Lectionary Reflection: The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

By Jim Simpson

Friday, August 24

1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69

Today’s reading from John’s gospel concludes the bread of life discourse. After feeding five thousand with a few loaves, Jesus identifies himself with the bread that fed the Jewish people in the wilderness and proclaims that he has come from heaven to consummate abiding relationships with believers. It’s looking like a teaching moment. Jesus delivers his closing remarks in the synagogue at Capernaum. It’s a disaster. The audience doesn’t accept his teaching. The crowd abandons him. The remaining stalwarts admit they have no choice left but to take his word on faith. 

Who has the courage to speak to a hostile audience? The safe path would have been to serve the meal and skip the lecture. But we, too, may be called upon someday to state what we believe and never mind the doubters. 

John paints a dizzying picture of Jesus and God and bread and ourselves. The picture oscillates between resemblance, equivalence and identity. If this picture is a diagram, do the lines come first or the dots? (The believer lies awake brooding over what they believe while the doubter sleeps soundly in their disbelief.)  It seems that all the readings today want to close the gap between awareness of God and recruitment into God’s life and purpose, to disclose us entangled in the moment of recognition.

The 17th-century mystic Thomas Traherne said, “You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars.” Ocean or blood, grain or bread, particle or wave, God and mankind in the moment, let us be entangled, Lord.

This reflection was written by Jim Simpson. He is a member of the Grace Cathedral Congregation Council and a graduate of the cathedral’s Education for Ministry program.

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