Interestingly, John’s chapter six is the closest the evangelist will get to connecting Jesus with the institution of the Eucharist. Why did he choose to allude to this central sacrament in the context of the feeding of the five thousand on the margins of Galilee rather than as the Passover meal with the disciples in a Jerusalem upper room? I can’t help but notice that John’s Eucharist is a meal for and with outsiders, open and welcoming and wild. I appreciate how John’s association of the Eucharist with Jesus’ miraculous feeding expands our understanding of just what our eucharistic celebration can be and who it is for.
A week ago I got to know Bernadette and Hawk while they were eating breakfast. Hawk had slept in a nearby canyon the night before; Bernadette had slept in the park across the street, attracted and comforted by our Cathedral’s new beautiful lights. They came for a shower and a haircut in our parking lot and steaming plate of french toast in the Guild Room. Led by Lynne and Bill Fish and Vicki Kelley, some two dozen Cathedral volunteers have now offered a monthly Showers of Blessings ministry to our neighbors living on the street since April. Congregants from the First United Methodist Church in Mission Valley have cooked and served breakfast and assembled sack lunches in the Guild Room for our guests since June. Something special and Spirit-filled is happening in our courtyard each month, and I invite you to come and see our next offering the morning of September 12.
Now Bernadette and Hawk, along with Chris and Henry and the nearly forty guests who came by the other Saturday, enjoyed something else besides a warm shower and a clean cut and a full belly — they enjoyed a sense of belonging, if only for a few hours, to a caring and safe community. A sense of community is a luxury that most who live on the streets cannot afford. Each person you trust to be by your side leaves you more vulnerable to betrayal, usually in the form of the theft of the few things you might have to your name. It’s heart wrenching to watch how many guests choose to sit by themselves at empty tables in the Guild Room instead of sitting with volunteers or other guests. The lives of many who live outside are filled with loneliness.
Why do you come to church? What brought you here today? Is it for the sense of community with each other or for the holy communion with God? For many of us, we come for both reasons, and more besides. But community and communion are especially fitting offerings for the Church, whose mission has become clearer across Christian denominations in the past several decades: the purpose of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. We seek and find this union with God as we share in the Body and Blood of Christ; and we live out this unity the rest of the week in our relationships with each other and with every beloved being in God’s wide creation. Our commitments to living lives of love, peace, justice, and reconciliation are made real through these relationships. That’s what Jesus was doing in his earthly ministry, and as Christ followers, that’s what we try to do, too.
Jesus and his miraculous feeding were on my mind as I sat across from Bernadette and Hawk last Saturday. It occurred to me that what’s happening once a month in our courtyard isn’t so different than what we are doing here today. Or more precisely, what we’re doing in our courtyard is intimately related to what we are here for today. We are the crowd that has followed Jesus into the wilderness, and we are hungry for good news and a filling meal; and with God’s help, we will leave this Cathedral well fed indeed; well fed so that we may feed others with the good, good news that God loves each and every one of us, that even death cannot end God’s love for each of us; well fed so that we may feed our sisters and brothers on the streets a plate of delicious french toast, so that no one is left out, no one is left sitting by themselves, alone. Feeding the world’s hungry — those hungry for bread, those hungry for community, those hungry for God — is what the Church is called to do in this time and place. We do this together by inviting all into God’s family by welcoming all into this loving community of faith.
Today we welcome two new members into God’s fold through the sacrament of holy baptism. They will be the newest members of God’s family with seats at God’s long and gracious table. There are more seats, still — so invite someone new sometime soon to join you at this banquet. Maybe he is a friend, a neighbor, or a coworker. Maybe she is a lonely wanderer of San Diego’s streets. Christ himself invites each of us to His table. His is an invitation to lean once again into God’s wide and loving embrace, to join in the joy and work of belonging to God’s vast family, to become a part of his broken and resurrected and peacemaking Body. And as we take Christ’s Body into our own, we feast on one another’s company around His divine table; we delight in the satisfying food of human fellowship and the blessed sense of equality before God. Come then, all of you, and feast — and be filled!
The Rev Colin Mathewson