In the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” Arthur King of the Britons goes around on his mock horse, clip-clop, clip-clop, announcing “I am Arthur King of the Britons” – it’s blatant self-heralding.
What a way to build a kingdom. What a way to gather a people.
It doesn’t work of course. Most people respond something like
[jeering] “Oh yeah?”
And one group goes so far as to respond to his announcement in an even more subversive manner…
“I am Arthur, King of the Britons.”
“I don’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.”
Jesus was not a self-heralding king. In fact, by some accounts, he shushed up all business about himself as much as he could.
But the word got out.
The kingdom, that is, the reign, of God, is at hand. It’s time to get ready.
That kingdom is shalom, the peace of God.
What would it be like to live in peace, God’s peace? How would you get there? What would it look like?
To reach God’s shalom,
justice and righteousness must be established.
To live in safety,
the fear of death must be removed.
As a shepherd,
beholding lost sheep, scattered over distant hills,
Jesus regards with compassion
the people who have come out to seek him
in a deserted place
Powered by faith alone.
Send them away, the disciples said,
so they can buy for themselves
something to eat.
No, you feed them.
How shall we feed so many?
He had them group themselves for the meal
organized like Moses’ flock into hundreds and fifties
into impromptu households
like the people fleeing Pharaoh on that first Passover
he broke the bread
this is my own body
Giving thanks – but who has seen him?
When you fed me, gave me drink, clothed me, visited me,
then you saw me
And so John can testify
we proclaim to you
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked at
and touched with our hands,
(1 John 1:1)
So Jesus host of the sacred meal
as Israel always had
Blessed be thou O Lord our God,
king of the universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth
From the earth
he feeds God’s people
Taking up the resources of creation
what they had
what they brought
revealing its transformative power
no longer victims
they are God’s people once again set free
Like the first Passover
Like the bread in the wilderness, bread from heaven,
once again God feeds them
with the food he provides
as with the binding of Isaac
God himself provides the offering
like a shepherd
feeds his people
calms their fears
and goes on
moving among the people
gathers us in
transforms us with his word
and his self-gift of the meal
sends us out again
as his messengers
to bear Jesus
into the world.
Jeremiah assures the people of Israel that their true shepherds are coming, sent by the Lord. The word to the unfaithful shepherds, leaders who have failed to look after the people and be their guides: you will be called to account.
To the people God’s assurance:
I will gather, I will bring back, my people
They will be well and increase
I will give them shepherds
they shall be safe
and not afraid
The letter to the Ephesians proclaims that
we will all become one flock under one shepherd.
Hostility between peoples is broken down.
All are gathered around God’s table.
Nobody is left out, any more.
We are reconciled in Christ
and through his cross
we are made one people
We are all members of his household.
There is a banquet
not like the dinner party Herod threw for his own birthday
a heaven-sent banquet
not just for the prominent or the select
all are at the table
the table that is the kingdom feast of God.
But can we do enough?
Are the resources we have enough for God to work with?
And who will come,
if we extend the invitation? God knows!
When you open the doors,
who knows who will come in,
who God will send.
We find out, a bit, simply enough:
God keeps sending us people,
like the people of Edmonds,
Mountlake Terrace, North Seattle, …
God keeps sending us the
as well as the
Whoever God sends us,
God calls us to be faithful
as his messengers, his disciples, his friends.
We are no longer strangers – but remember (God says),
you were a stranger once;
know you who are a member of the household,
a citizen numbered with the saints,
know to be prepared
to become one great people of glory
to be built into a dwelling place
for – not ourselves –
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.
Closing prayer from Common Worship (http://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/texts.aspx)
Notes for a sermon to be given Sunday 22 July 2012 at Saint Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash. (stalbansedmonds.org)
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, Mark 6:53-56, BProper11, Shepherd, Shepherd King, JRL+