Jeffrey Kemmerer
Grace Allentown

One of the benefits of being born into the Episcopal Church and particularly being a long time member of the choir is that we come complete with an Episcopal jukebox (Ipod for the younger readers) – filled with hymns, anthems, scripture, sermon snippets and, I must confess, the occasional prank. Everything is there in the jukebox just waiting for some words, songs, or even smells to push the button and start the music playing.

The smell of cut grass or the chirping of a robin will select “Brother James Air” version of the 23rd Psalm. A fragrant pine tree will evoke “Once in Royal David’s City”, our traditional Christmas Eve processional and a beautiful sunset will invariably play the anthem version of “Oh Lord, Support us all the Day Long” .

This week’s readings in John similarly triggered a hymn – “I am the bread of life”. (for those of you without an internal jukebox, YouTube can provide the audio )

The stirring music is very moving and it perfectly conveys the promises of life in our Lord. It also masks some of the drama and crisis in the scene – a complex scene that plays out on many levels.

I suspect many of us have spent time steeping in these verses, but I would like to offer this reflection in pondering it in light of our pilgrimage.

Jesus’ message is beautiful through the lens of 2000 years and with insight into the events that follow. Back then, listening in person to someone saying:

53 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;
John 6

must have been shocking.

60 …“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
John 6

… and with that some disciples pulled away.

Yet, this tense, unpleasant scene has been transformed into a beautiful hymn. How did this happen ?

What of our pilgrimage ? Despite working together and supporting each other, despite new and exciting adventures, we will undoubtedly face difficult things and difficult times. We too will face “hard sayings” and be tempted to turn away. How can we convert this difficulty into a beautiful hymn ?

The answer to both questions is the same:

67 Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him,
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;
John 6