Today we honor Clement of Alexandria, priest and philosopher in the mid-to-late second century. Clement was originally a Greek philosopher who sought truth in many schools until he met Pantaenus, head of a Christian school in Egypt. Clement later became head of that school and was for many years an apologist for the Christian faith to both pagans and Christians. His background and abilities helped him to commend Christianity to the intellectual circles of Alexandria. He had a liberal approach to secular knowledge and his work prepared the way for Origen, one of the most eminent theologians of Greek Christianity.
We honor Clement today because he did what so many of us simultaneously hope to do and fear to do. We long to share our faith experiences with both the Christians and non-Christians in our lives. We have had some incredible encounters with God and we want to share that experience with others. And yet we fear sharing because we worry that people may ask us questions we cannot answer. We worry we do not have the intellectual acumen of Clement to tie together our experiences in a logical way.
Perhaps we feel a bit like the disciples in John’s gospel today. As Jesus explains that he is the bread of life meant to be consumed, the disciples complain, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Their complaint is not hard to understand – I am sure any of us hearing Jesus’ metaphor for the first time would be especially baffled. All we need is one hearty experience trying to explain to a child that a wafer is Jesus’ body and we all get a little nervous about this crazy faith of ours.
In the midst of our hesitancy, we find encouragement through Clement. Clement gives us permission to interweave our sacred and secular worlds. Clement used his gift – the gift of a brilliant secular mind – to interpret his faith and make it accessible to the faithful and those without faith. God gives each of us similar gifts too. God empowers us with “spirit and life,” as Jesus Christ says. God gives us a unique spiritual journey that can speak truth because ultimately we, too, are a mixture of sacred and secular: who better to interpret this crazy world and our crazy faith than us? Clement invites us to share our own truths with others – knowing that our truth is a part of the bigger truth of Jesus Christ. Though we may not have everything figured out, we have experienced enough of God in us, and we have been given gifts to enable us to share that truth with others. Amen.