Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sermon: August 2

In the silence of the stars,
In the quiet of the hills,
In the heaving of the sea, Speak, Lord.

In the stillness of this room,
In the calming of our minds,
In the longing of our hearts, Speak, Lord.

In the voice of a friend,
In the chatter of a child,
In the words of a stranger, Speak, Lord.

In our service of word & sacrament
And in the waters of baptism
Speak, Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.

[adapted from a prayer by David Adam]
Vacation in VT was great. On vacation, wherever you go, you get to eat the local food. We enjoyed the Maple Syrup! We liked the corn and tomatoes and other locally grown produce. Ellen and I enjoyed a night out at our favorite restaurant in Wallingford, VT. But after all of that good food and having such a good time, one is still left with a hunger, a hunger that is in our souls.

The people who had gone out to hear Jesus had that same hunger too. Some continued looking for him after the feeding of the five thousand but Jesus wanted to offer them more than a meal. Jesus said, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…” It goes beyond the moment, beyond our bellies, beyond what we need or want right now, it is about what lasts. It is really about what gives us life and feeds our souls.

I think about a six-year-old boy born blind. His family doctor read about a new medical procedure developed by a young surgeon in Boston that might restore the six-year-old's sight. After tests and a review of his medical history, it was determined that the boy was a candidate for the surgery.

The boy brought his beloved teddy bear to Boston with him. The bear was showing his "age": one eye was missing, stuffing was oozing out of its seams, patches of cloth were worn away. His parents offered to get him a new teddy bear but he wanted his own bear. The boy and his teddy bear were inseparable through the consultations, tests and X-rays, right up until the anesthesia itself. The surgery was a success; after six years, the boy could see. On the morning the boy was to return home, after signing the discharge papers, the surgeon gave the boy a big hug and said, "Listen, I own stock in you; I expect to get letters from you regularly. Do you understand?"

"I want you to have this," the boy said, and handed the doctor his beloved teddy bear.

The surgeon's first impulse was not to take the bear, but he was sensitive enough to understand what the boy was trying to do. The boy wanted to return joy for joy, grace for grace. The wise physician accepted the teddy bear with a hug and a promise to take good care of his new friend.

For years, the surgeon displayed the teddy bear near his office at the hospital. The surgeon's card was placed in front of the teddy beat. Under his name, the doctor wrote: This is the highest fee I have ever received for professional services rendered.

That doctor understood the real gift he got that day and the real gift he gave. And a teddy bear becomes a sign of God's grace at work in our midst. It is about what gives us life. As the people gathered around Jesus to feel God’s grace, to have that hunger deep inside satisfied, Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Every time we gather here to hear scripture, to pray, to receive communion, we are reminded that Jesus is the bread of life in our midst, feeding our hungry souls. And today as we welcome, Hannah and Ian and Griffin into the Body of Christ, we are helping these little ones also connect with that bread of life, with that food that endures.

But it isn’t just for us to consume and be on our merry way; for this food transforms us, it is a gift, a gift we are called to share in our lives, for it is food that endures. In the words of St. Augustine:
"We are the Body of Christ. In us and through us the work of Jesus must be fulfilled. We are to be taken. We are to be blessed, broken and given to all around us, that we may be a means of grace and vehicles of God's unending love." Amen.

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