Bread Of Life: Reflections

By The Reverend H. Frederick Gough, KSMA
I well remember my first theological affirmation made some seventy-plus years ago. Of course, I didn’t know to call it that then. But it went like this:
“Jesus loves me, this I know…”
You can probably finish that line more melodiously than I, so I’ll stop there. As simple as that concept is, it is, I believe the bedrock on which the foundations of all Christian belief rest.
Memories, fifty years of parish ministry. As I reflect on the past, a past which has included the opportunity to walk with princes and presidents, Archbishops of Canterbury and country preachers, generals and governors, farmers and fishermen, school teachers and social workers, misdemeanants and murderers – in short, the whole spectrum of society – sinners and God’s children, one and all, I think, “What a privilege!” It is a past which has included the opportunity to conduct services from the catacombs of Nazareth to the National Cathedral, to forest glades, to about 3000 services right here at St. Barnabas’. What a privilege! It is a past which has included the mental and spiritual gymnastics of leaving the hospital bedside of the dying and taking the elevator to the maternity ward to greet the newly living. What a privilege! It is the spectrum of life, life in the Kingdom.
After mastering “Jesus loves me…” the next step in my theological education was taken when Mother taught me The Lord’s Prayer. Happily, then, at about the same time I was wading through accounts of the Little Red Hen’s angst about the sky falling, I was learning which way to turn in case the sky really did fall. Because, you see, the Lord’s Prayer really does sum it all up rather nicely. Look at Luke’s short version.
“Father, hallowed be thy name.”
Yes, that’s which way to turn when the sky is falling, or when the barbarians are at the gate, or in our own backyard, or the job went away, or the diagnosis is bad, or whatever the myriad challenges life in this world serve up. Most of the remainder of the prayer consists of pleas relating to our current and ongoing needs – “our daily bread.” Feed us. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, sustain us. “Forgive us our sins…” Release us from our burdens of guilt, which left unforgiven grow and distort us into mockeries of what you would have us to be. “…lead us not into temptation.” Guide us each day in positive paths, away from the avenues of life which cause us to waste our time, our abilities, our very souls in thought and action which run counter to your dreams for us.
I’ve saved one for last. “Thy Kingdom come.” I saved it because it seems to differ a bit from the others. It seems to speak more to a future hope than to a current need. But is that really true? Jesus Himself in Matthew 6 says, “…seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.” He does not say, “Wait for the Kingdom of God to fall into your lap.” He tells us to seek it and He means now. And then in Mark 12, when the scribe discussed with Jesus the summary of the Law, Jesus concluded their exchange telling him, “Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God.” So clearly Jesus does not see the Kingdom as some vague, ephemeral, future expectation. He sees it as something in the here and now, and we can discern those outcrops, catch those glimpses in our daily lives.
He tells the disciples, “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.” What does that mean? Is He perhaps speaking of Himself? And then, of course, the statement we’ve been waiting for – Jesus answering the Pharisees, “The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, ‘Lo here! Or lo there!’ for behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” “…within you,” He said. Already…within you.
What then does it mean for us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come”? It means that we are to seek it within ourselves and seek it now. It means that we are to reach in and unleash it on our church and on our world. We are to let it out. We are to whine less about what we don’t have and rejoice more about what we do have – the Kingdom of God within us, and use that power in His service. He dreams dreams for us and empowers us to live toward their fulfillment. It’s doable and people will notice. Christianity started with eleven men of dubious ability and has grown in direct proportion to the unleashing of the Kingdom within by Jesus’ followers.
Power. He gives us tremendous power. And why does He do that? You know the answer, each of you does. It goes:
“Jesus loves me, this I know…”
Thanks be to God!

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