This and That: The meaning of the Eucharist

The Feast of Corpus Christi

20 June 2019

The First Eucharist Celebrated by

The Rev. Danny Lee Pegg

St. Luke’s Parish, Stone Cross, Sussex, England

The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley

Superintending Presbyter, Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West),  Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota

The audio version of this sermon.

In late Fall 2015, my bishop in South Dakota asked me if I would be willing to chat with a “tutor” (a what?) from Cambridge University in England who had a seminarian interested in coming to the Rosebud Indian Reservation to be my intern.

Danny Pegg and me at Canterbury Cathedral, after his ordination to the priesthood but before he celebrated Eucharist.

It was an odd request; I usually get my seminarians from American seminaries, and to be honest (and with great apologies, Fr. Danny), while I had at least heard of Cambridge, I had never heard of Westcott House. (And Fr. James,  before you get on your high horse about me not knowing Wescott, know that I never heard of St. Stephen’s House before last Sunday, even though I think I know where that might be located …)

Because I knew of Cambridge, I thought it might be worth a try, so I wrote to the tutor, whom I actually knew from my days as a missionary in Sudan, and soon enough, I was in conversation with this delightful young man who wanted to learn about Natives on Turtle Island and was willing to serve eight congregations in an extremely rural area beyond what we call the back of beyond. (We Americans are very good about being remote … and beyond the back of beyond is beyond even remote.)

Nine months later, Danny Pegg arrived on the Rosebud, and learned about all sorts of things, like how to drive for miles and miles from church to church to church each Sunday; how to stand up for righteous reasons against oil companies desecrating sacred land and water; how to put up a tipi as only the Lakota – what y’all refer to as the “Sioux” – can do; how to split firewood to care for grandmothers, and lead wakes and funerals and say prayers spontaneously and eat wojapi, a sort of fruit pudding that is, in Lakota culture, the food of Wakantanka, the Holy Mystery that is the Lakota name for God, and even how to eat a few other things that we won’t describe in detail here tonight.

Our time together is what led me to be with you tonight, as we celebrate not only Danny’s ordination to the priesthood on Sunday, but also his first Eucharist, on this Feast of Corpus Christi, the day we celebrate the institution of Holy Communion.

[Now, being an American, I know that I’m speaking to you in a somewhat foreign tongue, so I ask y’all to forgive me if on occasion, I use words that might not be in your English language.

[Like “y’all.” Which most people think means “you” plural, but really doesn’t. “Y’all,” where I come from, means one of you, or a few of you, or you in general, or “you” and your immediate kin.

[Where I come from, it does not mean “everybody.”

[That’s all y’all.

[I tell y’all this because at some point tonight, it’s going to be important, and all y’all will get it.

[(And yes, there will be a test on this later on …)]

Now, Danny asked me to come here tonight to preach because we had such a deeply important time together on the Rosebud and up protesting on the Standing Rock, a time that helped form him to be the priest he is to y’all – to all y’all – today.

And I am here because Danny knows how important the Eucharist is to me. I’ve been a priest for 21-plus years, and I have celebrated the Eucharist in great cathedrals and under thorn trees, in refugee camps and urban centers, with archbishops and refugee children, with my own kin (kin – y’all know that means me and mine, right?) – and with complete strangers, with freshly baked bread and fine port, and with animal crackers and undiluted fruit juice concentrate. I’ve celebrated in the backseats of cars on freezing cold days (as in, 30 below zero Fahrenheit), and on blistering hot days (as in, 105 degrees Fahrenheit). I have celebrated the Eucharist in just about every context y’all can think of, and a whole lot more y’all can’t hardly believe. (Translation: Unimaginable.)

And now, tonight, it is Danny’s turn.

It is his turn to do one of the holiest things he will ever do in his life – he will stand at that table, and he will hold up the bread and say, “Take. Eat. This is my body,” and he will lift the cup and say, “Drink this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant.”

He will say, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

And when he does that, he will be changed … he will be a different person – to himself, to God and to all y’all.

Because let me tell you – let me assure you – y’all will never look at him in the same way again.

The one who celebrates the Eucharist, who presents to y’all and to God the bread and the wine and asks God to send down the Holy Spirit so that that bread and wine is not just bread and wine but is – in some way which we cannot and do not need to understand – the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ … the one who does that is not the same as he or she was before. He is different. He is set apart. By his very words and actions, he becomes a symbol of the holy to us.

That, my young friend, is what is about to happen to you.

It is a holy, dangerous and completely wild undertaking, and I’m going to tell you right now: Don’t you ever take it for granted.

Let me try to explain this holiness (not that we really can explain it, but Danny did ask me to come a very long way to be here, so let me at least try …)

You see this?

THIS is communion bread, what y’all’s priests refer to here as the concelebration host.

It is made up of wheat flour and water. That’s it. Wheat flour and water.

It is plain. It is dry. It goes bad quickly (just leave it sitting out in the air sometime, and you’ll see …)

This whole host contains, oh, about 40 calories.

That’s all it is.


And not the good chewy bread that fills your mouth and strengthens you and makes you say to your neighbor, “Now that’s good bread.”

It’s … plain.

THAT bread that we will have up there, at the altar, after Danny consecrates it?

It may look the same, but trust you me (that’s another Southern expression, trust you me…) IT. IS. NOT. THE SAME.

Because THAT bread is the bread of life.

THIS bread? Once it is broken, it will give you just enough calories, barely, to breathe. To literally breathe. Inhale. Exhale. That’s it.

THAT bread? THAT bread will give you enough calories, enough life, to change the world.

THIS bread? (Inhale. Exhale.)

THAT bread? Move mountains.

THIS bread? (Inhale. Exhale.)

THAT bread? Bring the dead to life.

THIS bread? (Inhale. Exhale.)

THIS bread is like the manna that fell from heaven to keep the Israelites alive in the wilderness. And manna, my friends, is not really what y’all would call “bread.” Because manna is really nothing more than excretions from plant lice that live in the desert and feast on tamarisk trees. (Yes, the bread from heaven that kept the Israelites alive for 40 years in the wilderness was bug poop …)[1]

THAT bread? It will fill you and sustain you and strengthen you and give you the courage and endurance and everything else y’all will ever need to do all God is calling all y’all to do.

Do you see the difference?

THIS bread is nothing but a few calories that will allow you to survive for but a few short minutes. I could break it up and it would be, for us, just a snack.

But THAT bread – THAT bread is LIFE.

And once THAT bread is consecrated – not really by Danny, even though that’s what we say, but by God on high – it becomes the Body of Christ.

And THAT, my friend, is when the holiness happens.

NOT at the consecration – although that is holy in and of itself, and should never be taken for granted.

No. The real holiness comes when we, the Body of Christ, come forward as the Body of Christ to meet the Body of Christ in its most intimate form.

Let me say that again: The real holiness comes when we, the Body of Christ, come forward as the Body of Christ to meet the Body of Christ in its most intimate form.

What we are doing here especially tonight, on this Feast of the Body of Christ, is engaging in an intimate, loving encounter with love itself.

Which is why Danny can never take this for granted.

And it is why all y’all can never take communion for granted, either.

Because THAT bread is NOT THIS bread.

THAT bread is the fullness of all of the love that God has for each and every one of us, all the incredible, radical, wild, never-ending, world-changing, life-altering, life-giving love that God freely gives to each one of us.

THAT bread – taken, blessed, broken and given – is THE bread of life, THE bread of love, THE great gift that God gives us freely and recklessly, over and over again.

Now, let me ask y’all something:

Why do y’all think God gives us this bread, every single day, over and over again, whenever we want it, whenever we need it? You think it’s just because God wants us to survive one more day, to draw one more breath?


God gives us this bread so we can DO something with it!

It is not enough to simply come to church once a week and get our little nibble and then go home again and pretend that that’s that.

God gives us THAT bread so that we have the strength and courage and power and nourishment to go out into the world and do all the things that God is asking us to do:

To feed the hungry and Give water to the thirsty

to give Voice to the voiceless and hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind

To make the lame leap for joy and the dead come to life.

To set the prisoner free and include the excluded and touch the untouchable.

To love the unloved

THAT bread is so powerful that with it, you will change the world.

THAT bread will give you the strength to stand up to a world that says, “I got mine and I don’t care if you ever get yours,” and say in return, “Not today, Satan. Today everybody gets what they need, everybody eats, everybody is loved and welcomed and celebrated.”

So … let me sum this up for you:

THIS bread? A snack. And not a very good one at that.

THAT bread? Love. Life. Holiness.

Got it? Good.

Now, David, do me a favor and open those back doors, please. Let the world in for all of us to see.

And Danny, I need you come here please, to receive your charge:

My friend. My brother in Christ. You have been called by God to nourish and strengthen the people whom God has placed in your trust so that together, all y’all can go out into that world you see to do all that God calls all y’all to do. You are to do this through prayer, and through the regular feeding of your people. You listen to me, son: Do not EVER presume that you can do this easily. Do not EVER think you can fall out of bed to land at that table. Do not EVER believe you can simply say some pretty words and wave your hands in a pretty manner, and that that will be enough. You take this calling from God seriously, Danny. EVERY time you stand at that table – or anywhere else – you remember: This is holy stuff you’re doing. This is wild stuff. This is dangerous stuff. Because you, on behalf of God, are feeding God’s beloved children with God’s very self so that together, all y’all can do all the things God needs all y’all to do. You are playing with fire, son. So, please … be faithful to this call. Always.

You listen to me, son …

And now, my friends, I’m asking all y’all to stand, and to look out those doors into your world, as all y’all receive your charge:

My friends. My sisters and brothers in Christ. Y’all – all y’all – are the Body of Christ. Y’all are the hands and feet and arms and legs and heart and soul and mind and voice of the Risen Lord in this world. Y’all have been called to stand up in this broken, hungry, fear-filled world and proclaim God’s good news by word and deed. And as the Body of Christ, you are given the great gift of coming forward to meet the Body of Christ, to be nourished by the Body of Christ, to be strengthened by the Body of Christ so that all y’all can do everything Christ asks of you. Do not EVER presume that THAT bread is just a snack. Do not EVER come to the table willy-nilly. Do not EVER forget that y’all are playing with fire every single time you receive the Body of Christ. Go into your world, my friends, knowing that you have been fed with the very love of God, which y’all received as the Body of Christ from the Body of Christ. God needs all y’all in this world. So, please … be faithful to y’all’s call as well. Always.


[1] Barbara Brown Taylor, Bread of Angels, 1987, p. 9

The Rev. Danny Pegg celebrating his first Eucharist on the Feast of Corpus Christi.
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Pentecost 2019: Today’s the day!

My sermon preached at Trinity Episcopal Church, Rosebud Episcopal Mission, Rosebud Reservation, on Sunday, 9 June: Today’s the day we get the power and the ability to do the work that Jesus has given us to do.


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Ascension 2019: It’s time for Jesus to get out of the way

My sermon preached at Trinity Episcopal Church, Rosebud Episcopal Church, Rosebud Reservation, on Sunday, 2 June 2019: This is the day when Jesus gets out of the way – because Jesus trusts us to do the work he has given us to do.

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6 Easter 2019: A little love here, a little love there, a little love everywhere

My sermon preached at Trinity Episcopal Church, Rosebud Episcopal Mission, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 26 May, on John 14: It’s all about the love.

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Palm Sunday: Who are we?

The sermon preached at Trinity Episcopal Church, Mission, on The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, 14 April 2019, on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

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5 Lent C: Sending forth in love

The sermon preached on Sunday, 7 April 2019, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C, at Trinity Episcopal Church, Rosebud Episcopal Mission, Rosebud Reservation, S.D.

Thank you to Karoline Lewis of Luther Seminary for her insights into the Gospel passage.

(And one little note: Dr. Wright was a general surgeon, not an orthopedic surgeon.)

The painting that Dr. Tom Wright gave to me when I left St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Annandale, VA, to serve as a missionary in Sudan. He was sending me forth in love.
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4 LentC: God loves you. Deal with it.

Sermon preached at Trinity Episcopal Church, Mission, on the Rosebud Reservation, on 31 March 2019. The Parable of the Prodigal Son boils down to this: God loves you. Deal with it.

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4 Epiphany C: God’s love is for everybody …

A sermon in two parts: This week, on Luke 4:21-30, when the people realize that Jesus is speaking to them, and they don’t like it.

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3 Epiphany C: Pay it forward, forever and ever …

A sermon in two parts: This week, on Luke 4:14-21, where Jesus proclaims that “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”


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2 Epiphany C: “What concern is that to you or to me?”

A sermon on John 2:1-11, the Wedding at Cana, and Jesus’ question to his mother (and to us): “What concern is that to you or to me?” – in the context of the high school students harassing and mocking a Native elder in Washington, D.C.

[A quick note on this: I misspoke – the incident took place at the Lincoln Memorial, not Arlington National Cemetery. I have corrected that in the written copy below.]


A sermon preached on John 2:1-11

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Rosebud Episcopal Mission, Rosebud Reservation

20 January 2019

The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley

This morning, I wanted to preach on the wedding in Cana, from the Gospel of John.

Specifically, I wanted to preach about a joyful Jesus, a laughing Jesus, a dancing Jesus.

I wanted to preach about how God created us in love and joy so that we could live in love and joy.

I wanted to help us get beyond the image so many people have that God is vengeful and life is supposed to be about suffering, and I wanted to preach about how important it is for us to remember that we are created in love, and love tends to be on the joyful end of the scale of life, and how, in our very creation, God invites us to participate in that love and joy.

And I wanted to explain why Jewish weddings in those day lasted for three days – three days! Can you imagine the expense of a wedding over three days?! – and then compare those weddings to wacipis, to powwows, that now are three or four days but in years gone by lasted much longer – and then to explain that both weddings and wacipis had a similar function: They were there for friends and families who do not get to see each other as much as they want to, to  come together, not just to celebrate the event, but to catch up. “Bunny! I haven’t seen you in a year! How are you doing?”

(And I wanted to share with you what was shared with me not long after I arrived here on the Rosebud, that in the midst of the family reunion that is a wacipi, young men and women look with hope for their spouse-to-be, and how, when a young man or a young woman meets someone in whom they are interested, they went to their grandmothers, who in turn gathers all the grandmothers and aunties to figure out the family lineage, and whether the two young people could even date. As I tell our visiting mission teams, if your grandmother says, “No!” it means “Absolutely not! You cannot date your cousins!” And if your grandmother says, “Yes,” well, then …)

But instead, something happened on Friday in Washington, D.C., something which did not become public until yesterday, and suddenly, instead of talking about a joyful Jesus – a Jesus who laughed and danced and yes, turned water into wine to demonstrate the abundance of God’s love – preaching about that didn’t seem right.

On Friday, there were two mass marches in Washington.

The first, in the morning, was the Indigenous Peoples’ Day March, which drew thousands of Natives from across this land (and, I suspect, from around the world). The message of that march? We are still here. We matter. And we’re not going away.

The second march was the annual March for Life, the pro-life, anti-abortion march that also drew thousands of participants.

550FD433-9430-4D66-8262-0C130EE460CFAt the end of the first march, the Indigenous Peoples’ Day March, an elder of the Omaha tribe, a man named Nathan Phillips, who is a musician, and educator, a pipe-carrier and a decorated Vietnam Veteran, was surrounded by high school students from a Catholic high school near Covington, Kentucky, and was harassed and mocked. 

Nathan Phillips is a respected elder who is a long-time Native youth group leader and he is a water protector. He was at Standing Rock.

The students who surrounded and mocked him were in Washington for the March for Life. While Nathan Phillips was singing a song – at Arlington National Cemetery [Note: This actually took place at the Lincoln Memorial, a fact I regret getting wrong.]  – honoring Native American Veterans who lost their lives in Southeast Asia, these students, many of whom were wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and shirts, they shouted things at him like “Build the wall!” (more on that in a moment), and “Gone in 2020.” They mockingly “danced” as Mr. Phillips sang and drummed, and one student stood directly in front of Mr. Phillips, smirking as he stared at this Native elder.

As you can imagine, rage erupted at these thoughtless and seemingly hate-filled youths doing this to a Native elder.

And to be frank, there was a lot of bemusement, because, after all, why would you say “Build the wall” to a Native?

When I saw the news, via Facebook, I had to take a few minutes to calm down. I was so enraged. Yet I was glad I was not present for this, because I don’t know what I would have done. After calming down, I wanted to share what had happened because what these children did is wrong, and we must never be silent in face of injustice.

So after calming down, I posted a picture of what happened and wrote:

To the children who taunted this elder and chanted “Build the wall!”: You DO realize that if the wall had existed hundreds of years ago, your ancestors wouldn’t have been able to come to this country, and only Natives would be here … right? That if Natives had built a wall, YOU wouldn’t be here?! Your actions are despicable … and now that you are on video, you will be found, and taunted in return for such extreme rudeness and ignorance. Listen, I need you to pay attention in school – because obviously, right now, you are totally unemployable due to basic ignorance. And I need you to be employed so YOU can put into Social Security for my retirement.                                  

I wanted to point out the incongruity of what they did, as well as publicize their terrible behavior, without getting into vitriolic denigration of these children. Because, my friends, that’s what everyone else was doing.

The Rev. Laura Minnich Lockey, whom many of you know, she leads a mission team here every summer from Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia – she’s the one who loves to ride the riding mower, and will spend every day she’s here mowing anything she can get hands on – she responded to my post by writing, Maybe some young men need to spend their summer in SD with Mother Lauren.

I wrote back and said, Hey, that’s not a bad idea, and I thought about it for a while, and then I wrote a letter to the Principal of Covington Catholic High School, in which I invited these very students to come to the Rosebud Reservation, as guests of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission, so that they could learn about Lakota culture and tradition. I invited them to participate in a talking circle with elders – and promised that that was not a time for intimidation and retribution, but rather a way for the elders to love the children and correct their ways. I invited them to meet with our teen-agers, their peers of the same age and in the same grade, to learn what life is like as a Native teen in this country. I told the principal we could house their students (at the Jones Building and Barbour Hall), and that while we are poor, we would be willing to waive the $15 per person/per night fee, if necessary, in order to make this trip happen.

And I closed by saying this:

I pray that you will see my offer to your students as one of grace, reconciliation, redemption and love.

I have e-mailed the letter to the principal, and on Tuesday will mail a paper copy to him, along with copies to the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Covington, and the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of the Diocesan Board of Catholic Education.

I did this because I believe that the mission of the Church is reconciliation. Because I believe that there has to be and is a way to redeem this awful act. Because I know that these children are not beyond the grace and love of God.

And I did it because I believe that this is what Jesus would do.

All of this, my friends, is a very long way of getting to this morning’s Gospel, the one about the wedding in Cana, where Jesus makes a comment to his mother that is, I believe, key to how we respond to acts of hate.

When Jesus’ mother tells him there is no more wine for the celebration, he replies, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?”

It was my friend, Father Matt Rhodes, who is vicar of Christ Church in Millwood, Virginia, who pointed this out, with eloquent words late last night:

“Among everything else,” he writes, “that makes this creation so beautiful and the human family of which we are all part so magnificent, there is much that is problematic. There are issues of division … of hatred … of discontent. Differences that might otherwise be embraced are trampled upon. We see instances when people who are suffering are ignored … when people who are belittled find no support … when people who are lost are left to wander.”

He continues, “It is easy to pin these and many other responses on differences of ideology, or politics. I refuse to do so. The knife of indifference cuts in many directions and slices through any spectrum. No, I pin this on the refusal of some to seriously consider the question that Jesus asked Mary and what is still being asked of us this morning: ‘What concern is that to you and to me?’”

When I read Matt’s preview of his sermon that he is preaching today in Virginia, I knew that I could no longer focus on laughing, dancing, joyful Jesus, much as I wanted to. I knew that today, I had address that which concerns us — standing up to injustice and ignorance and hatred. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was hanged by the Nazis in World War II because of his participation in an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, was very clear in his belief that when we see injustice, when we witness hatred, when we hear ignorance, we cannot ignore it.

Silence in the face of evil, he wrote, is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

But know this: Our speaking up needs to emulate Jesus. We need not to lash out, to call those children bad names, to attack the school or the Diocese of Covington. We do not need to repay evil with evil. I can tell you, having read scores of comments from people all over this country, that is how many people are responding. 

But we are followers of Jesus.

And the Jesus I wanted to talk about today – the laughing, dancing, joyful Jesus who showers us with an abundance of joy and love – would not respond to evil with more evil, to hatred with more hatred, or to vitriol with more vitriol.

Jesus would have found a way to love these children.

I am praying that in my offer to the students of Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, we are doing the same.

Admittedly, there are some who believe that this offer is not the right thing to do, that Natives should not have to educate non-Natives. And I get it. And there are some who believe that the invitation should have come from the Tribal Council, and not the Church – which I admit I do not quite understand. 

But as followers of Jesus, we are the ones charged with reconciliation. We are the ones who are called to act first out of love. We are the ones who in our baptismal covenant vowed to respect the dignity of every human being. 

I believe this is our chance to live into that covenant in a bold and loving way – as bold as Jesus turning 180 gallons of water into wine for guests at a three-day wedding in Cana.

I do not know if the principal of that school will ever receive the invitation — within hours, their website was crashed, their phone was overwhelmed, and the e-mail could no longer accept any information. Or, if he does, will ever read it, much less respond to it.

But if he reads it, and if he accepts it, we have a chance – with these children – to shower them with love instead of hate, with joy instead of mockery. We have a chance to live into both the woLakota way of life and our baptismal covenant.

We have a chance, if they come here, to shower them with the same love and joy that Jesus showers upon us.

We can even teach them to dance.

And wouldn’t that make a big difference in this world?



I want to take a moment before we reaffirm our faith to let you know that I have spoken with Erroll (Geboe), our Vice Itancan, and Wilma (Janis), our Itancan, and it will go to the Mission Council this week, and for the most part, there is great support on this.

I do agree that Natives should not have to educate non-Natives. It should not be your responsibility. But I also believe that we could really make a difference if we actually did educate these children, and bring them out here, not as a mission team to work – although we may make them split some wood (exercise is always good for children) – but to show them, and teach them, so that never again will they do this. Their act was terrible, and I fear that if I had been there, I would not have been very loving. So this is the response … because if the Church doesn’t do this, who will? This is what I believe we are called to.

And if it happens, I want to assure you, yes, we will waive the fee for them, and I already have almost two dozen offers from people around the country who will pay the fee on their behalf, so that the Council, the Mission, does have money to do this. 

If you want to talk about this some more, we will talk after the service.




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