Archive for the ‘Feeding of the Four Thousand’ Tag

God of the Jews and the Gentiles, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the Widow of Zarephath, by Louis Hersent

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 20:1-20 or 1 Kings 17:8-24

Psalm 57

Hebrews 1:1-2:12

Mark 8:1-13

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Scholars of the Hebrew Bible debate whether the commandment,

You shall have no other god besides me,

in its original context, refutes the existence of other gods or merely places them off limits to Hebrews.  Subsequent monotheistic developments point to refutation of other gods in today’s context, though.

Scholars of the Hebrew Bible agree, however, that Canaanite religion influenced Hebrew religion in more than one way.  The Bible tells us that polytheism influenced Hebrew folk religion, much to the consternation of the orthodox.  We also detect linguistic influences of Canaanite religion in certain names of God, as in Psalm 57.  Furthermore, some of the Psalms are rewritten Canaanite texts.

Three of the assigned readings pertain to Gentiles.

  1. The widow of Zarephath and her son were Gentiles.
  2. The 4000 or so people Jesus fed in Mark 8:1-13 were Gentiles.
  3. The audience for the so-called Epistle to the Hebrews (not an epistle) consisted of Gentiles.

I, as a Gentile, find this comforting.

How likely are we to write off populations as being beyond hope, help, salvation, et cetera?  Take courage; God has not, does not, and will never write you, O reader, off.  But will you write yourself off?  I pray that you will not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-18-year-b-humes/

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Hesed, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Mephibosheth Before David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 9:1-13a

Psalm 68:17-20

Revelation 19:1-10

Mark 8:1-10

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The reading from 2 Samuel 9 contains a wonderful Hebrew word, hesed, which can mean “faith” or “kindness.”  For example, in 9:1 we read,

David inquired, “Is there anyone still left in the House of Saul with whom I can keep faith for the sake of Jonathan?”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses the other translation:

David asked, “Is there anyone left of the House of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Kindness is not always a simple matter.  Treating Mephibosheth, the self-described “dead dog” and crippled son of Jonathan with mercy and prestige is easy enough.   Furthermore, the miracle (the Feeding of the 4000) in Mark 8 is an example of extravagant and unambiguous kindness.  But what about the contents of the other readings?

Babylon (the Roman Empire) has fallen in Revelation 18.  The regime based on violence, oppression, and economic exploitation is no more.  Those who benefited from relationships to the empire mourn its passing.  We read of rejoicing in Heaven in Revelation 19.  But what about the innocent victims of the fall of the empire?  Might they also mourn the passing of the empire?

In Psalm 68 (a liturgy for a festival celebration in the Temple), taken in full, we read of God’s judgment and mercy.  Yes, divine hesed is present, but so is God crushing the heads of his enemies (verse 21).  As I have written repeatedly, good news for the oppressed is frequently catastrophic news for the unrepentant oppressors.  Perhaps the enemies whose heads God crushes were harming the widows and orphans mentioned in verse 5.

There is more than enough divine hesed to go around, but each of us has the individual responsibility to practice hesed toward each other also.  Furthermore, we have the collective responsibility to practice hesed institutionally, including as nation-states.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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Spiritual Blindness, Part II   1 comment

mosaic

Above:  Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 21:1-15 or 2 Kings 4:38-44

Psalm 49:(1-12) 13-20

Matthew 15:29-39; 16:10-12 or Mark 8:1-26

2 Corinthians 8:1-6 (7-15) 16-24

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Stories of a holy person feeding a multitude with a small amount of food and having leftovers rhyme, if you will, O reader, in the Bible.  This day we read an account of Elisha feeding 100 men and parallel stories of Jesus feeding 4000 men (plus uncounted women and children) in Matthew 15 and about 4000 people in Mark 8.  The mechanics of such feelings do not interest me, but the theological importance of them does.  The Kingdom of God is here, and we can perceive that reality, if we are spiritually attuned.  In the Kingdom of God one finds abundance for everyone; artificial scarcity is a human creation.

Meanwhile, in 2 Corinthians 8, St. Paul the Apostle is raising funds for the Church at Jerusalem.  This becomes explicit in Chapter 9.  He, quoting Exodus 16:18, originally about manna, makes a point about wealth, monetary and physical:

The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.

–2 Corinthians 8:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

After all, we cannot take our money and possessions with us when we die.  In this life we ought to use them for positive purposes.  So, for example, if a rebel leader (David) pretending to be in the employ of King Saul needs bread for himself and his men takes the display bread reserved for priests to eat, the physical need overrides the ritual rules.  (Yet, in 1 Samuel 22, the lie had fatal consequences for the priests.)

In the Kingdom of God scarcity is absent.  So is the violence of someone such as King Saul.  The ways of God are not the ways of human beings, despite our repeated attempts to make God fit into our categories.  Part of this problem of attempting to make God fit into our categories is unavoidable, for, when we ponder God, we must do so from a human perspective.  It is the only way we can think about God.  Yet we must, if we are wise, recognize that our point of view is rather restricted.  Our perspective might be, for example, the spiritual blindness of the Apostles of the leaven of the Pharisees.  Reality is much broader than our narrow perspectives, we read.  Are we willing to open our spiritual eyes?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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With God There Are Leftovers, Part I   1 comment

Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Above:  Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 55:1-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43

Mark 8:1-10

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he rendered them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

–Psalm 107:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Repentance is an option, even late in the game, so to speak.  God, who glorifies the chosen people and remains faithful to divine promises, invites those who need to change their minds and ways to do so.  The more people who are present at the divine banquet, the merrier.

Speaking of banquets, Mark 8:1-10 tells of Jesus feeding 4000 people (not just men) with a few fishes and loaves of bread.  I refuse to try to explain the Feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 (Plus) (Mark 6:30-44) rationally for the same reason, which is that to do so is address the wrong question.  I focus instead on one detail:  there was more afterward than before.

Some people think that they have nothing to offer or that what they have to offer is inadequate, so they do not offer it to God for divine purposes.  God, however, can multiply those gifts and talents, leaving leftovers.  Many people need to repent of their failure to trust in God’s strength instead of their own.  These are not evil people, just weak ones with psychological and emotional issues.  At some point in each of us has been among this population.  Others of us remain in their ranks.

The graciousness of God to the Hebrews in Isaiah 55 benefited the world (verse 5).  God’s blessings to any one of us can and should benefit others.  If we trust God to multiply that which we have to offer, as meager as it might seem, it will enrich the lives of more people than we can imagine, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-13-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Extravagance of God   1 comment

Gathering of the Manna

Above:  The Gathering of the Manna

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness,

and you cover creation with abundance.

Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit,

and with this food fill all the starving world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:2-15, 31-35

Psalm 78:1-8, 17-29

Matthew 15:32-39

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He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

–Psalm 78:24-25, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That manna was probably crystallized excrement of insects, but it was sufficient.  Such excrement is, to this day, a product which many people consume without harmful effects.  Perhaps the greatest barrier for Westerners such as myself is the “ick” factor, which results from knowing what something people from cultures quite different from ours consume on a regular basis.

There was enough manna, which people were forbidden to stockpile.  In Matthew 15:32-39, where Jesus fed four thousand men plus uncounted women and children, there were initially only seven loaves and a few small fish yet seven baskets full of leftovers at the end.  The extravagance of the story in the Gospel of Matthew is remarkable.  That which seemed woefully insufficient was actually more than enough in the hands of Jesus.

The spiritual lesson remains true regardless of the issue of historical accuracy.  I have known people who have insisted that they had no talents to use in service to God, as if the matter was about them.  No, their inferiority complex aside, the matter was always about God, who seems to expect relatively little of us–the offering of the metaphorical seven loaves of bread and a few small fish plus confidence in divine abilities–and calls that enough.  This little bit, compared to all that God has done, is doing, and will do, is quite small.  Yet it proves difficult for many people.  Sometimes it has been impossible for me.  At those times God supplied the necessary grace.  The light of God is constant, I suppose, but it seems brightest in the blackest darkness.

The extravagance of God astounds me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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Edited from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-13-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XV: Jesus or Deuteronomy?   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Canaanite Woman

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 19:1-20 (October 20)

Deuteronomy 20:1-20 (October 21)

Psalm 67 (Morning–October 20)

Psalm 51 (Morning–October 21)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–October 20)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–October 21)

Matthew 15:1-20 (October 20)

Matthew 15:21-39 (October 21)

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Some Related Posts:

Matthew 15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/fourth-day-of-advent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/week-of-proper-13-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/proper-15-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-2/

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Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Savior, showed great compassion in the stories collected in Matthew 15.  He focused on inner purity or lack thereof (as opposed to ritual purity or impurity), healed a Gentile’s daughter and many suffering people then fed four thousand men plus uncounted women and children.  His heart went out to people (not just the 4000+).  So Jesus acted.

Meanwhile, back in Deuteronomy, we find the usual combination of mercy and proscribed violence. For the latter, O reader, see 20:10-14, where the alternative to death is forced labor.  Yes, I disagree with these laws which command killing or forced labor.  Why should I not do so?  Whom would Jesus kill or enslave?  After all, his heart went out to people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-20-and-21-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Bread of Life   1 comment

Above:  Eucharistic Host with Wafers

Image Source = Patnac

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 3:9-24 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH God called the human and said to him,

Where are you?

And he said,

I heard the sound of you in the garden and was afraid because I was naked, and I hid?

And He said,

Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?

And the human said,

The woman, whom you placed with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the woman,

What is this that you’ve done?

And the woman said,

The snake tricked me, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the snake,

Because you did this, you are cursed out of every domestic animal and every animal of the field, you’ll go on your belly, and you’ll eat dust all the days of your life.  And I’ll put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed.  He’ll strike you at the head, and you’ll strike him at the heel.

To the woman He said,

I’ll make your suffering and your labor pain great.  You’ll have children in pain.  And your desire will be for your man, and he’ll dominate you.

And to the human He said,

Because you listened to your woman’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you saying, ‘You shall not eat from it,” the ground is cursed on your account.  You’ll eat from it with suffering all the days of your life.  And it will grow thorn and thistle at you, and you’ll eat the field’s vegetation.  By the sweat of your nostrils you’ll eat bread until you go back to the ground, because you were taken from it; because you are dust and you’ll go back to dust.

And the human called his woman

Eve,

because she was the mother of all living.

And YHWH God made skin garments for the human and his woman and dressed them.

And YHWH God said,

Here, the human has become like one of us, to know good and bad.  And now, in case he’ll put out his hand and take from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever.

And YHWH God put him out of the garden of Eden, to work the ground from which he was taken.  And He expelled the human, and He had the cherubs and the flame of a revolving sword reside at the east of the garden of Eden to watch over the way to the tree of life.

Psalm 90:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3 You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

7 For we consume away in your displeasure;

we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.

8 Our iniquities you have set before you,

and our secret sins in the sight of your countenance.

When you are angry, all our days are gone;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10 The span of our life is seventy years,

perhaps in strength even eighty;

yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,

for they pass away quickly and we are gone.

11 Who regards the power of your wrath?

who rightly fears your indignation?

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Mark 8:1-10 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

About this time it happened again that a large crowd collected and had nothing to eat.  Jesus called the disciples over to him and said,

My heart goes out to this crowd; they have been with me three days now and they have no food left.  If I send them off home without anything, they will collapse on the way–and some of them have come from a distance.

His disciples replied,

Where could anyone find the food to feed them here in this deserted spot?

Jesus asked them,

How many loaves have you got?

They replied,

Seven.

So Jesus told the crowd to settle themselves on the ground.  Then he took the seven loaves into his hands, and with a prayer of thanksgiving broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people; and this they did.  They had a few small fish as well, and after blessing them, Jesus told his disciples to give these also to the people.  They ate and they were satisfied.  Moreover, they picked up seven baskets of full pieces left over.  The people numbered about four thousand.  Jesus sent them home, and then he boarded the boat at once with the disciples and went on to the district of Dalmanutha.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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This seems like a good time to quote Calvinist theology.  There are three covenants in Calvinism.  The first is the Covenant of Redemption, in which the members of the Holy Trinity agreed to redeem human beings.  Then there is the Covenant of Works, which is of pre-Fall origin.  The formulation is simple:  obey God and live (spiritually and physically); disobey God and die (spiritually and physically).   Grace did mitigate the penalty, as in today’s reading from Genesis.  Sin being universal after the Fall, a third covenant, one of grace, became necessary.  Since we are incapable of fulfilling the terms of the Covenant of Works, life and death are spiritual, not physical.  Jesus fulfills the terms of the Covenant of Works.  (Thanks to R. C. Sproul for his summary of the covenants in What is Reformed Theology?  Understanding the Basics, Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1997)

That aspect of Calvinism provides a useful prism for interpreting the readings for today.  Grace was present simultaneously with judgment; God expelled the mythical Adam and Eve from paradise and denied them immortality, yet protected them from immediate death.  The myth communicates a profound truth:  Although we cannot evade all consequences of our actions, often we do not receive all that we deserve.  This is grace.

Speaking of grace, we arrive next at the Feeding of the Four Thousand.  I do not care about engaging in the argument about whether this is a retelling of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (men) plus an uncertain number of women and children.  No, I have a different priority.  Read with me:  Jesus had compassion on the people, some of whom had a long trek back home.  Literally, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, his heart went out to them.  So he fed them.  His grace was abundant, to overflowing:  seven large baskets (hampers, really) full of leftovers.

This story is a foretaste of the Holy Eucharist, one of my favorite activities.  I am so attached to it that I seek to partake of it at least once a week, usually more often.  Jesus is the bread of life–spiritual life.  He is present (really present) in this sacrament.  So, each week, as I pray the Hail Mary silently and partake of bread (and often wine, too), I take my Lord into myself.  If I am what I eat (an apt expression in this context), I become holier for this simple act.  And my spiritual life deepens.  The body will die, but something of myself will continue.  May it do so in the presence of God.  That is called eternity in the afterlife.  May you do likewise.

That will be grace, for all of us.

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I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE

Words by Sister Suzanne Toolan, R.S.M.

As published in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

1.  “I am the bread of life.

You who come to me shall not hunger,

and who believe in me shall not thirst.

No one can come to me unless the Father beckons.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

2.  “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world,

and if you eat of this bread,

you shall live forever,

you shall live forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

3.  “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man

and drink of his blood,

and drink of his blood,

you shall not have life within you.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

4.  “I am the resurrection,

I am the life.

If you believe in me,

even though you die,

you shall life forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

5.  Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ,

the Son of God,

who has come into the world.

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 19, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF THE CROSS, FOUNDER OF THE PASSIONIST CONGREGATION

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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