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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?
Just like our bodies experience hunger pangs, our hearts and spirits can also experience “soul pangs.” It seems as if we’re born into this world with certain hungers for love, belonging, connection, joy, play, peace and so much more. We often experience these “hungers” in isolation, not acknowledging them to others and, very frequently, not even acknowledging them to ourselves. Many of us, myself included, try to fill these soul pangs with food or drink or activity that doesn’t come close to truly meeting our needs. It is part of our human condition to experience hunger…not only hunger in our bodies but hunger in our spirits as well.
This Sunday we are blessed to have Adam Marshall-Lopez with us to preach and lead in worship. This week’s text from 2 Samuel is a portion of a larger narrative and describes the encounter between David and the prophet, Nathan. This section of scripture reminds me of how life is a constant learning process and an on-going journey. We are always on a path of discovering who we are and how we are in relationship with God, others and ourselves. We have good moments and not so good moments and hopefully we can learn from them all.