Preached on 9 August 2015 at St. Luke’s Memorial Episcopal Church, Tacoma, WA
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 14, Year B
Twenty-five years ago, or so, my husband and I and our almost two-year-old daughter visited my cousins on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, where my grandfather was born and raised. Now, I had never met them before, although we had exchanged letters and Christmas cards. For that matter, I never met my grandfather – he died before my parents even met.
Even so, my cousins welcomed me Home. As far as they were concerned, Lewis was my home, I just happened to live in a house in the States. While I was there, another, more distant cousin quickly drew up our family tree, tracing my lineage back to the mid-1600s. These were my People, my family. Lewis is where I was from.
It’s a matter of origins, where we come from. Our origins, and how we talk about them, are about our connections; our Community, our Family; our People. And there are many ways to tell about our origins.
For example, I could focus on myself as an individual; perhaps giving my educational story, or my work history, or talking about my husband and children.
Or I could say that I’m a Seattle native – born and raised there and that my father was, too, and that his mother moved to Seattle from Scotland when she was just 8 years old and his father was 17 when he immigrated.
Or I could go back even further, my grandparents were from the Old Country – old countries, I should say – and go back from there.
Today, we find Jesus talking about his origins. We’re now at week 3 in the Bread of Life series. As promised, Jesus is drawing us deeper as he interprets the sign we heard about two weeks ago – feeding the multitude. We’re learning that this story was more than providing a meal for a large number of people.
Last week we heard him in dialogue with the crowd, talking about his identity. And this week we hear the beginning of his discourse and he is talking about his origins.
Where does Jesus come from? Each gospel writer tells of Jesus’ origins a little differently. John tells it not as a story of his birth, not as a lineage back through David to Abraham or Adam. John goes all the way back to before the Creation of the World. His gospel opens with
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” The trajectory of the gospel takes him back to God, the Ascension.
And here in chapter 6, John has Jesus making claims about his own origins. “I have come down from heaven,” he says. And the Jews object. How can he claim to have come from heaven, from God?! They understand that he’s claiming to be God and that is blasphemous to their ears. They know where he’s from! He’s from Nazareth. They know his family, his parents!
I couldn’t help but think of Downton Abbey where family and connections and titles and lineage were so defining. They defined who you were, whom you could marry, what you could and could not do, where you could go.
Well, it was even more so in the culture of Jesus’ day. About the only way to break out of your box was to disgrace yourself; to bring shame not only on yourself, but on your family. And this was certainly not worth choosing.
So, what Jesus says next is even more startling. He extends his origin story to those who believe in him. Everyone whom the Father sends him is welcome; none will be rejected or thrown out or lost. It doesn’t matter who their family is or if they have no important connections, or even if they have brought shame on themselves and their families; all are welcome. They will have eternal life, beginning right now.
And then, on the last day, He will raise them up. He’s not talking about resurrection from the dead, but ascension – returning to God.
Wow! Imagine how it would feel to hear that. God in Jesus offering them new life. Offering himself as the food that will sustain them; sustain them so that they never hunger or thirst. Food that gives them abundant life; not an abundance of things, but an abundance of life itself.
So, thinking about what Jesus has said, another way I can tell of where I come from –
I am a Child of God. I am sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.
Where do you come from? How will you tell your story?