Sermon for Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Wednesday in the Third Week of Easter
It is not easy to understand John when John is read in the liturgy: John tends to write in long, wordy passages that are difficult to understand in their entirety, much less when they are divided into the bite-sized chunks favored by the lectionary.
Which is exactly the case for today’s reading from John chapter 6. Today’s reading from John 6, from the so-called “Bread of Life Discourse,” is long and wordy and, when a few verses are excerpted from the whole to be read in the liturgy, those few verses are difficult to understand.
Today’s homily is a brief primer on what to do when the lectionary presents us with a short passage from John. To sum up: A reading from John is an invitation to get curious.
A passage from the Gospel of John is an invitation to get curious and to ask things such as:
- How does this passage fit within the larger passage from which it comes?
- How does this passage – the larger passage – fit with the trajectory of John as a whole?
- Remembering how well-versed John is in Hebrew ritual: “Does this passage refer to the Old Testament or to Hebrew ritual? If so, how?”
- Keeping in mind how important the sacraments are for John: “What might this passage tell us about John’s relationship to the sacraments?”
- And John is remarkably consistent internally, with many passages referring to and elucidating other passages; it might be helpful to ask: “What else in John could shed light on the meaning of this particular passage?”
- The list could go on…
The point is to get curious about John!
Asking questions such as these about today’s passage, we might wonder about:
- When Jesus says that he is the “Bread of Life,” is he referring to manna in the wilderness, or to the Eucharist? Or to both?
- When Jesus says that “everyone who comes to me I will never drive away,” might he be hinting at his announcement of being the Good Shepherd (coming in chapter 10)?
- When Jesus says that “all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life,” is he referring to the story of the bronze serpent in Numbers?
And so on and so forth… The point is to get curious!
I invite us over this Easter season, when the gospels each Sunday are from John, to get curious. To ask questions; to take time to get involved in the passage at home, with yourBible or online. In order to get drawn in and encounter Jesus more fully.
I suspect that part of John’s genius in writing in his long, wordy style is precisely this invitation. He wants to drop a few bread crumbs to let us know there is a trail. He wants to entice us with hints; he wants to “flirt” with us. He hopes that we’ll catch a glimpse of something so beautiful – like bread or the satisfying of hunger – that we’ll look closer and get drawn in. To the mystery, which is Jesus, who alone can give us what we really want.