Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sermon: Jesus Fills

Sour Dough, Rustic, Bread, Baked, Food
bread image courtesy Pixabay

Sermon for August 23, 2015
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost 
(Proper 16)
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
St. Philip’s In The Hills, Tucson, AZ
Listen to this sermon here.

Lord, open our lips, that our mouth shall proclaim your praise.  Amen

I didn’t know I was hungry.

Years before I joined any church,
my friend invited me to the mid-week service
at Grace Cathedral in SF.  Church was his thing-
he was scheduled to serve as Deacon. 
I didn’t really want to go with him,
but he promised lunch in the city afterward. 

I didn’t know I was hungry.

Awkwardly, I walked into the big Cathedral. 
Looked like a big museum to me. 
We went into a side chapel.  Just three of us:
the priest, my friend the Deacon, and me.

They shared the readings,
talked a bit about the Gospel
and 20 minutes later, we shared communion.

I didn’t know I was hungry.

But, as the bread was placed in my hands,
my heart swelled up.
Rivers of tears flowed down my face,
through the lines in my mouth,
making Jesus taste salty. 

The wine touched my lips and in that little sip,
in that moment, I realized how hungry was. 
In that moment, Jesus filled me up.

I don’t remember our lunch in the city.

The GJohn does not recount the Last Supper,
but it bursts at the seams
with Eucharistic images.

Jesus continually speaks of himself as
“the bread of life”
And he invites his followers
to “partake of this bread.” 
Then he gets pretty gruesome, urging them to
“eat his flesh and drink his blood.” 
You don’t have to be a good Jew
to want to avert your eyes from such an image and
to cover your ears at such language. 
It offended many of his disciples;
they didn’t know they were hungry.

Author BBT said while Jesus had at his disposal
“… the conceptual truths of the universe,”
he did not give them something “to think about”
when he was gone,
he gave them concrete things to do
specific ways of being together in their bodies. 

He said, “do this in remembrance of me”
not “think about this.”[1] 

Jesus taught an in-your-face confrontation
with the incarnation.[2]
He spoke not of a disembodied spirit
but the opportunity
to encounter his flesh and blood.

In Hebrew, the expression “flesh and blood”
meant something like our,
“body, mind and spirit.” 
So, for the many disciples,
to receive Jesus meant
receiving his whole “flesh and blood”.

And this got their attention.
Many of them turned back.
Many of them complained.
Many of them were offended.
They didn’t know they were hungry.

And so it is with us. This teaching is difficult. 

The startling imagery of
eating flesh and drinking blood
cuts through our liturgical refinements. 

One of my colleagues tells a story of
saying the familiar words during communion,

“This is my body, broken for you.
This is my blood, shed for you,”

when a small girl suddenly said in a loud voice,
“Ew, yuk!”
To which the congregation
stared in a horrified way,
as if someone had splattered blood
all over the altar,
which was, in effect
something like what the little girl had done
with her exclamation.[3]

I think we ought to wrap the altar
with “caution” tape before Holy Communion.
“when we receive Jesus, when we partake,
his life clings to our bones and
courses through our veins. 
He can no more be taken from our life
than last Tuesday’s breakfast
can be plucked from our body. 
And this is the ultimate communion –
the coming together,
the union of the Savior and the saved.”[4] 

And that changes everything, does it not? 
But sometimes
we don’t know how hungry we are. 

Aside from the gruesomeness of
eating flesh and blood,
the implications are difficult. 

For as we receive Jesus,
we cannot separate his life in us
from our life in him.  

We receive this precious sacrament
and take him into ourselves. 
It means we love one another as Jesus loves us.
It means we are called to deny ourselves
and take up the cross. 
It means we give up our possessions
and our obsessions.

When we receive Jesus, we become a disciple –
and that changes everything. 
It means we reach out and help each other.
It means we trust one another.
It means we seek reconciliation.
It means we feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
heal the sick, give water to the thirsty,
visit the prisoners. 
The implications are difficult.
We are offended.
Sometimes we don’t know how hungry we are.


Over and over in the Gospel of John,
Jesus offered images of himself
as the bread of life,
meant to strengthen and
encourage the community.

Seeing how many disciples turned back,
Jesus asked the twelve apostles,
“do you, too, wish to go away?”
And Peter takes the cue,
transformed in that moment by the offer so dear.
“Lord, to whom can we go?
You have the words of eternal life.”

In other words, Peter said,
You are the only one
who can satisfy our deep hunger.
You are the living God.
You are the one who holds us together.
You are the source of Love and Life.
Peter confessed how hungry they were
and Jesus filled them up.

And not only those disciples,
but generations of Christians.

“The first thing the world knew about Christians
was that they ate together.”
At the beginning of every week,
Christians everywhere
celebrated the day the whole world changed and
toasted the resurrection.
They shared a meal and offered
prayers of thanksgiving,
or eucharisteo, for the bread and wine.”[5] 

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
“when you gather to eat,
you should all eat together.”[6]
As they gathered,
they remembered Jesus’ presence among them.
Some early communities began
to send a piece of the bread from their communion service
to other gatherings of Christians
to be added to their meal. 
They knew how hungry they were and
offered that bread
to fill and strengthen the bond of unity
between all Christians,
like our Lay Eucharistic Ministers
do on 2nd and 4th Sundays.[7]

These early Christians
knew how hungry they were,
They knew that Jesus filled them up.

Does this offend you? 
Do you, too, wish to go away?
Are you hungry?

The good news is that even today,
Jesus strengthens and encourages our community. 
Jesus is the only one who can
satisfy our deep hunger. 
Jesus offers us his body and his blood
every week, every day, every moment.

When we receive Jesus
into our mind body and soul,
into our pain, struggle, and loss,
into our joy, enthusiasm, and hope,
when we receive Jesus,
we are The Saved in union with The Savior.
When we receive Jesus,
we know him in our body and our blood.
Jesus fills us with unmerited grace. 

And so we come to receive him. 
We come:
vulnerable, kneeling,
hands cupped and surrendering,
in a public confession of hunger. 
“The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven”
and Jesus descends into our hands. 
“The Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation”
and Jesus slips into our lips.[8]

In response, we proclaim
that great mystery of faith –
Christ has died, Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.

Come, bring your deepest hunger,
and Jesus will fill you up to overflowing.


[1] Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar In The World: A Geography of Faith, (New York, HarperCollins, 2009), 44
[2] Inspired by Martin Copenhaver’s sermon “Eating Jesus” cited at
[3] Ibid. Copenhaver
[4] Ibid. Copenhaver
[5] Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church, (Santa Rosa, Thomas Nelson Books, 2015), 125
[6] 1 Corinthians 11:33
[7] Ibid., Evans, 127
[8] Ibid., Evans 142-143

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sermon: William Porcher Dubose

Sermon for August 18, 2015
10:00 Healing Service
William Porcher DuBose, priest, 1918
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
St. Philip’s In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
For online access to the readings click here
I speak to you in the name of One God:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Today is the Feast Day of William Porcher DuBose, who died in 1918.
What do you know about him?

Biographical information includes:

·        Known for his original and creative thinking, particularly his theology of experience
·        Born into a Huguenot family who settled in SC, 1836. 
·        Attended The Citadel and later U VA.
·        Called away by the Civil War, twice wounded and became a POW.
·        Returned and served as Chaplain to Confederate Army.
·        After war, was ordained in 1866 and after serving as rector in SC churches, became theology professor and later Dean of Un of So in Sewanee, TN.
·        Through a series of books, he probed the inner meaning of the Gospels, “treating life and doctrine in dramatic cialogue, fusing contemporary thought and criticism with strong inner faith.”
·        Complicated richness of his perspective not easily captured in a few words
·        Of importance, he discussed that the reality of salvation
o   made possible through divine initiative; God’s initiative comes first, … “God is not our Father because we are His children, but we are His children because He is our Father.” [1]
o   This underscores the importance and reality of God’s initiative in the saving process.  “We can love God only as He first loves us.”
·        Here is a sample (hand out sheets):
·        “God has placed forever before our eyes, not the image but the Very Person of the Spiritual Man. We have not to ascend into Heaven to bring Him down, nor to descend into the abyss to bring Him up, for He is with us, and near us, and in us. We have only to confess with our mouths that He is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead—and raised us in Him—and we shall live.”[2]

Clearly, DuBose was a gifted teacher and writer with a strong faith.  For us, today, we can see how he wove his complex life experiences with
the intellect to interpret those experiences
in light of Scripture.

That’s the deep lesson we hear from him and can draw from in our need of healing: That through complex life experiences, interwoven from what we learn in scriptures, we might experience real healing of God’s grace.

I think that is why the lectionary authors chose this reading from Deuteronomy, which includes that line, “…the word is very near to you: it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”

Or, consider the gospel story
of the folks on the road to Emmaus. 
They were walking along and found among them
a person who began interpreted their experiences
in light of scriptures’ stories
of Moses and all the prophets. 
They were taken by this man, and
invited him to stay with them through dinnertime
to continue to weave the scriptures
into their experiences.

So, take a moment now to reflect what needs healing in your life.

Can you think of a scripture with similar fabric?
Perhaps a parable or psalm or phrase
that gives some insight to your experience?
Would anyone like to share or explore with us?

In this process of reflection of
experience and scripture,
scripture and experience,
our relationships with each other
and with God are deepened. 
We see our healing in a new light.

And now, as we begin to share communion, may all our eyes be opened as we take, bless and break bread, as we offer that communion feast with each other.

May our eyes be opened and recognize Jesus Christ in our midst.

May our hearts continue to burn within us as he continues to stitch our lives to scripture through Him – the fullness of all in all.


[1] Excerpt from Robert Boak Slocum, The Theology of William Porcher Dubose: Life, Movement, and Being

[2] William Porcher Dubose Biography, Holy Women, Holy Men