by Rev. Colleen Woodley
Today we celebrate the Body & Blood of Jesus. This day lifts up the banquet that God has set before us through his only son.
It is a day to consider, to pray, and most importantly, to join in this Eucharist as unified members of the very Body of Christ.
Today is a celebration of unity and, it is my opinion, unity is a much-needed reality today. Unity! Where do we find it? How do we achieve it? Are we all responsible for it?
As far as where we find it, many of us find it here, I hope. We find it in our prayer, we find it in our celebrations, we find it in our song and in our music. I believe unity can be found in some obvious places that are obscure at the same time. We find unity in the very air that we breathe. We all breathe the same air, we live in the same environment, and in many ways, we experience the same realities.
We find it as members of a community – at least hopefully we find it there. We find it as members of a family, and in a group of friends.
What things are necessary for unity? We can presume things, such as equality, justice, empathy, and forgiveness are necessary. Of course, because we are human, we can count on continuously falling short in these areas.
We are all unified here today in that we all chose to come to this place, at this time, in order to raise our voices in prayer, in song, and in praise, directed toward our belief in the Divine. Other reasons we join together might include providing support to one another, offering love and strength to one another, sharing each other’s joys and successes, and being present to each other in times of sorrow and disappointment. As I spoke with folks before our liturgy today, I heard several stories. Some were stories of apprehension, some were stories of sorrow, and some were stories of joy and celebration. But all the stories were freely shared from one person to another – in unity.
In this gathering we hear the word of God in the readings and we gather to enjoy the Body and Blood of Christ at the Lord’s Table. This is our ultimate celebration, this is our gift, given by a loving God who chose to join us in all our humble humanness. A God who joined us in all things, both wonderful and horrible, that define our human experience. This sacred meal, this time when we are joined at the table to fully experience our God Incarnate, is the epitome of unity for us. It is the culmination of all the other wonderful ways in which we are unified.
The words of Reginald H. Fuller, an Anglican Theologian and Biblical Scholar who lived to the age of 92, can help us see the unity of the Eucharistic experience in an even broader sense. Fuller translated many of the works of my favorite theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from German into English. Below he gives his commentary on our Gospel today.
John does not regard the sacrament as a thing in itself, detached from the total saving event of Christ, but as the means by which this saving event is constantly made available for present participation in the life of the church.
The Eucharist makes the past present for participation (“flesh” and “blood” referring back to Christ’s death on Calvary), and it makes the future (“I will raise them up at the last day”; “will live because of me”; and “will live forever”) equally present (“has eternal life”).
This commentary illustrates the mystical beauty and vast reach of this sacrament that brings us together. It gives us a great deal to think about, to pray about, and to consider when we think of each other and of how we relate to each other and to our God.
Finally, as we leave this celebration today, maybe we can continue to think about the importance of what we experience each time we gather. We can pray and reflect upon how unity can be viewed, how it can be employed in our daily experience. How can unity be held up as a vital measure of how we relate to each other?
I was watching “The View” on TV a few months ago and I heard something that really moved me. I was listening to Alan Arkin speak about a conversation that he had several years ago with one of my favorite comedians, Madeline Kahn. He asked her how she decided what she wanted to do with her life, what she wanted to be great at. He asked, “Was it comedy? Was it opera, or music, or acting?” Kahn thought for a moment and answered him, “I wanted to be the music.” That comment was stunning to me and it made me think of all of you here. We are lifted up by music here, each time we gather. The music transcends our ability to express ourselves with words. The music takes us to another level of unity and isn’t that what we yearn for?
My prayer for all of us this week is that we can think about unity, and about our faith, and about our care for one another. I pray that each of us can be the “breath of God – that God is still breathing” and that we can all strive to “be the music” to each other and those we meet in the coming week.
– by Rev. Colleen