Pacific Beach United Methodist Church welcomes all people, regardless of age, race, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, physical condition, sexual orientation, ethnic background, immigration status, or economic situation.
Today is Homecoming Sunday! We’ve all been away for a while due to the pandemic and a whole host of other reasons. We’ll be reflecting on the Bible’s quintessential homecoming story…the story of the prodigal son.
Our reading from Mark’s gospel takes us into the heart of a heated exchange between Jesus and some of the religious leaders. The religious leaders ask a question about Jesus’ disciples that is clearly more of an accusation than a genuine question. They want to know why Jesus’ disciples don’t all wash their hands according to the purity laws before eating. Jesus, drawing on the words of the prophet Isaiah, calls them out for honoring God “with their lips” while their hearts are far away.
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Traditions are a fundamental part of our human experience. They ground us, they connect us to one another and they often bring meaning, peace and joy to our lives. We are entering into the fall season that will usher in all kinds of beloved traditions…traditions at church, traditions at home, traditions in our neighborhoods and community. But tradition, according to our scripture reading for this week, can also lead us down a slippery slope…especially in our lives of faith. Because traditions can become worn out. They can lose that which makes them lively and life giving. They can become small and legalistic. They can become more important, in and of themselves, than that which inspired them in the first place.
As we have been moving out of pandemic lock down mode over these last months, as I’ve begun to attend a few social functions, I find myself more frequently asking this age old question: What should I wear? Our reading from Ephesians is a good indicator that this truly MAY be an age old question! The author talks about this very thing…what we should wear. Granted, they’re not talking about what we should wear to church or work or the grocery store. Rather the focus is on what we should wear, how we should clothe ourselves, for “battle” against the struggles we face. This passage is moving for some and troubling for others with its warrior imagery. We’ll spend time this Sunday exploring this text in relation to the last of the “Jesus as bread of life” texts from the Gospel of John.
“Take. Eat. This is my body, broken for you.” Those of us who are newer to Christianity might have an advantage here and be more able to perceive how shocking these words were to Jesus’ contemporaries. Folks who gathered around Jesus, including his own disciples, balked when Jesus started talking about “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood.” And who can blame them? At face value, it’s a fairly gory notion. But in this passage Jesus says, “Unless you do this…you have no life in you.” That’s the piece we’ll focus on in worship this Sunday. What does Jesus mean when he says this? Is Jesus talking about physical life? Eternal life? Or is there something else?