7th June 2021

How to live for ever

How to live for ever

Sermon for the Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion (Corpus Christi) 
Thursday 3 June 2021, 17.30 
Readings 1 Corinthians 11.23-26  John 6.51-58 
Preacher Canon Robert Titley
Please scroll to the bottom of this page to follow a video of this sermon.
 
‘Isn’t it great,’ said one of our volunteers this morning, ‘to have our visitors back?’ And so it is. Those who knew the Cathedral before the last lockdown will have noticed some changes, not least in our interpretation boards: less text, fewer assumptions about what people already know, and a desire to introduce the cathedral as a place of faith as well as a place of history. So if you come in knowing nothing about Christianity – and if you pay attention – you should go out knowing, yes, about the rat in the skull (last arch on the right in the nave) but also about the man on the cross. Take this example:
The High Altar is the focus of worship for the Eucharist, the main Christian sacrament (ceremony)…bread and wine, representing the body and blood of Jesus, are blessed on the altar, then shared with the congregation.
Clear, simple and perhaps prompting you to want to know more. And if you do, one of our team of guides or chaplains can take you deeper. Let us eavesdrop on the conversation.
Why bread and wine? 
Because Jesus shared bread and wine at the last meal he had with his friends before he died, and said, ‘Take it, and eat. This is my body.’
What did he mean by that? 
Good question. We can’t all agree on that, but we do it because he said, ‘Do this, to remember me.’
And what does it do for you? 
At this point we move from arm’s length to up close, from head to heart, from mere information to potential transformation. What do you say? John’s gospel has one suggestion this evening, as the writer describes Jesus saying, 
‘Whoever eats this bread will live for ever.’
This reminds me of another ambitious saying of Jesus in John’s gospel, often used at funerals: ‘Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die’. I wonder what mourners make of that as their loved one’s coffin is carried in? And what did you make of this evening’s words, 
‘Whoever eats this bread will live for ever’?
Well, what doesn’t it mean? The words of the priest blessing the bread are not a magic spell. Like a biscuit, it will go soft after a while. It may even go mouldy. It is subject to decay – as are those who eat it. I can testify to this: regular receiving of the Holy Communion has so far not done antything for my hair loss. Of course not, because we are living, as Madonna catchily reminds us, in a material world. But the question is, are we merely material girls (and boys)?
Take and eat this bread, feed on it, digest it – pay attention to it – keep doing that, and you may begin to taste and see that which is unbounded by space and time, wrapped up in something entirely made up of the materials of this world. And as you find that to be true, here above all, in the Real Presence of Jesus in the meal he gave us, so you may develop a taste for the presence of God elsewhere. 
Anywhere – certainly any meal, where hunger is fed, thirst slaked, aroma savoured, taste and perhaps company enjoyed – anywhere may yield a moment when you detect the surface of materiality rippling with the depth of things beneath. 
Then you and I will begin to know what the mystics have long tried to teach us, that the depth that is God waits to be discovered – if we pay attention – in and beneath the apparently unwonderful everyday. 
‘Whoever eats this bread will live for ever.’
This bread will indeed feed us up for heaven, that unimaginable place where death shall be no more. And meanwhile, it will make us better neighbours to the ordinary, wondrous people whose lives a joined with ours and in whom Jesus waits to meet us. It will also make us better carers for this world God has entrusted to us – and from which comes this miraculous bread, fruit of the earth and work of human hands.