Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sermon - A Love Supreme (Aug. 3)

“This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor.” – John Coltrane

These words from John Coltrane written in the liner notes for his album, make clear that he saw his album as an offering to God, a work of thanksgiving.

“I would like to tell you that no matter what…it is with god. He is gracious and merciful. His way is in love, through which we all are. It is truly— a love supreme.”

Coltrane understood God as that love supreme that guided his life and no matter how he failed, that God’s mercy and love would be with him. His words are for us to hear today! That love supreme he talks about, is what I see in the actions of Jesus. And there is no better representation of the love that Jesus has for humanity, than in his feeding of 5 thousand people.

Jesus looks around the countryside and has compassion for all the people gathered there. Many healings took place. It became late. The disciples want to send the people back to the towns to find food and lodging. To let others offer hospitality. But Jesus tells the disciples that the people need not go, you are to offer that hospitality, you give them something to eat.

The disciples only saw their puny rations: 5 loaves and two fish. Barely enough for themselves, how was it going to feed so many?

And Jesus takes what they have, he blesses it, brakes the loaves and gives it to the disciples who in turn share them with the crowd. It is a scene reminiscent of Moses and the tribes with manna raining down from heaven, and everyone had their fill. Or when Elisha has a disciple of his feed 100 with 20 loaves of barley. And Elisha tells him, “Thus says the Lord, they shall eat and have some left.”

The point is all were fed, God’s mercy and abundant love helped feed the people. With Jesus, all were fed and had their fill and 12 baskets (like the 12 tribes of Israel or 12 disciples) remained. This act of love towards the people is like the love supreme with the bread and wine we share at the meal of the Eucharist, as Jesus had done with his disciples.

It is what we are doing this morning, with the music of John Coltrane helping us feel in worship that Love Supreme which we will taste in bread and wine in just a moment. And I think of this poem:

Bread of heaven, on thee we feed,
for thy Flesh is meat indeed;
ever may our souls be fed
with this true and living Bread;
day by day with strength supplied
through the life of him who died.
~Josiah Conder

Our souls are indeed fed with that bread and wine, but I think of Jesus words to his disciples in the midst of the feeding, you give them something to eat, and I hear those words directed at me. How do I help feed others today?

Often I get information from various Christian relief agencies. I actively support Episcopal Relief and Development, and help as I can the Karen Emergency Relief Fund, but most others get deposited in the circular file. Just too many!

But as I looked at the Bread for the World materials, I was struck by how they invited us not only to send in financial offering to aid the world’s poor but to use my voice and contact my representatives in Congress through an Offering of Letters.

"Bread for the World's 2008 Offering of Letters is pushing for more and better poverty-focused development assistance—funding for programs in the U.S. budget that give people in poor countries the skills and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty permanently. These include long-term investments in things like education, agriculture, nutrition, health and clean water. More and better poverty-focused development assistance is a critical component of the effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)."

It can be an act of love to raise our voice for those who have no voice and convince those in power, to help the less fortunate in our world, to give them the aid they need to live the fullest of lives. I invite you today or this week, to write a letter to your congressman or senators and let them know you are asking their support to help fund more and better poverty-focused development assistance. (see the post above this one)

You give them something to eat, Jesus says to us. As we celebrate the Eucharist today and give thanks to God and eat that bread wine given to us by Jesus, may we in turn remember the poor and hungry in this world and offer our love and letters in support of them so they may indeed have something to eat.

Let us pray.

Jesus, you blessed, broke and gave five loaves and two fish and a multitude was fed. Give us the conviction, to answer your call to serve and to speak out for hungry people. We believe that you are moving in our time to end hunger, and we are grateful that you include us as a part of this great liberation. We pray for the leaders of our nation—the decision makers who can change policies and redirect funding to create help and opportunity with the stroke of pen. Open all of our hearts, our eyes and ears, our hands, gracious and holy God. Let the multitude be fed once again. Let your Spirit move in our midst, O God, our love supreme. Amen.

(prayer adapted from a litany by Bread for the World)

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