Monthly Newsletter--August 2018 August 1, 2018, Minister's Message: Happy August! Or…perhaps I should say, “Happy New Year!” It may not be the start of the calendar year, but on Thursday the academic year begins for the teachers and students in Shenandoah schools. This year, I registered one of my foster daughters for middle school, and that brought to mind all sorts of memories from my own childhood. Middle school – or junior high, as it was called in my day – started in seventh grade for me, and it brought with it all sorts of changes from the elementary school scene. There were different classes, for one thing, and figuring out where all of them were and in what order was a challenge. I still have nightmares about forgetting my schedule or getting lost in the school. Lockers were another hurdle to jump and a major source of anxiety. What if I forgot my combination? What if I couldn’t get it open quickly enough so I wouldn’t be late to class? What if this, what if that, and what if a bunch of things. Any kind of change is unsettling. Even approaching change – something you know is coming and can’t be avoided, like middle school – can make a person apprehensive, even angry, because with that comes the unknown. Jesus himself was an instrument of change. God put him in this world to bring about salvation for everyone – the haves and the have-nots. The gospels are full of stories of Jesus working miracles. Frequently he touched those who were considered unclean – even members outside of his faith – to heal and return to the community. Considering the crowds that followed Jesus, I think it’s safe to say that the way of Jesus was welcomed by many. I wonder sometimes about the ones who weren’t so sure about Jesus. In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives a radical teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” Some of the disciples balked. I can imagine them saying, “Um, what’s that Jesus?” The Gospel of John goes on to say that these disciples turned from Jesus and no longer followed him. I’m surprised that everyone didn’t stand up and walk out. We know now that Jesus was referring to the sacrifice he would make, that to eat and drink of Jesus’ flesh and blood was a figurative meal that fueled the spirit and makes believers one with Jesus just as he was one with God. At the time when Jesus spoke, however, I can imagine it was a hard teaching indeed. I wonder if anyone understood it fully, and the community of followers was divided. Some biblical scholars think that the Gospel of John was written by a leader of Jewish Jesus followers who had recently been cut off from the synagogue. The scholars suggest that John’s account of Jesus’ life had more to do with the current situation of John’s community than it did with Jesus’ original context. Perhaps this is the case. Perhaps the hard teaching of Jesus and the division of the faithful was a reflection of what was happening in John’s situation. Regardless, it shows what can happen when people react differently to matters of faith. The hope I hang on to is the miracle of healing Jesus continues to offer.