•Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4: 17, 20-24; John 6: 24-35•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Some dates, like the 4th of July and the 11th of September are engraved in our nation’s psychic memory. There are other dates I think ought to be even more deeply engraved in our national memory. I include August 6th and 9th among them. It was on those dates 70 years ago that our nation dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima where 140,00 civilians were killed by that one bomb, and Nagasaki where 74,000 civilians were killed by that one bomb. The resulting, massive destruction still reminds us that using these weapons is never justified. Yet we continue to build and stockpile them in our military arsenal!!
This year August 6th is just two days from now and here we are reading and pondering chapter 6 from the gospel of John– a collection John’s teaching about “Eucharist.”
Last Sunday we heard and pondered the Marvelous Sharing of the loaves and fish. It is important to note: that marvelous sharing occurred on “the other side of the Sea of Galilee.”
“The other side of the Sea of Galilee” was enemy territory, known as the Decapolis. Ten cities of Roman military veterans were located there. That is why Jews never went to “the other side.” It was socially taboo among his peers for Jesus to take his companions and cross to “the other side.” Please note this. The gesture “of crossing to the other side” expresses Jesus’ love for those commonly identified as “their enemies.”
Our lectionary omits the next six verses of chapter 6. On this journey to “the other side” Jesus was calling his companions into something risky, frightening and dangerous. He was calling them to move beyond their defensive barriers and security devises. He was calling them into a new understanding of what it is to be fully human –“love your enemies.” His companions are in the boat returning to Capernaum when a storm arises. Jesus is absent. The disciples are terrified by the wind, waves and storm. The stormy weather is symbolic of the inner turmoil and public outcry they encountered when they dared love their perceived enemies. Try it. See the response you get. The reaction of Congress to the nuclear agreement with Iran illustrates what happens. John also tells us about “the crowd.” The day after the marvelous sharing, “they went looking for Jesus.” They may not understand what, but there is something in Jesus that attracts them to him. The same is true of us. “When they found Jesus” they asked him “what must we do, to do the work God requires?” That same question is part of our struggle to be people of faith today.
“What must we do, to do the work God requires?” The caring and merciful Jesus is our mentor and model. “Eucharist” is nourishment for his life in us. When we eat, drink and take him into our lives, we live differently. We seek life rather than death.
Those two dates – August 6th and August 9th remind us that after twenty centuries, we who are at least nominally Christian still do not get it. Being Christian is not about religious beliefs or practices. Being Christian is about learning to think, feel, love, work, suffer and live like Jesus.
At enormous expense and risk, we who claim to be a Christian nation maintain a nuclear arsenal of 10,600 warheads as a hedge against unforeseen future threats. Some of those warheads are in silos located here in Montana. Many are spread around our planet in the bellies of Trident submarines. Following the example of our nation, four other nations –Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — have nuclear weapons.
Our world’s ability to destroy and rain death down upon multiple nations makes the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seem insignificant. Never again! Never again! That is why I think August 6th and 9th need to be deeply engraved in our national memory.