Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sermon: August 9

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
Speak, Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.
[adapted from a prayer by David Adam]
What a couple of weeks! Vacation in MI & Cape Cod was great! On vacation, wherever you go, you get to eat the local food (crops in MI, lobster on Cape Cod, fast food on the road). Who knew you could sugar from sugar beets? But even 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.

Jesus said to the people, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”

This comes from a story from the "Metropolitan Diary" in The New York Times (March 21, 2011):
A woman was refilling her MetroCard at a crowded downtown subway station in NYC. Just as she was about to retrieve her card from the machine, a man came up behind her and grabbed the card and put it in his pocket.

"You took my card," she shouted. "Give it back!" But he just looked at her and walked away. A man who had witnessed the theft yelled, "I saw you take her card. Give it back."

Both the woman and the man followed the thief; the witness even started shoving the man to get back the card. But the thief ignored them both, did not fight back and kept walking. The woman yelled for the police. No one else moved.

The woman followed the thief up the subway steps to the street. When he stopped at the red light on the corner, she said, "You took my card. It's in your pocket. Give it back."

He put his hand his pocket, took out the card, and with tears in his eyes, said, "I'm hungry."

"If you give me back my card, I'll give you some money," the woman said. "But you must give me back my card first."

He handed her the card. She gave him five dollars. "Thank you," he said, and walked away. The woman stood there and thought:

"What have I just done? Risked my life for a $20 MetroCard?

"Any normal thief would have grabbed the card and run. I'm not sure what to make of this whole thing. My oldest son told me that this was a great New York story. My younger son said, 'Way to go, Mom.' And my husband was horrified and scared for me. All their reactions were right on the mark."
Today's Gospel confronts us with the bread we trust in, the stuff that offers little nourishment and no fulfillment. We feed on anger, on pride, on self-centeredness, on control, on wealth - and still find ourselves unsatisfied and famished.

The woman realizes that what drove her to confront the thief could have had catastrophic results - the experience causes her to rethink her priorities. Jesus invites us to eat living bread: the bread of compassion, of reconciliation, of justice, of love & peace that not only nourishes us but inspires us to become living bread for others, the bread that is not only from Jesus but is Jesus, the Bread of Life.

And in the end she offered such bread, compassion, giving to one in need.

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. 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. (Behold what you are, become what you receive!) 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" in the world.

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