Sermon preached by Fr John Pritchard
on Thursday 11th June 2020 (Corpus Christi)
Genesis 14.18–20; Psalm 116.10–end; 1 Corinthians 11.23–26; John 6.51–58
On this feast of Corpus Christi, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that you the people of God are starving. You have for three months gone without the food and drink of God’s kingdom. You have been expected to watch holy things going on before your eyes. And though you have applauded your clergy for turning on computers and doing what we have always done, but in front of a camera; we have witnessed a peculiar and unsatisfactory relationship in these past months, for we have been feasting while you have been physically going without – and this is not our vocation.
Perhaps before the 20th century this might have been acceptable… but the church entered into a movement at the beginning of the 20th century which placed at the heart of who we are as the Church of England, at the heart of our worshipping life together the Parish Communion. Scripture maintained its importance, but we came to understand that we could commune with God through the gifts of God, the gifts of his Son given to us in bread and wine, and we could do this when we gathered together week by week.
I am not oblivious to the fact that still at the heart of many churches are services which celebrate the word of God, but we have accepted in our tradition that God is with us in word and sacrament, so we sing psalms, we read scriptures, but we also look to the bread and the wine, the body and blood of Christ to reveal God to us, inspire us and bind us together in love, with chords that cannot be broken or dissolved.
For we have been brought up in our Anglo-Catholic tradition to be mindful that we are what we eat… in our receiving Christ’s body and blood, we, through grace are changed ever more to reflect God known both in the revelation of Scripture, but also in the encounter we have with his Body and Blood. The Holy Eucharist is our common activity which unites us, and which cannot be used to separate us from God or from each other, it is the great unifier of God in creation for where other things will discriminate because they do not change… his living sacrifice meets us where we are, the food of God does not remain a lifeless static thing, but a lively active encounter between God and humanity bound up in a wafer of bread and a sip of wine.
Our life has been diminished by our inability to think creatively how we might share in the food of God’s Kingdom even though we are separated from one another during this past time. We do not want to put each other at risk, but also our separation from one another is now a great issue.
Receive spiritually the intended gifts of God in this Mass, but Jesus sat with his disciples and gave them food, bread and wine, that we remember his life in this way and that we might know life in its fullest measure.
The Food which Adam and Eve received brought that couple to a radical and new understanding of their humanity and that they were mortal, the food of the wilderness was sufficient but reminded God’s people they were lost. But our food, the food of this Altar reminds us that we are no longer bound by that old food, we have been found and belong to God through his Son. This food, these simple things brought together remind us not only of our hunger for God, but that our hunger is satisfied in that they bring life to us, and life eternal.
Jesus said, ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
On this feast, rejoice for you have eaten… but remember that there are many who have not, and who still cannot eat from this table.
Let us give thanks for all that we have been given in this sacrament, our life in Christ and his life in us. And let us pray for those who do not know him, and who have not eaten of God’s generous gifts to us in creation. Perhaps we will only now begin to see how we can be together again, not only in prayer, and the gifts of the Spirit, but in the gift of Christ given to us in the bread and wine of the Altar, his life which has given us hope and life in God.