I don’t think I have ever been more proud of our daughter Kayleigh than during the Spring of her senior year in high school. It appears, in the course of a class discussion on Waiting for Godot, the class explored the different possible outcomes for the play based on the understanding that Godot is God. One stream of thought asked if it was possible the characters would actually commit suicide in order to meet Gadot. One student, I am told, stated that that option would not be possible if Godot were truly God, because it is a mortal sin to commit suicide and therefore the characters would be banished to hell and completely cut off from God. But Kayleigh, our more out spoken daughter, had another take, she very clearly told her classmates that she could not believe God would punish someone who found life so painful that they actually felt the need to commit suicide. God, she felt, would have compassion and forgive.
I find it somewhat odd, that so many believe in a vengeful God. . . who have chosen to live in fear of God and look to the Bible to decide who God is able and not able to love. I have yet to figure out the attraction this understanding holds for so many beyond the fact it provides a foot hold of security in a world that is ever changing and feeling more and more insecure by the minute. And let’s face it; change is scary, especially when we do not know what lies on the other side. So, I guess, why not, for better or worse, seek a god you can depend on, that places clear boundaries around the chaos and uncertainty of modern life. It is no doubt, one way to find our place in the world.
As I think about those who find comfort in a judgmental and vengeful God, I am reminded of the crowds who in last week’s Gospel sought to make Jesus their king and then this week willingly crossed the Sea of Galilee to find him on the other side. Those, whom Jesus rebuked because they sought him only because he had given them their fill of bread the previous night. It seems, that is the problem of holding onto the god of judgment, on the surface it may help us feel more secure, provide a foundation from which to approach the modern world and even make us feel good for a little while, but. . .it does not do much more than that. And it certainly does not help us to grow spiritually and to partake in all that God has and wants to offer us, and it doesn’t help when we just can’t seem to meet God’s expectations.
This is why God calls us to seek more than just the security of the physical, why God invites us to seek something greater, to abide in a full and intimate relationship with God.
I know on the surface we all say to ourselves that we want a full, intimate and abiding relationship with God. But deep down most of us are like those who heard Jesus speak of the bread of life, they too were saying to themselves, yes Jesus that’s what I really want and then pulled back and asked for more signs when they realized that they’d have to take the next step forward in faith.
Yes, we all want a deeper more intimate relationship with God, we all want to experience the peace of God that passes all understanding, and for the most part. . .we want it to come easily and without risk.
Unfortunately, an intimate and abiding relationship with God does not come easily or without risk. At times, we actually have to take the first step. In today’s Gospel, in order to partake in the bread of life and not just the loves on the hillside, those who found Jesus had to trust in what he offered with no further signs or miracles. Because in order to partake in the bread of life and to fully experience the love of God, at some point we actually have to open ourselves and let God love us.
Allowing ourselves to be loved sounds so easy and yet,is so hard. If we believe in a god of judgment and wrath, how can we let down our guard and be vulnerable before God? As most of us know, in order to truly allow someone or something else to love us, we have to open up the walls that surround us, that protect us from getting hurt and prevent us from being fully vulnerable. Think back to our adolescent years and the angst we all experienced when trying to connect with the object of our affections. How many of us remember the games we played, the indirect communication, the ongoing analysis of signs in order to figure out if the other person really liked us. We did this, because direct communication was too scary as we feared being hurt by rejection.
In many ways we do the same with God. However, the good news with God is, through Jesus we do not have to fear being rejected by God. St. John tells us that God so loved the world that God gave his only Son so that all who believe (or trust) in him will have ever lasting life.
This means, we don’t have to find out through our best friend if God (as pre-adolescents are prone to say) “like’s us, like’s us” because God has already shown us. God’s demonstrated God’s desire for a relationship is already there, all we have to do is let down our guard and accept.
But we cannot do this if we hold onto the concept of a vengeful god and only safely seek to be fed physical bread and not the bread of life. Instead we need to accept that God seeks as comfortable and as intimate of a relationship with us as we have with a best friend. . A relationship in which we feel truly united with God in the same way we understand the commitment made between two people through the sacrament of marriage.
According to our theology of marriage, through marriage, two people are united physically, emotionally and spiritually. No longer does the world look upon them simply as two individuals but somehow as two individuals that make up a unit. For the years to come, the couple is challenged to let go of individual desires in order to provide for the well being of each other. Often times this requires the ability to look out into the world through the eyes of the other as world views and values grow closer in alignment.
When we allow ourselves intimacy with God the same becomes true, in time we find ourselves united with God and find ourselves able to see the world through God’s eyes. In Paul’s letter to the Roman’s, he tells us that through baptism we are united in the death of Christ and also the resurrection. Through baptism the old self is crucified and the new self raised from the dead. Like in marriage, abiding in a relationship with God asks us to sacrifice the self in order to raise up the “we” of God and us. In this morning’s reading from Ephesian, Paul tells us the union we encounter through baptism goes beyond the individual relationship with God to union with the community of the baptized, the Body of Christ, the Church. It is when we are able to unite with one another as one body, one spirit, with one hope and one God and father of all who is above all, and through all and in all, we are able to experience the risen Christ and able to partake in the bread of life that Jesus offers. . a full intimate and abiding relationship with God..
In many ways, Paul tells us when we become united in Christ, we become greater than the sum of our parts. Paul’s point has been demonstrated at the Olympics many times this past week. .As each swimmer and gymnast has found individual gold, during interviews, they have been quick to praise their teammates, acknowledging that without the camaraderie, friendly rivalries, and endless support of their teammates, they could not have accomplished what they had. . .living reminders that there is no I in team.
And so it is true when we truly seek the bread of life Jesus offers us. It is a call for us today to trust in the love of God as we are invited to let go of the ‘I’ in order to become part of the “we” united in the one hope that is found in an intimate and abiding relationship with the bread of life the God and creator of all.