps for joy,
like the infant who leaps for joy in mother’s womb.
I am peaceful. My faith is in you whom I trust.
You bless me greatly. My mind is with you.
No sword divides us, no scimitar separates us.
I am prepared before destruction comes.
I am in your arms that do not know death.
Eternal Life embraces and kisses me.
Your Spirit is in me. It lives and cannot die. Hallelujah!