Today our journey begins. It is the first Sunday in Lent – special time set reflect on deep maters of life and faith. Wednesday on CBC’s lunch hour call-in show there was a discussion with people all across our province about Lent and whether or not people were observing the season. Some people called in to say they were giving up a whole variety of food items – chocolate being the top. Others talked about it being 40 days of compliments and others said they were adding something extra during this season. One person called or emailed in saying that Lent is irrelevant, antiquated and something only old people do. No surprise in the fact that I disagree. Lent is beautiful season. A time set aside to dig deeper into our faith. It begins with a time to remember our human frailty on Ash Wednesday and then a whole 40 days to draw closer to God.
Nadia Bolz-Webber writes this about Lent, “Lent isn’t about punishing ourselves for being human – the practice of Lent is about peeling away layers of insulation and anesthesia which keep us from the truth of God’s promises. Lent is about looking at our lives in as bright a light as possible, the light of Christ.”
Lent is not antiquated or something no one does – it is counter cultural. When all the world around us sends message that defines our self-worth by the stuff we can accumulate. Lent reminds us that we are dependent on God’s love for us in Jesus. Lent asks us remember those who are suffering in our world. Lent reminds us that at the heart of faith is love for God and love for neighbor. Lent is an invitation to a Living Faith.
For the season of Lent we are going to explore that living faith with music and faith stories from around the world. And we do indeed have a living faith – don’t believe the rumours that the church is dying. Changing maybe but not dying. We have a living faith. Every day people in this community live out their faith through prayer, worship and acts of loving kindness. A living faith has many faces. It caring for those in our midst. It is the work done at Stella Burry where we are reminded that “hope lives here.” It people volunteering and bringing food for Bridges to Hope. It is raising money and bringing food so our school children have enough food to eat. A living faith is found as we worship on Sundays, as we care for friends and neighbours, as we try to make our world a better place.
That living faith is at work in places around the world as Christians gather to worship and care for their neighbours. James Murray a United Church minister shared this on the World Day of Prayer, “Back on New Year's Eve in 2010, a group of Islamic radicals bombed a Coptic church as Christians were gathering in worship. Dozens were killed in the attack. A week later, when the same Christians gathered to celebrate Christmas as they do on January 6th, a group of Muslims formed a human chain around their churches to protect their neighbours as they prayed. A few weeks later the Arab Spring uprising came to Egypt. People gathered in Tahrir Square to demand democracy and freedom. And as the Muslims there bowed for their daily prayer, Christians held hands to form a human chain to protect their neighbours as they prayed. Only God has the power to bring us together.” (James Murray, World Day of Prayer)
A living faith starts with a strong foundation – a relationship with God. It is easy when reading John’s gospel to get lost in the long narratives. Let me help set the scene. Jesus had just fed the multitudes who’d come to hear him preach with two loaves and five fish. Amazing. So the crowds have eaten. Jesus then goes on to with a new teaching. You know it is going to be a powerful message every time Jesus begins with the words, “I am” We hear a few times. I am the living water. I am the good shepherd. It reminds of the time when Moses asked to know God’s name and the answer was “I am who I am.”
Well now that the “I am” is walking and talking in the person of Jesus it is getting fleshed out a bit. Today Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” At first glance that may seem simple. But the reminder that Jesus is the bread of life is a promise for daily life. Bread is a staple food. When I think of bread, I remember the smell of my mother’s homemade bread and the taste of that bread still warm form the oven with melted butter. Bread is a staple food.
Bread is the food for life. So Jesus says “I am the bread of life.” And no one really understands what he is talking about because it is such a strange thing to say. So he tries to explain saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)
Today as we gather at the table we are reminded that Jesus is the bread of life. The one who sustains each day. When we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we are reminded that God is with us. Today cup we are using for communion today is called “the Bent Chalice.” It is bent because it is a reminder that all of us come to the Lord’s Table bent and broken in need of grace. The Potter describes it this way, “The bent chalice is a visual reminder that all people of faith can come the Welcoming Table just as they are bringing whatever broken pieces of life, whatever isn’t perfect, and whatever doesn’t measure up ... and know that we are created in the image of The Holy.” (Dancing Fiddler Potter)
Each of us comes the Lord’s Table in our own way recognizing that through some mystery we can’t quite name we meet God. Strengthened by gifts of bread and wine we are renewed to live out our faith in ever new ways. Amen.