Summary: I smell bread!
Sermon for Maundy Thursday
March 20th 2008
I own every single episode of Mash of video-tape and have seen each one of them. For those who don’t understand what I’m talking about, the 70’s sitcom is about a group of doctors and nurses trying to make sense of their assignment to a medical unit stationed near the front lines of the Korean War. The show does a wonderful job of combining the horror of life with the humor of life.
In this one particular episode a doctor by the name of Major Charles Everson Winchester, a good ole Bostonite, graduate of Harvard, who often protects himself from the horror and suffering that is constantly around him, by listening to classical music and trying to enjoy some of the luxuries sent to him from Boston.
Well anyway in this particular episode none of that works. Charles flips out trying to figure out all the senselessness around him. In utter desperation Charles leaves the base hospital and goes directly to the front lines to try and find his answers to all the pain, all the destruction, all the stupid tragedy and suffering around him.
While at the front Major Charles Emerson Winchester finds a young soldier crying out in a pain that would send shivers down your spine. The solders cries out, “ I can’t see anything. Hold my hand. Please somebody hold my hand.”
Charles grabs his hand. The soldier says, “I’m dying!” The Major groping for answers demands, “What do you see? Can you feel anything? Can you see anything? I have to know. I have to know! What do you see?
But the dying soldier answers none of these questions. Instead, all he manages to get out of his mouth before he dies is “I smell bread. I smell bread!”
Isn’t that odd? What Major Charles Emerson Winchester wants…what he craves…are answers to all the pain, all the destruction, all the tragedy and suffering around him. “Can you see anything? Can you feel anything? I have to know!” And what he gets instead of answers, is a fragrance, a symbol, an image, an experience. For all the dying soldier can say in the midst of his own suffering and pain is, “I smell bread!” That is it, “I smell bread!”
But haven’t you felt like Charles before? Longing for answers? Overwhelmed by all the pain and suffering that surrounds you? Maybe is your failing health? Maybe it’s a failing job? Maybe it’s a failing marriage? Maybe it’s your children? Maybe it’s your parents? Maybe it’s your faith?
So many struggles! So many questions! We need an experience! We need to smell bread!
We are creature’s that need symbols, images, sacraments. Sometimes it’s not enough to simply be told” it’ll be OK.” We need more than a good sermon. We need something that we can taste, something we can see, something we can touch, something we can smell. We need a real experience of the living and risen Christ! Through the Lord’s Supper you experience Jesus in the Bread and in the Wine.
The Roman Catholic tradition teaches that in Holy Communion the Bread becomes the flesh of Jesus and the Wine becomes the blood. So there is a literal eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood. On the other side there are the Presbyterians who believe more in a spiritual aspect of the supper.
And then there are the Baptists who believe the bread stays bread and the grape juice, well the grape juice is miraculously changed into wine.
But seriously, we as Lutherans teach the bread stays bread and the wine stays wine, but listen up, coming through the elements is the real/actual presence of Jesus. The words, “This is my body, this is my blood” assure you and I that Christ is truly with you right now, giving you courage and strength as you muddle through all your struggles and questions.
We experience Jesus through the Last Supper!
The question that arises in my tiny little mind is how in the world can Jesus Physically be present with us her and now? You should all know also by now that the Sacraments are a Sacred Mystery. I believe we all know there are some things that can’t be explained, but with that said, you should also know by now that shouldn’t keep us from trying.
An illustration that brought this home in my heart comes to us from science. That’s right, good ole science. Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity points out that time is relative to motion. Got that? The faster we travel, the more time is compressed. Stay with me now!
If you were put into a rocket and sent to outer space, traveling at a speed of 170,000 miles per second and you stayed in space traveling at that speed for 10 years. When you got back, you would be 10 years older, however, everyone else would be 20 years older.